Review: Out of the Ordinary – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. Out of the Ordinary. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

 Sometimes, I find myself needing a fun read.  These books are light and enjoyable, in spite of the craziness of my everyday life.  Jen Turano consistently provides this type of escape in her novels.

Out of the Ordinary continues Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd series.  Gertrude Cadwalader has long established herself as one of the wallflowers (featured in earlier parts of the series), becoming good friends with the other characters of the series.  Along the way, her name has become tied to Harrison Sinclair, a particularly eccentric shipping magnate.  During her friends’ engagement party, Gertrude loses track of her long-time companion, the wealthy Mrs. Davenport.  With a proclivity toward stealing trinkets, Mrs. Davenport’s light-fingered ways soon land Gertrude in particular trouble with Harrison’s mother and sisters.  Gertrude and Harrison’s attempts to right the situation soon sets them on a trajectory that impacts more lives than their own.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd will be delighted with this newest novel.  Gertrude and Harrison are particularly lighthearted and quirky characters that will leave readers tickled pink with their adventures.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Out of the Ordinary.  The book never tries to be too serious, which makes for an excellent, light-hearted escape.  Added to that, Ms. Turano always makes sure to include Christian elements in her works.  With a quick pace and very accessible writing style, this novel would be appropriate for anyone, including relatively young readers of Christian historical fiction.  Ms. Turano focuses a surprising portion of the storyline on the engagement party that Gertrude and Harrison attend.  However, these events spur on the rest of the novel, which makes her decision to focus so much of the novel on the initial setting quite understandable.  Personally, I find myself wanting to know more about the characters and eagerly anticipate the next novel in the series.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s works, especially the Apart from the Crowd series, will definitely want to read Out of the Ordinary!  Additionally, readers who appreciate light-hearted and relatively humorous Christian historical fiction will also be thrilled with this particular book.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishing for the advanced copy of Out of the Ordinary!

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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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Amazon – Then There Was You

Review: Behind the Scenes – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. Behind the Scenes. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Some of my favorite and most compelling moments of reading Christian fiction have come in the form of humorous stories and characters.  Jen Turano’s novels are always an enjoyable blend of history and comedy that transport her reader to another time and place, in spite of their circumstances.

In Behind the Scenes, Ms. Turano builds upon a set of characters first introduced in her e-novella, At Your Request.  As the first full-length novel in the Apart from the Crowd series, Behind the Scenes follows the non-traditional social wallflower, Permilia Griswold.  Growing up travelling through American mines with her businessman father, Permilia finds that she shares his mind for business, in spite of her step-mother’s determined efforts to launch her into proper society.  Instead, Permilia has found a role for herself as “Miss Quill,” an accomplished society columnist for one of the New York newspapers.  During one particularly eventful society event, Permilia overhears a threat on the life of Asher Rutherford, one of New York’s most reputable gentlemen and a successful department store owner.  Out of necessity, they form an unlikely partnership to discover the source of the threat, even as they find an unexpected source of acceptance and future possibilities in one another.

Ms. Turano creates a compelling set of characters and situations that will have her readers crying out for more incredible and humorous tales.  Behind the Scenes offers a fascinating introduction to a great new historical series.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Behind the Scenes!  Ms. Turano’s characters are surprisingly varied, even as they feel comfortable and familiar within their historical setting.  I especially enjoyed seeing how Ms. Turano built upon these characters and others first introduced in her novella, At Your Request, while offering a few sneak peaks at those that will continue to play a part in her forthcoming novels.   While some sections of the novel felt unevenly paced, as a significant portion of the story is spent at a single social event, Ms. Turano uses this structure to introduce many of the novel’s significant characters and events.  By the end of the novel, readers will be left highly satisfied with a fun and fascinating tale that breaks the mold of romantic fiction set in New York high society.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s previous historical Christian novels and novellas will definitely want to read At Your Request.  Likewise, readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction with a relatively light and humorous style will also want to check out At Your Request and the other stories in Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd series.  The next novel in the series, Out of the Ordinary, will release in November 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishing for the advanced copy of Behind the Scenes!

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Amazon – Behind the Scenes

Review: At Your Request – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. At Your Request: An Apart from the Crowd Novella. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017. Ebook.

 Books covers are always meant to catch readers’ attention.  With the recent wintry weather, the beautiful cover of Jen Turano’s e-novella, At Your Request, definitely seems appropriate to the season!

