Review: You’re the One That I Want – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. You’re the One That I Want. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016.

Cover: You're the One That I Want

It’s been an interesting 24 hours here at The Books and Biscuits Blog. Last night, the UPS guy dropped off a package that happened to be Susan May Warren’s newest release, You’re the One That I Want. While waiting for my husband to return from work, I started reading it. I ended up staying up late and waking up early to finish it. It was that good!

The final book of Ms. Warren’s acclaimed Christiansen Family series, You’re the One That I Want follows Owen, the prodigal son of the family. After an injury ended his professional hockey career, Owen began running from his family, his past, and God. However, he finds himself slowing down long enough to find a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat, where he meets Scotty McFlynn and her father, the captain and boss of the operation. When Scotty is swept off the boat in a storm, Owen leaps off to save her, which lands both of them in freezing water fighting for their lives. In the end, they save each other, with a bit of help from the Coast Guard. Their adventure also happens to land them on the news, offering Casper Christiansen with a much-needed clue as to Owen’s location. In the Christiansen brothers’ attempt to return home to Minnesota, Casper finds out there is a BOLO out for him, in connection with a murder back in Deep Haven. With the escort of Scotty, the Anchorage Police Department’s newest recruit, Owen and Casper must find the truth behind the murder before it puts one or both of them in jail.

Ms. Warren masterfully concludes the Christiansen Family series in You’re the One That I Want. After following Owen’s rebellion throughout the novels, this book offers a satisfying resolution to his search for faith and truth in the midst of life-altering challenges and disappointment.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading You’re the One That I Want! In general, my favorite books within the Christiansen Family series have been those that focus on the Christiansen women (It Had to Be You, When I Fall in Love, and The Wonder of You). Comparatively, the other books have been quite good, but never fully captured my attention in quite the same way. You’re the One That I Want was definitely the strongest and most compelling story of those featuring the Christiansen men. The book’s scenes between Scotty and Owen serve as a testimony of faith in action, whether on the treacherous deck of an Alaskan crab boat or the calm shores of Evergreen Lake. After an entire series of true-to-life moments of a family walking together in faith, the prodigal son finally returning home may be one of the most fulfilling.

Fans of Ms. Warren and her Christiansen Family series will definitely want to read You’re the One That I Want. The novel brings together her incredible storytelling ability with her unparalleled way of drawing Christian themes into her characters’ lives in a believable way. Out of the entire series, You’re the One That I Want has the most elements that would typically found in a suspense/action story, including a dramatic sea rescue and near-death experiences. However, the romance remains true to Ms. Warren’s sweet and clean style that seems completely consistent with the rest of her Deep Haven and Christiansen Family novels.

Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of You’re the One That I Want!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – You’re the One That I Want (Christiansen Family)

Review: Where She Belongs – Johnnie Alexander

Johnnie Alexander. Where She Belongs. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

I’m always impressed with authors who seamlessly transition between writing historical and contemporary fiction books. With great storytelling at their core, these sub-genres require a different skill set to be a success. Johnnie Alexander’s previous novel, Where Treasure Hides, featured a World War II-era love story set in Europe. Her most recent release, Where She Belongs, offers her readers an entirely different kind of book, one set in present-day rural Ohio. After Shelby Kincaid loses her husband, she moves herself and her two daughters to her ancestral home, Misty Willow. Having spent the best moments of her childhood at the farm, Shelby hopes to build a future for her family there, even if it means partnering with AJ Sullivan, the property’s reluctant former owner. AJ received the house from his grandfather as punishment for choosing to be a teacher, rather than continuing in the family business. Without a direct connection to the property’s original owners, AJ leaves the house to ruin, until Shelby begins to show an interest in rebuilding it. Soon after they arrive, Shelby and her daughters prove to be the secret ingredient for AJ to finally make Misty Willow into the home of their dreams.

Where She Belongs kicks off the Misty Willow series, introducing an intriguing set of homegrown characters that follow throughout multiple novels. Ms. Alexander incorporates a strong faith-based narrative that will delight fans of the Christian fiction genre.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading Where She Belongs. Typically, I would find the story and pacing to be slightly slower than my usual books. However, I found myself appreciating the character-driven plot and country feel of the book, likely as a result of being stuck inside for several days with a head cold. Ms. Alexander relies upon a surprisingly extensive cast of characters, including multiple generations of both Shelby and AJ’s families. Personally, my favorite aspects of the novel focused on Misty Willow’s history. In comparison to the strength of those sections, I found much of the story to instead focus on overlapping love triangles that made a relatively simple story feel overly complicated. After reading a brief excerpt from the series’ next book, some of this novel’s complexity is a result of Ms. Alexander trying to build a structure for forthcoming books. However, I would have preferred a bit more consolidation of this novel’s storyline to make for a more enjoyable read.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous work may find Where She Belongs to be a worthwhile read. I would most likely recommend the book to those who enjoy reading Christian fiction novellas. The general storyline of Where She Belongs shares a surprising number of plot twists and character development techniques that I’ve seen most frequently in novella formats, causing this book to feel like an extended version of several such novellas. Likewise, the pacing and characters feel the most similar to those stories, rather than the more well-developed efforts found in other novels.

Ms. Alexander will release the next book in the Misty Willow series, When Love Arrives, in September 2016!

