Review: Freedom’s Ring – Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli. Freedom’s Ring. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

Lately, several authors have written particularly impressive novels based on surprisingly recent events.  With the length and intensity of the publication process, I find their perspective on contemporary life to be worth exploring, just as much as their views of similar themes set in other historical periods.

In Freedom’s Ring, Annie David finds herself the victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.  While Annie escaped with few injuries, she feels guilty for placing her family members in danger, including her niece who lost a limb in the blast.  However, Annie clings to the memories and ring of her rescuer, who remains a mystery until she happens across his contact information several years later while visiting her niece.  In rediscovering one another, Annie and Brad are determined to piece together the mysterious history of his ring and the hope and strength that it inspires.  Their historical research brings them to the story of Liberty Caldwell, a young women who encounters love, loss, and hope in the period before the American Revolution.  In discovering the unexpected origins of the ring, Annie also finds the strength to overcome her own fears and once again run the race of her life.

Bridging historical and contemporary periods, Ms. Chiavaroli offers a thought-provoking perspective on faith, as it unites her characters across time and place.  Freedom’s Ring serves as a fascinating debut for this new and compelling author.

Overall, I found Freedom’s Ring to be quite an interesting read.  While several aspects of the novel’s plotline may seem familiar to readers of the genre, Ms. Chiavaroli adds elements and details that certainly present a fresh perspective on these themes.  Particularly, her inclusion of the Boston Marathon bombing and the viewpoints of survivors adds to the uniqueness of the novel.  Freedom’s Ring does include some plot points that may be considered inappropriate for some younger readers (sexual assault, war/military battles, and PTSD).  However, Ms. Chiavaroli does not include any graphic details, as she focuses the novel on Christian themes.  Additionally, readers who enjoy learning about the work of historians and genealogists may find this novel to be particularly interesting, based on the main characters’ research throughout the story.  While I found many aspects of their research journey to be delightfully convenient and simple, I appreciated Ms. Chiavaroli’s inclusion of this process as a significant component of her novel.

Fans of Christian fiction that includes both contemporary and historical timelines will likely enjoy reading Freedom’s Ring.  Additionally, those with a particular interest in the Revolutionary War and the Freedom Trail area will also find this story to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of Freedom’s Ring!

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Review: The Writing Desk – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Writing Desk. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Following a bit of advice from one of the Christian authors that I regularly review, I upgraded my Kindle to better handle its near constant use.  As I’ve discovered over the last several months, reading paperback books can be fairly tricky with a newborn, but an e-book reader works great one-handed!  The Writing Desk happened to be the first novel that I read with my new e-book reader and I can honestly say that the technology has significantly improved from what it was four or five years ago.

In The Writing Desk, Tenley Roth comes from a long line of accomplished authors.  After losing her father, she writes an unexpected bestselling novel inspired by his life.  With an upcoming deadline for her sophomore novel, she soon finds herself facing a severe case of writer’s block.  Escaping her life in New York, Tenley travels to Florida to assist her mother through her cancer treatments.  While there, she meets Jonas Sullivan and his family, as well as finding some much-needed inspiration in the form of a writing desk in her mother’s library.  The desk’s owner was once an author herself.  Growing up in the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn was forced to choose between social success and love.  In the face of family disapproval, Birdie turns to her storytelling abilities, finding that God’s will for her life does not look like the typical romance story of her age.  Birdie and Tenley’s respective journeys as authors come together across time, as deceptions fall away in the face of truth.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s previous contemporary novels, including The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel, will be delighted with this newest release.  The Writing Desk continues Ms. Hauck’s style of intertwining stories from the past and present, even as they reveal timeless themes and challenges encountered by her characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Writing Desk!  While Ms. Hauck’s previous novels, specifically The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, have been well received, I honestly enjoyed The Writing Desk even more.  Both the contemporary and historical components of the story were absolutely riveting, with a tight writing style accessible to all readers.  Ms. Hauck is definitely in the top tier of authors that I review and this book was an absolute delight to read.  The Gilded Age storyline was well worth the effort and extra research that Ms. Hauck admits in the author’s note that she had to put into it.  That historical plotline was strong enough that she could have easily turned it into a stand-alone book.  However, it will definitely reach and be greatly appreciated by an even wider audience when combined with the contemporary storyline.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s novels, especially The Wedding Shop, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Dress, will be absolutely thrilled with The Writing Desk.  Likewise, fans of contemporary Christian fiction, especially by authors such as Susan May Warren, will also want to read this book.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Writing Desk!

