Review: The House on Foster Hill – Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright. The House on Foster Hill. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m not the person to watch scary movies, but I oftentimes enjoy reading Christian fiction with mystery or suspense elements.  Somehow, these authors typically make the genre more accessible and I’m generally fine reading these stories.

In The House on Foster Hill, Kaine Prescott returns to her ancestral family’s hometown in Wisconsin to leave behind her tragic past in California.  She hopes by restoring a historical estate, she can finally grieve and recover from the murder of her husband and the impact that event had on her life.  She fears that her past career helping abused women had finally caught up with her in California.  Unfortunately, the house has its own past and is in terrible condition when Kaine arrives.  Ivy Thorpe had her own encounters in the house on Foster Hill a century before.  An unknown woman is found murdered on the property and it takes Ivy and a group of townspeople to solve the mystery of what happened within the house.  Placing their own lives at risk across the years, Kaine and Ivy discover the house’s secrets and find their lives will never be the same.

Bridging two periods within the town, The House on Foster Hill presents a high-stakes mystery that will delight fans of this genre of stories.  Ms. Wright’s debut novel offers plenty of suspense that ties together generations of people from a small Wisconsin town.

Overall, I thought The House on Foster Hill offered a different kind of story from what I typically read.  In seeing other reviews about the book, I was expecting an easy five-start review on my end.  However, I had several issues with the novel.  In reading the Kindle version, I expected the book to end at many different points, but I was rarely anywhere near the end of the book.  It could have used some significant editing, particularly in its plot development, even though the writing style of the author was pretty good.  Some of the characters were stronger than others, with Ivy Thorpe coming across as one of the best-developed in the novel.  Also, I was rather disappointed to see minimal historical detail in the historical sections of the book.  I would much prefer to see a stronger plot that is exclusively contemporary or historical, as very few authors can successfully pull off both within a single novel.  Lastly, I found this book to be much creepier than almost any other Christian mystery/suspense novel that I have previously read.  While I could see other readers really enjoying that aspect of the story, I found it somewhat off-putting and it made it a struggle to actually finish the book.

Fans of high-stakes mystery and suspense novels may find The House on Foster Hill to be worth reading.  While the book does have Christian elements, readers who identify more closely with other forms of Christian fiction (contemporary or historical) may find this book to be creepier than they prefer for light reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of The House on Foster Hill!

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Review: The Space Between Words – Michele Phoenix

Michele Phoenix. The Space Between Words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

With the encouragement and prompting of some of the publishers that I regularly read and review, I find myself exploring new authors and storylines that I would not be as likely to discover on my own.  While some novels are more successful than others, I always enjoy finding the unexpected in these stories.

In The Space Between Words, Jessica finds herself in the midst of the Paris attacks.  As an American in a Parisian hospital, she struggles to grasp the horror of her experience, even as the French medical professionals try to help her understand the situation.  Her friend, Patrick, helps her to cope through the early days of her recovery as he encourages her to pursue their planned journey to the southern part of France for an antiquing trip.  A chance encounter and an antique box of old documents soon set Jessica on a new journey.  Translating the archaic French, Jessica discovers the story of the persecuted Huguenots and their faith-filled community.  With the help of new-found friends, she pursues the Huguenot family’s story from France to England, in the hope of discovering the reason for their hope in the face of suffering.

Weaving together the past and present, Ms. Phoenix offers a compelling tale of faith and courage.  Her story goes beyond the terror of one day to explore what comes next in her characters’ lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Space Between Words.  While I am not familiar with Ms. Phoenix’s other works, I found this novel to be surprisingly accessible, with a good writing style and pacing that allows it to be easily read by a wide variety of readers.  She also manages to create a depiction of both the Paris attacks and Huguenot persecution that are both horrific and minimally graphic.  While I would be unlikely to hand this book to a relatively young reader, I didn’t have to worry too much about having nightmares from it myself, which I much appreciated.  The Huguenot/historical part of the story was absolutely fascinating, as was Jessica’s journey to discover more about the family involved in the making of her antique box.  With such a strong story of faith included in the historical components of the novel, the contemporary side of the plot felt much weaker in that regard.  Particularly, I found the end to have needed a bit more development, even as I was very happy to see such an emphasis on Christian faith included in a novel published by Thomas Nelson (which has not been the case in some of their more recent releases).

Fans of other Christian fiction works that split contemporary and historical timelines will likely enjoy reading The Space Between Words.  Additionally, those who have previously enjoyed Ms. Phoenix’s other works will definitely want to read this one, too.

