Review: Long Way Gone – Charles Martin

Charles Martin. Long Way Gone. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

With the end of the year, I’m finally finding some time to catch up on several books that I’ve intended to review over the past several months.  Hopefully, you have enjoyed the variety of books that I’ve posted throughout the month of December.

Charles Martin’s most recent novel, Long Way Gone, follows the life of musician and songwriter Cooper O’Connor.  During Conner’s youth, his father served as an itinerant preacher at tent revivals throughout the American West.  Conner’s musical passion and abilities grew as an aspect of his faith, until his teenage years, when he threw away his past to pursue stardom in Nashville, Tennessee.  Experiencing both incredible success and devastating loss, Conner eventually returns home to the Colorado mountains to rebuild his life.  When he runs across a familiar face from his Nashville days, Conner must finally face the full extent of the lessons and faith his father once sought to teach him.

Mr. Martin writes a dynamic and heart-felt novel following the premise of the Biblical prodigal son story.  With a rhythm reminiscent of great musical works, Long Way Gone will capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Long Way Gone!  Having not previously read any of Mr. Martin’s novels, I was not sure if I would find his writing style, characters, or storyline appealing.  However, I was intrigued at the concept of a book focused on a musician’s life experiences.  I was exceptionally pleased to find that Mr. Martin expertly writes a non-chronological story, while managing to make it incredibly insightful and engaging to the reader.  Likewise, the prodigal son aspects of the story feel natural within this contemporary setting, based on the fascinating cast of characters that Mr. Martin develops throughout the novel.  In the end, I was most impressed with his ability to create a storyline that seamlessly integrates the rhythm and perspectives of musicians that seem realistic, even to a fellow musician.

Fans of Mr. Martin’s other work will definitely want to read Long Way Gone.  Readers who enjoy great contemporary Christian fiction may also find this novel to be intriguing.  Likewise, those who appreciate or play music will also find this book well worth the read!

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and HarperCollins’ Fiction Guild for the promotional copy of Long Way Gone!

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Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill – Julie Klassen

Julie Klassen. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

Esteemed Christian historical fiction author, Julie Klassen, kicks off her first-ever series with The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill.  As someone who has long read Ms. Klassen’s books, this marks a slight departure to her style and approach, even while offering an in-depth look at her character and story development.

In The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, Ms. Klassen introduces a large cast of characters from the town of Ivy Hill in Wiltshire, England.  Set in the Regency Era, the novel focuses on the staff of The Bell, a roadside inn that caters to out-of-town visitors and furthers the town’s economic and social role in the region.  Jane Bell unexpectedly inherits The Bell from her deceased husband, with no warning or training to take on such a responsibility.  After Jane’s year of mourning ends, she finds that the inn has fallen into disrepair, while key members of the staff have retired or moved to other positions.  In spite of a tense relationship with Jane, her mother-in-law, Thora, soon returns to town to discover The Bell’s dilapidated state, something that would have never been allowed to happen under her management.  When external forces threaten the survival of The Bell, Jane and Thora must work together to save their inn and ensure the well-being of their town and staff.

The Tales from Ivy Hill series builds upon Ms. Klassen’s previous experience writing Christian fiction set in Regency-era England.  In The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, Ms. Klassen kicks off an elaborate storyline that is heavily dependent on a large cast of characters from throughout the town of Ivy Hill.

Overall, I thought that The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill presented a thoughtful beginning to the Tales of Ivy Hill series.  The novel offers an interesting combination of features from Ms. Klassen’s previous novels, even as she uses it to instigate her first-ever multi-book series.  In comparison to her other novels, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill has a somewhat slower pace, in part due to Ms. Klassen introducing an extensive set of characters from in and around the town of Ivy Hill.  While these characters will likely play more significant roles in other books within the series, these introductions and explanations significantly slowed the pacing of this particular novel.  Additionally, the main characters of this novel were somewhat overshadowed by the sheer number of events and characters within the storyline.  While these characters are generally unique, I never became emotionally attached to either Jane or Thora, finding some of the secondary characters to be far more interesting.  I am very curious to read the future novels in this series, as I would not be surprised to see these secondary characters more successfully carry those upcoming storylines more successfully.  Altogether, some additional editing and a more succinct storyline would have helped make this novel even stronger, while helping to better capture readers’ hearts and imaginations.

Fans of Ms. Klassen will enjoy reading The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill.  Readers who appreciate Regency era stories, Christian historical fiction, and even general historical romance will find the novel to be a worthwhile read.  Ms. Klassen utilizes a general approachable writing style, with moderate to slow pacing, and a relatively long story totaling approximately 435 pages.

Ms. Klassen will continue the Tales from Ivy Hill series with The Ladies of Ivy Cottage in December 2017.

Special thanks to Bethany House for the promotional copy of The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill!