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Review: Just Look Up – Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh. Just Look Up. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

Throughout her previous novels, Courtney Walsh expertly brings small towns to life.  Her characters jump off the page, while the towns themselves could easily be one’s next vacation spot.

In Just Look Up, Lane Kelley has made a name for herself as a Chicago-based interior designer.  Lane works tirelessly to achieve a much-deserved promotion, even as her colleagues know nothing about her personally.  When her brother ends up in a coma, Lane must travel back to her hometown and finally face her family after years of self-inflicted exile.  The town of Harbor Pointe, Michigan, offers little of the ideal escape for Lane, even as she encounters lifelong family friend, Ryan Brooks.  Ryan made his own escape via the military from a horrible family situation, but is excited to finally help the local area’s tourism through a business project of his own.  However, he needs Lane’s expertise in order to finish the project.  Together, Ryan and Lane must navigate their respective pasts in order to finally determine a way to build a future.

Ms. Walsh’s most recent novel points to the importance of looking up from one’s work and own problems to instead focus on other people and events beyond oneself.  Throughout much of the novel, Lane maintains a firm grip on her cell phone and work projects, even as she discovers that it negatively impacts her health and happiness.  As Ms. Walsh indicates in the author’s notes, the lessons of this novel are ones that many people encounter, including the author herself.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading Just Look Up.  Personally, the novel was one of my favorites written by Ms. Walsh.  I really appreciated her contrast of Lane’s Chicago lifestyle with the quaint town of Harbor Pointe.  Additionally, the various characters were quite interesting and unique, fitting appropriately within their various settings.  In general, I wished to see more description of Lane’s interior design projects and process, as the “work” that she does makes up a significant component of the story.  Instead, these sections are glossed over, even as they may have offered some intriguing opportunities to build further dialogue and complexity among some of the main characters.  However, I realize that Ms. Walsh was probably attempting to keep a tighter focus on building her story.  I am curious to see if Ms. Walsh decides to continue to write stories based in and around Harbor Pointe or if her next novel will move in a different direction.

Fans of Ms. Walsh’s previous works, as well as other contemporary Christian fiction, will enjoy reading Just Look Up.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of Just Look Up!

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Review: Then There Was You – Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac. Then There Was You. Bellbird Press, 2017.

Over the last several years, I have been particularly impressed by the caliber of Christian authors.  In conducting the business of the Books and Biscuits Blog, I find myself regularly chatting with authors via email and Facebook.  This week’s book actually arrived as a complete surprise from New Zealand-based author after I asked her a simple question about her latest book release.  After reading this very impressive book, I have to send a huge “THANK YOU!” to Kara for sharing this amazing story with us. :)

Stepping away from the literary-based inspiration of her previous works, Kara Isaac introduces an entirely new set of characters in her latest release Then There Was You.  American event planner, Paige McAllister, finds herself making a drastic move to Australia after an unexpected break-up with her long-time boyfriend.  With the support and friendship of her Sydney-based cousin, Paige lands a job as the logistics planner for one of Australia’s largest churches running their international women’s conference.  Along the way, she continually encounters her boss’s son, Josh Tyler, who also happens to be a famous worship leader and musician.  With plenty of failed relationships and heartbreak between them, Paige and Josh are forced to work together when his tour manager ends up out of commission.  Together, they discover that, in spite of awkward first impressions, they just may be the perfect partnership they have been looking for all along.

