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!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Just Look Up

Review: Waves of Mercy – Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin. Waves of Mercy. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

As someone who lives in the great state of Michigan (I admit, I’m biased), I am always excited to find authors and books that are based in the state.  Fortunately, Michigan-based Christian author, Lynn Austin, just released a wonderful book that takes place in Holland, a unique town in western Michigan.

Waves of Mercy tells the story of two women, separated by generations, who experience the joys and pitfalls of their faith.  Anna Nicholson breaks up her engagement when her fiancé refused to allow her to attend a different church from their Chicago-based socialite crowd.  Anna and her mother retreat to Hotel Ottawa, allowing them the chance to step away from social expectations and, instead, enjoy Lake Michigan and the unique town of Holland.  At the hotel, Anna regularly encounters Derk Vander Veen, a young hotel worker who is studying for the ministry.  As he learns more about Anna’s newfound faith and fears, he is reminded of his elderly neighbor, Geesje de Jorge.  Geesje experienced her own challenges as a young woman immigrating from the Netherlands as part of the generation that established the town.  When Anna must choose between returning to her fiancé or pursuing a different path, Geesje’s story becomes a beacon of hope in an ocean of uncertainty.

Ms. Austin writes a compelling story of faith over the generations, while painting a gorgeous picture of the western Michigan landscape.  Fans of great Christian historical fiction will be absolutely thrilled with this riveting story and its exceptionally realistic characters.

Overall, I was absolutely fascinated by Waves of Mercy.  Ms. Austin masterfully develops a storyline that draws together the narratives of two very different generations through the universal experiences of growing faith and love.  As a huge fan of A Woman’s Place, I was very excited to see Ms. Austin once again combine the unique stories of such different characters, resulting in an incredible historical tale that functions independently of the classic romance plotlines.  In addition, Ms. Austin’s focus on her home state of Michigan incorporates incredible historical and local details that remind fellow Michiganders of home, while revealing its hidden treasures to a national audience.  Altogether, Waves of Mercy may be one of the year’s most impressive historical novels, as it sets itself apart in terms of historical research, compelling characters, and the exceptional quality of Ms. Austin’s writing.

Fans of Ms. Austin and her previous novels will absolutely want to read Waves of Mercy.  Likewise, readers who enjoy excellent Christian historical fiction should definitely read this novel, as well as Ms. Austin’s other works.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Waves of Mercy!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Waves of Mercy