Special thanks to The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for the promotional copy of The Space Between Words!

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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: True to You – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. True to You: A Bradford Sisters Romance. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Last week, I featured Becky Wade’s prequel novella, Then Came You, on the Books and Biscuits Blog.  Typically Ms. Wade only releases one full-length novel a year, which is always a highlight of the warmer months.  Her newest book, True to You, actually releases today and is definitely worth reading!

True to You focuses on Nora Bradford, the middle sister of a legendary and talented trio of sisters.  As the resident genealogist and director of the local historical village, Nora has created a life for herself surrounded by books, history, and the occasional fictional hero.  Nora avoids heartbreak after a serious relationship years ago went awry, until the day that a former Navy SEAL walks into her life.  John Lawson has made a name for himself as a security expert, but needs Nora’s help to find out the truth about his birth mother and an inherited health condition that may undermine his entire career.  Together, this unlikely duo discover that they may not be quite as different as they once thought, as they bond over shared tragedy, faith, and the pursuit of truth against all odds.

Fans of Ms. Wade will be absolutely thrilled with True to You and the beginning of the Bradford Sisters series.  Set in the Pacific Northwest, this book offers a technicolor view of a very different setting from those featured in Ms. Wade’s past stories.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading True to You!  For readers of Ms. Wade’s works, I would highly recommend starting with Then Came You, which serves as the novella prequel for the Bradford Sisters series.  The novella provides additional backstory that will help readers to understand the history of the Bradford family and the unique relationship between Nora and her sisters, while also introducing Ms. Wade’s style of using additional forms of correspondence (emails, texts, phone calls, etc.) to further her story.  In True to You, Ms. Wade uses these relatively unorthodox components to a lesser extent, as the correspondence builds upon a more standard storytelling structure, rather than functioning on its own.  As an overall story, True to You is equally as strong as Ms. Wade’s previous novels and series, which is particularly impressive for the first book in a new series.  Readers will definitely enjoy meeting the Bradford sisters in this book and will be left wanting far more of their stories in Ms. Wade’s future novels.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s previous novels and other stories will definitely want to read True to You, especially if they enjoyed Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella.  Likewise, readers who enjoy light-hearted contemporary Christian fiction by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Susan May Warren will also find this novel and Ms. Wade’s other works to be well worth checking out.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of True to You!

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Review: A Portrait of Emily Price – Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay. A Portrait of Emily Price. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

Katherine Reay’s novels are always unique and enjoyable, as they interconnect classic literature with fascinating stories and characters.  Her most recent novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, is no exception!

Ms. Reay’s newest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, follows the adventures of the title character as she travels to Atlanta for her job as an insurance restoration specialist.  Along the way, she meets Ben Vassallo, an Italian chef determined to revitalize his aunt and uncle’s restaurant.  Ben and Emily bond over his project, even as they both realize that they must soon return to their respective homes.  They instead decide to marry and travel to Ben’s hometown in Italy.  Although Emily has made a name for herself due to ability to “fix” nearly anything, she soon discovers that the challenges Ben faces at home cannot be easily mended.  While historic buildings and works of art may be able to be restored, Emily realizes that the impending death of her father-in-law will open new wounds, even as he attempts to resolve family disputes in his last days.  Emily’s attempts to help are met with disdain, particularly by her mother-in-law.  When she is given the chance to return home to the United States, she must choose between her old life and the foreign land that has captured her heart.

A Portrait of Emily Price reaches across volumes of classical literature to explore the growth of a compelling set of fascinating characters.  The title character makes her mark in a new country, even as her husband’s family teaches her lessons of faith and restoration.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Portrait of Emily Price.  Ms. Reay masterfully captures the spirit of classic authors, while writing a captivating story that serves as fascinating literature in its own right.  Readers will be absolutely riveted by Emily’s world of history and art restoration, while Ben’s Italian family and home serve as an intriguing and unforgettable backdrop for the novel’s events.  Within an expertly-written book, Ms. Reay’s descriptions of the art and the artistic process of her characters stand out as some of the most enthralling depictions in the novel.  Even as this year’s selection of novels winds to a close, Ms. Reay’s novel holds a unique place in the Christian contemporary fiction genre, standing out even among the fiction genre at large.

Fans of Ms. Reay’s previous works will definitely want to read A Portrait of Emily Price.  Additionally, readers who particularly enjoy classical literature will find the integration of countless references within Ms. Reay’s stories to be well worth the read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of A Portrait of Emily Price!

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Amazon – A Portrait of Emily Price