New Zealand-based Christian author, Kara Isaac, brings her signature humor and storytelling prowess to this delightful story of second chances and unlikely relationships.  Fans of humorous Christian contemporary fiction will be delighted by this new release.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with Then There Was You!  The novel includes a compelling balance of humor and heartbreak that will leave readers laughing out loud, crying into their Kleenex, and wishing for more equally great stories by Ms. Isaac.  Paige’s perspective travelling to a new country for an extended period of time offers great moments of situational comedy, spurred on by an equally great cast of Australian colleagues who make her work life full of surprises.  Josh’s role in the novel comes across as being equally weighted to Paige, rather than taking the backseat role that so often happens to male characters in some stories.  Additionally, Paige and Josh’s extended families, friends, and colleagues offer even more brilliant moments in the novel, leaving one to wish that Ms. Isaac would write more novels that build upon this cast of characters and their world.  Regardless of what she writes next, I will certainly find myself going to great lengths to track it down and read it at the earliest opportunity.

Fans of Ms. Isaac’s previous novels will definitely want to read Then There Was You.  Additionally, readers who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction with a humorous twist will also find this novel to be well worth reading at the earliest opportunity.

Special thanks to the author for the advanced copy of Then There Was You!

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Review: A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. A Matter of Trust. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Happy Fourth of July!  With the holiday landing on a Tuesday this year, the Books and Biscuits Blog is featuring an excellent new novel about some of America’s local heroes, search and rescue.

A Matter of Trust serves as the third novel of Ms. Warren’s acclaimed Montana Rescue series.  Gage Watson fills an integral role in the PEAK Rescue team, while also specializing in mountain rescues for the local ski resorts.  However, his career once revolved around his talents as a champion backcountry snowboarder before a tragic accident and a devastating lawsuit forced him to rebuild his life in a different direction.  Years ago, Ella Blair thought she might have a future with Gage, having bonded over a shared love of snowboarding.  However, her friend’s accidental death led to her involvement as one of the attorneys in the case against Gage ended their relationship for good.  Ella now holds the evidence that could have saved Gage’s reputation and career.  She reluctantly returns to Gage’s life, in order to save her brother when he attempts a nearly impossible trek through Glacier National Park.   Together, Ella and Gage must figure out how to trust one another to pull off a nearly impossible rescue attempt in the face of blizzards, avalanches, and deadly terrain.

Ms. Warren returns to her Montana Rescue series and the PEAK Rescue team in A Matter of Trust.  Filled with fascinating details of competitive snowboarding and mountain rescues, fans of the series will be fascinated with the continuation of the team’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Matter of Trust.  The entire Montana Rescue series builds around the PEAK Rescue team, developing the characters and their stories across multiple volumes.  In addition to Gage and Ella’s story, the novel continues to add to the backstories of the other characters, while building up a storyline that Ms. Warren indicates with be continued in the final novel of the series.  A Matter of Trust stands apart from the other novels of the series based on its focus on Gage as a former competitive snowboarder and his work on the ski patrol and related rescues.  As someone generally unfamiliar with the sport of backcountry snowboarding, I found Ms. Warren’s detailed descriptions of Gage’s work to be unexpectedly fascinating, yet easy to follow.  Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the development of Ella’s character, as she offered new insights into Gage’s background and fills a vital role in the general storyline of the series.  Based on the buildup of the story across the series, I am excited to read the conclusion in the upcoming release, Troubled Waters.

Fans of Ms. Warren’s previous work, especially the other books of the Montana Rescue series, will definitely want to read this novel.  Additionally, readers who enjoy books focused on winter sports and contemporary Christian fiction may also find this novel to be worthwhile.

Ms. Warren releases the fourth book of the Montana Rescue series, Troubled Waters, in January 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of A Matter of Trust!

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Amazon – A Matter of Trust