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Amazon – The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

Review: Close to You – Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac. Close to You. New York, NY: Howard Books, 2016.

I had the opportunity to read Kara Isaac’s latest release, Can’t Help Falling, as an advanced copy from the publisher.  If you’ve already read my review, you probably figured out that I thought it was quite brilliant and absolutely hilarious!  With a little help from my local library, I finally had the chance to read her debut novel, Close to You. :)

Allison Shire’s life as an academic fell apart the day that her husband’s wife walked into the middle of her lecture.  With a Ph.D. in English, Allison has left the university world and run home to piece together her life again, becoming a guide for luxury tours of New Zealand.  On one of her last tours, Allison’s group includes Jackson Gregory, a failed businessman with his own share of relationship challenges.  After his girlfriend ran off with his trade secrets and his biggest competition, Jackson is desperate to please his wealthy great-uncle on a zany trip to New Zealand, even if it means three weeks of Tolkien references that he does not understand.  Together, Allison and Jackson discover the true meaning of second chances and seeing through one another to their true selves, against some of the craziest odds ever conceived in fiction or real life.

Ms. Isaac brings the fantastic landscape of New Zealand to life in her debut novel, Close to You.  Fans of Tolkien and the latest film series will be absolutely thrilled with Ms. Isaac’s depiction of his literary works and the behind-the-scenes life of those who call the film sets home.

Overall, I was absolutely delighted with Close to You!  Melissa Tagg, Becky Wade, and several other notable Christian authors highly recommended this novel.  With the added benefit of having read Ms. Isaac’s sophomore work, Can’t Help Falling, I was eager to see what she would do with a story set in her native New Zealand.  She certainly did not disappoint!  With an incredible eye for detail and comedic timing, Ms. Isaac offers a fun and fascinating tale filled with excellent and complex characters.   Additionally, she presents a unique and engaging storyline that will keep readers absolutely riveted.

Fans of Ms. Isaac’s most recent release, Can’t Help Falling, will definitely want to read Close to You.  Additionally, readers who enjoy the light and funny style of Christian novels by Melissa Tagg and Becky Wade should highly consider trying Ms. Isaac’s novels.  Likewise, fans of Katherine Reay’s literary-inspired Christian fiction will want to take a look at Ms. Isaac’s novels.  Readers who are interested in Tolkien may also want to read this book, although (I can attest) a deep knowledge of these subjects are not required to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

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Amazon – Close to You

Review: The Lady and the Lionheart – Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof. The Lady and the Lionheart. Idyllwild, CA: Mason Jar Books, 2016.

I find great books to feature on the Books and Biscuits Blog through a variety of avenues.  Lately, I have found some great novels via recommendations by Christian authors, especially through their affiliated Facebook pages and newsletters.  This particular book came by recommendations from both Melissa Tagg and Kristy Cambron!

Joanne Bischof brings the thrills of the Big Top to life in her newest release, The Lady and the Lionheart.  Ella Beckley has escaped the memories of her past through a career in nursing.  During one particular night in the pediatric ward, Ella meets a mysterious man and a feverish baby girl who desperately need her help.  Putting her skills to work soon finds Ella following Charlie Lionheart to the circus, where he works as the resident lion tamer.  While Ella and Charlie work together to heal his niece, they also discover each other’s secrets and the love that has the power to overcome their tragic pasts.  However, protecting Charlie’s niece comes with a price, one that may place everything he loves at risk.

Ms. Bischof brings the very best elements of Christian fiction to her writing in The Lady and the Lionheart.  Readers will be absolutely riveted by this larger-than-life story of redemption in the shadows of the legendary Big Top.

Overall, I thought that The Lady and the Lionheart was absolutely superb!  As this novel is an independently-published book, I was not sure what to expect, particularly in terms of the quality of the writing and printed copy.  However, there is absolutely no wonder why RT Book Reviews named this novel a 5 Star Top Pick!  Ms. Bischof writes an incredible emotional complexity into her characters, while transporting her readers into another world of lions, acrobats, and the darker members of the circus sideshow.  She incorporates a fascinating allegorical component in the novel, while making the story fresh and unique in the genre.  Additionally, The Lady and the Lionheart includes a pleasantly-surprising amount of Biblical verses and discussion, which makes for an absolutely delightful read for fans of great Christian fiction!  Altogether, the adventures of Ella, Charlie, and the rest of the characters will leave readers wanting more of the same from Ms. Bischoff, no matter where she decides to publish her next book.

Readers who have previously read Ms. Bischof’s books will definitely want to read The Lady and the Lionheart.  Likewise, fans of Kristy Cambron’s The Ringmaster’s Wife will find this novel to be equally thrilling.  I would also recommend this book to anyone who particularly appreciates great Christian historical fiction, as this is definitely one to check out this year!

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Amazon – The Lady and the Lionheart