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: High as the Heavens – Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin. High as the Heavens. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The last couple of months have been a little out of the ordinary, as some of you probably noticed the Blog’s brief hiatus in May.  With the addition of our newest (and littlest) member of the Blog team, time is definitely at a premium.  In the midst of the insanity, reviewing this novel ended up being slightly delayed, so I am very happy to finally post this review!

In High as the Heavens, Evelyn Marche grew up in Britain to a Belgian family.  After losing her husband during the early days of World War I, Evelyn returns to her family’s hometown, landing herself directly in the path of the German army.  She soon finds herself leading the nurses of a German hospital in Brussels, while serving as part of the Belgian resistance.  When British Captain Simon Forrester’s plane crashes in the middle of the city, Evelyn risks everything to preserve his identity and top-secret papers.  With the Germans intent on proving Simon to be a spy, he is forced to trust Evelyn with his survival and finding a way out of Brussels.  Together, they look forward to the day that they might dare to return to the dreams they once had before the war.

Ms. Breslin shares this intriguing story of World War I spycraft, delving into the fascinating perspective of the Belgian resistance and their work with the British Secret Service.  Fans of World War I-era stories will definitely want to check out this fascinating novel!

Overall, I found High as the Heavens to be a very unique novel.  Previous to reading this book, I had not encountered one focused on the Belgian perspective during World War I.  Personally, I would have greatly appreciated some additional context, as I was quite unfamiliar with the locations, people, and events described in the novel.  Even some additional description in an author’s note would have been very helpful to provide this kind of information.  While the characters were interesting and relatively well developed, I thought that the writing style and pacing of the story dragged at points, especially toward the beginning.  However, I’m sure that someone more familiar with this period and geography would have been much more comfortable moving more quickly through the story.

Fans of Kate Breslin’s other novels would definitely enjoy reading High as the Heavens.  Likewise, those with a particular interest in World War I would also find this to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for the promotional copy of High as the Heavens!

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Review: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale

Celeste Fletcher McHale. The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Celeste Fletcher McHale’s The Secret of Hummingbird Cake was one of the most surprising and unique debut works that I reviewed last year.  In sharing it with several family members, they were incredibly impressed with the overall story and characters.  When I had the chance to preview an advanced reader’s copy of Ms. McHale’s upcoming release, I jumped at the opportunity.  After finishing the book in record time, I can honestly say that the novel is well worth the read!

Stranded on a rooftop during a devastating Mississippi flood, Jacey becomes attached to her fellow survivors, a poor mother, her four sons, and a man named Colin.  Over the course of three days, Jacey and Colin formed an indescribable bond forged by their life-and-death situation.  When a chance at rescue separates Jacey and Colin, they promise one another that they will reunite, only to have their contact information and Jacey’s memory wiped away in a tragic accident in the flood waters.  A year later, Jacey and Colin are unexpectedly reunited at a friend’s wedding.  Jacey’s faulty memory, triggered by her tragic accident, begins to return after talking with Colin and reestablishing their relationship in the normalcy of their real lives.  However, the flood waters were not the only complication that Colin and Jacey encountered in the years prior.  To move forward, each must have faith to overcome their previous challenges and fears, even if it means setting aside the relationship that they each have sought to relocate after the flood.

Ms. McHale shows herself to be a resonant voice in Southern fiction, writing in a style that reaches beyond traditional Christian fiction and into the real world challenges of everyday people.  The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories will leave readers wanting far more of Ms. McHale’s stories.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!  After reading Ms. McHale’s debut novel, The Secret of Hummingbird Cake, I was left unsure as to whether she could ever write another story of equal caliber.  In The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, she shows herself to be an incredible (and surprisingly consistent) storyteller.  The novel features complex and compelling characters faced with incredible, yet realistic, challenges, leaving the reader reflecting on the story long after it ends.  While some aspects of the novel may fall outside of the norm for Christian contemporary fiction, Ms. McHale’s story offers a fresh and genuine tale that will resonate with a Christian audience.  Additionally, the storyline, including the characters’ faults and challenges, will also ring true for a general readership.  In this purely Southern tale, Ms. McHale offers an insightful look at the true meaning of redemption and second chances, whether for a family, marriage, friendship, or romantic relationship.

Fans of Ms. McHale and The Secret of Hummingbird Cake will definitely want to read The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Southern-inspired Christian fiction will also want to check out this novel.  Ms. McHale writes for a broad audience, with moderate to fast pacing of her story.  Some readers may dislike some of the novel’s language and actions of the characters, which may impact the age-appropriateness of this story.  However, the novel is well worth the read for those who can appreciate the overall plotline and the characters’ redemption, in spite of their imperfections.

Special thanks to the author (Celeste Fletcher McHale) and BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!

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Review: To the Farthest Shores – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. To the Farthest Shores. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m particularly excited to share this week’s review, as it has been a long time in coming.  Due to a series of delays, my copy of Elizabeth Camden’s most recent novel just arrived, even though it was supposed to release in February.  Fortunately, I’m a fast reader and the Blog had an available slot this week to feature this excellent book!

Ms. Camden’s novels regularly feature a wide variety of historical settings and locations across the United States.  Her most recent book takes readers to the coast of California in the years bridging the turn of the twentieth century.  Jenny Bennett works as a nurse at Presidio Army Base, where she happens to meet an intriguing naval officer in the months prior to the Spanish-American War.  However, Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher’s illness set back his secret mission for the U.S. government and he must once again leave the country, in spite of his feelings for Jenny.  Without an explanation for Ryan’s departure, Jenny continues her nursing career for another six years before rumors of his return accompany his arrival on the base.  Ryan’s homecoming to the United States follows six years of regrets and heartache, even as it places a continuing military mission at risk.  While Ryan has a plan for the overseas mission to succeed, he will have to convince Jenny to assist him and finally admit the truth behind his abrupt departure so many years ago.

Ms. Camden once again brings her award-winning research and writing skills to this story of forgiveness and second chances.  To the Farthest Shores will delight readers with a new cast of fascinating characters that could only be created by the brilliant mind of Ms. Camden.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading To the Farthest Shores.  While most of Ms. Camden’s previous works have taken place on the eastern coast of the United States, this novel’s California-based setting presents a marked contrast to her other books.  However, fans of her other work will find themselves right at home with this new cast of characters, as Ms. Camden continues to build stories around unique and intelligent individuals who seem to step out of the pages of history.  This novel’s focus on early attempts at international military intelligence, as well as the scientific study of pearls, presents fascinating historical subject matter for consideration, even beyond the scope of the book’s plotline.  In comparison to Ms. Camden’s last couple of novels, I found this story to have a slightly slower pace and more serious tone.  However, To the Farthest Shores fit well within the overall canon of her work, as a captivating example of Christian historical fiction.

Fans of Ms. Camden will absolutely want to read To the Farthest Shores.  Likewise, readers who enjoy expertly-researched historical fiction, even beyond the scope of Christian fiction, will definitely want to explore this novel.

Ms. Camden will release her next novel, A Dangerous Legacy, in October of 2017!

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of To the Farthest Shores!

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Amazon – To the Farthest Shores

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