Special thanks to Revell Reads Blog Tour for the advanced copy of Where She Belongs!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Where She Belongs: A Novel (Misty Willow)

Review: A Worthy Heart – Susan Anne Mason

Susan Anne Mason. A Worthy Heart. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

The view from my window currently looks rather like a blizzard at the moment. Fortunately, it’s the perfect day to curl up with a good book and lose myself in another time and place.

Susan Anne Mason recently released the second installment of her Courage to Dream series, A Worthy Heart. Picking up three years after the events of Irish Meadows, the novel focuses on the story of Rylan Montgomery’s sister, Maggie, as she arrives in New York for a visit. While volunteering at Rylan and Colleen’s orphanage, Maggie meets Adam O’Leary, the previously incarcerated brother of Colleen. Similar to Adam, Maggie hopes to leave her past behind her in Ireland, particularly in the form of her former fiancé, Neill Fitzgerald. Together, Adam and Maggie find hope for the future through the growth of their faith and their relationship with one another. The novel also continues the story of the O’Leary family at Irish Meadows. In addition, a decent portion of the book focuses on Gabe Montgomery, Maggie’s brother, who accompanies her to America, as well as his growing relationship with Aurora Hastings, a minor character first introduced in Irish Meadows.

Within the Courage to Dream series, Ms. Mason shows herself to delve further into her niche within the Christian historical fiction genre. Readers will be thrilled with her development of Irish-American characters in the months preceding World War I.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading A Worthy Heart. While Irish Meadows was as a relatively strong debut novel for Ms. Mason within the historical fiction genre, A Worthy Heart serves as a significant improvement upon both her writing and research skills. Personally, I found the main characters of the novel to be much more interesting and well-developed than those in the first book of the series. Likewise, the overall storyline development felt tighter and more thoroughly edited than Irish Meadows, resulting in a stronger novel overall. Ms. Mason remains relatively light on historical details, even while showing an improvement in this area from her earlier work. Instead, she chooses to place her emphasis on creating a strong character-driven novel that places faith and Christian/Biblical references at the center of their growth. I am very excited to see Ms. Mason’s progress as a writer in this novel, as she continues to develop this series and others in the coming years.

Fans of Ms. Mason, especially the Courage to Dream series, will definitely want to read A Worthy Heart. Ms. Mason offers a similar style to the writings of Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller, especially in relation to their works related to Irish families in America. Readers who are interested in the period around World War I will also find the series to provide an interesting American-oriented perspective of that era.

Ms. Mason will release the third installment of the Courage to Dream series, Love’s Faithful Promise, later this year!

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Worthy Heart!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – A Worthy Heart (Courage to Dream)

Review: The Newsmakers – Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart

Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart. The Newsmakers. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

It is always exciting to receive an Advance Reader’s Copy of any book, but especially when it’s a novel that I would be thrilled to read even a year after its release.

Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart wrote The Newsmakers, a novel about a tenacious television reporter, Erica Sparks. After losing custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, Erica battles to overcome her own demons to succeed in her chosen profession. When she is noticed by the executives of Global News Network, she believes that her star is finally on the rise. On her earliest assignments for GNN, a series of convenient events place Erica at the center of national headlines. Soon, Erica’s reporting catapults GNN’s ratings to reach new heights, while Erica herself becomes a star journalist at the network. However, Erica and her colleagues soon find themselves in danger, as their investigation of the events that made them famous puts them in the crosshairs of some of the nation’s most diabolical criminal elements.

Ms. Wiehl and Mr. Stuart create a captivating story for the age of breaking news and celebrity journalists. As an experienced commentator on Fox News, Ms. Wiehl brings a particularly insightful perspective to the novel’s characters, many of whom work within the halls of GNN’s headquarters.

Overall, I was left with mixed feelings regarding The Newsmakers. With a decent, though slightly predictable storyline, the novel offered an interesting read in the suspense category. Likewise, the story and characters were relatively interesting and developed. In comparison, the writing style was quite poor. Within the advance reader’s copy (which is considered to be an uncorrected proof), the number of editing errors were plentiful. Regardless of those errors that could be considered minor, the novel’s writing style incorporated sentence structure and tense use that were entirely inappropriate for a fictional work. These were not the sort of errors to be corrected by the final version, as they represented the style of the authors themselves. As a person with extensive professional writing and editing experience, I found the writing significantly distracted from an otherwise decent story. In the end, I finished the book to see if my initial assumptions about the storyline were correct, rather than due to the authors’ writing efforts.

Fans of Ms. Wiehl’s other works may find The Newsmakers to be a worthwhile read. Personally, I am not sure that I will attempt to read any of her other books. Regardless of the writing style and grammatical errors, I was rather amazed at the amount of inappropriate language and content incorporated into the book. As a release of Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins, The Newsmakers would typically be considered under the inspirational/Christian genre. However, I did not find much of any content that would be appropriate for the genre or the readership typically associated with it. I would have much preferred that the novel included more Christian-oriented content and themes, rather than its extensive use of such themes as murder, abuse, alcoholism, divorce, and others that I typically chose to avoid by reading novels released by Christian publishers.

Special thanks to The Fiction Guild/HarperCollins for the advanced copy of The Newsmakers!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Newsmakers