Ms. Turano begins her new Apart from the Crowd series with a free e-novella, At Your Request.  The novella follows Wilhelmina Radcliff as she navigates the world of society’s wallflowers, those young ladies who have been generally ignored by the fashionable members of society at balls and events.  Facing their own set of social rules and expectations, a chance encounter soon leads to chaos among these women, as well as a much-needed second chance.  Without her father’s previous fortune, Wilhelmina accepts her role as a social secretary, in order to help provide for her family.  When her childhood best friend, Edgar Wanamaker, returns to town with his own fortune in hand, Wilhelmina may have a chance at an entirely different future.  In spite of the shame inherent to Wilhelmina’s position as a wallflower, Edgar is determined to reverse her answer to his long-rejected marriage proposal.

Filled with Ms. Turano’s signature humor and wit, At Your Request offers a great introduction to a quirky set of characters.  The series offers a very different perspective on late nineteenth century society, even while remaining true to its roots as a compelling piece of historical Christian fiction.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading At Your Request!  In general, the novella felt quite short, even in comparison to the length of similarly-formatted stories released by Bethany House.  However, it offered a fascinating introduction to the characters and situations that will make up the Apart from the Crowd series.  Additionally, the e-novella offers an extensive sneak peak at Ms. Turano’s forthcoming novel, Behind the Scenes, which will be released in April 2017!  Altogether, the novella and excerpt offer a compelling sampling of Ms. Turano’s writing style and pacing, which are incredibly approachable to a wide and varied audience of readers.  Likewise, she showcases her humorous style and firm grasp of historical details that have made her previous works an absolute delight.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s previous historical Christian novels and novellas will definitely want to read At Your Request.  Likewise, readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction with a relatively light and humorous style will also want to try out this new series.

P.S. At Your Request is currently available for free on Amazon.  Just click on the link below!

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Amazon – At Your Request

Review: Finding Margo – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. Finding Margo. Wheaton, IL: Gilead Publishing, 2016.

Gilead Publishing, a new Christian publisher, recently began to release its first set of books.  As a reviewer of Christian fiction, I’m very excited to be able to feature one of its first earliest releases.  Based on the excellent caliber of this book, I am very much looking forward to reading more of their great books in the future.

Acclaimed author Jen Turano turns to a contemporary setting with her latest release, Finding Margo.  The first novel in the Finding Home series, the novel follows the experiences of Margo Hartman, an overworked pop star who desperately needs to escape after a national tour.  Leaving behind an entourage of managers, advisors, and assistants, Margo drives across the country with the hopes of keeping a low profile.  An unexpected incident leaves Margo stranded in a small Amish community in Ohio.  She soon finds herself turning to local deputy Brock Moore, who has also been working undercover for the FBI to solve a local murder.  Margo’s appearance in town and her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish girl quickly triggers questions from Brock and the townsfolk, as well as drawing the nation’s entertainment media to a community otherwise filled with quilts and buggies.  When Margo’s life is threatened, the FBI takes action and sends Brock to solve a decades-long mystery tied to Margo and the small town that continually prompts her unexplained memories of her childhood.

Ms. Turano expertly balances suspense elements with laugh-out-loud moments in her inaugural release for Gilead Publishing.  Based on the expert caliber and entertainment factor of this novel, fans of great Christian fiction will be thrilled to read this and other great books from this new Christian publishing house!

Overall, I could not get enough of Ms. Turano’s Finding Margo!  I have not previously read Ms. Turano’s other novels, nor am I typically a reader of books related to the Amish and their communities.  However, I could not put down this highly entertaining novel!  Ms. Turano creates a fascinating set of characters, while drawing readers in with a complex, yet approachable, storyline.  The characters jump off the page, while fitting well within the diverse settings of the novel, ranging from over-the-top concert venues to quiet Amish farms.  Ms. Turano also creates an intriguing storyline that will make for a fascinating series of novels, while providing a conclusion that will satisfy readers even as a stand-alone book.  Based on the book overall, I honestly cannot wait to read the next novel in this series and will likely track down Ms. Turano’s other releases at the earliest opportunity!  As the first novel that I have read from Gilead Publishing, Finding Margo has a very professional-level editing and formatting style (of the e-book), above the quality of quite a few of the other e-book releases of competing publishing houses in the market.  If this is the level that one can expect to see from Gilead’s future releases, I very much look forward to reading their other books!

Fans of Ms. Turano’s other novels will greatly appreciate this book, while readers who enjoy fascinating and unique contemporary Christian fiction should definitely check out Finding Margo.  As a combination of Christian suspense elements and a humorous writing style, the novel offers an approachable and entertaining storyline that will appeal to a broad audience of Christian fiction readers.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Gilead Publishing for the advanced copy of Finding Margo!

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Amazon – Finding Margo