Review: The Crooked Path – Irma Joubert

Irma Joubert. The Crooked Path. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Thomas Nelson has now published three books by South African author, Irma Joubert.  Translated into English, these novels make up a trilogy about South Africa and the period around World War II.

The Crooked Path follows much of the life of Lettie, a South African girl.  Her friends (many of whom were introduced in Ms. Joubert’s previous novels) all seem prettier and overall better than Lettie, even as she finds her own form of accomplishment in becoming a doctor.  Even as a professional young woman, Lettie thinks of herself as second best, until she meets Marco.  Growing up in Italy, Marco became caught up in the tragic Holocaust events of World War II.  With severely damaged health, Marco relocates to South Africa for the climate and to be closer to his younger brother, the husband of one of Lettie’s childhood friends.  Together, Marco and Lettie make their way through life together, even as they encounter times of incredible challenges and hope.

Fans of Ms. Joubert’s previous works will be thrilled with this novel!  She brings South Africa to life through a diverse cast of characters and historical events.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Crooked Path.  Ms. Joubert’s historical research is exceptionally impressive, as she interweaves major historical events with the lives of her characters.  Personally, I found the novel to be exceptionally similar to Child of the River, even as it overlapped many of the same characters and events.  I would have liked to see more structure to the plot, as the novel follows a series of events over the course of forty or so years in Lettie’s life, without the climatic buildup and resolution that one would expect from a fictional work.  While I personally enjoyed the novel, I could see some casual or slower-paced readers having some difficulty remaining interested in the story and characters.

Fans of Ms. Joubert’s previous releases, including The Girl from the Train and Child of the River, will want to try The Crooked Path.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction, especially as related to the Second World War and the mid-twentieth century, may also want to check out this novel.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the advanced copy of The Crooked Path!

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Review: The One True Love of Alice-Ann – Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson. The One True Love of Alice-Ann. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

On a very rainy, early spring day, it’s always nice to curl up with another great Christian fiction novel.  While my grandmother, aunt, and mum initially started me in on these types of stories, I now find myself in the fascinating role of regularly recommending novels to them.  Fortunately, there always seems to be more great stories being released that I know they will enjoy.

Eva Marie Everson releases her newest novel, The One True Love of Alice-Ann, this month.  While the novel takes place primarily during the early part of World War II, Alice-Ann’s story begins in the days just before the war.  As a budding sixteen-year-old, Alice-Ann has a crush on her older brother’s friend and plans to share her feelings with him at her birthday party.  However, the events at Pearl Harbor devastate the people of her small Georgia town, even as they send the young men of the area to the nearest enlistment office.  Desperate to share her feelings with Mack, Alice-Ann promises to write him until he returns, in spite of him not sharing any mutual feelings.  After years of correspondence, Mack’s letters suddenly end without warning, causing Alice-Ann to wonder about the true state of their relationship.  Meanwhile, the war has already taken its toll on the local families, including another of her brother’s friends, Carlton.  Alice-Ann finds her spare time taken up helping Carlton to recover from his war wounds, even as it forces her to face the realities of adulthood in a time of war.  Ultimately, Alice-Ann must choose between her dreams of one man and the reality of another, all in hopes of finally wearing her aunt’s wedding dress for the man she loves.

Ms. Everson writes a compelling story of emerging adulthood in a time of war.  Alice-Ann’s story will capture the hearts of readers who enjoy character-driven novels set during the World War II era.

Overall, I surprisingly enjoyed reading The One True Love of Alice-Ann.  While I have had mixed reactions to some of Ms. Everson’s previous work, I found this novel to be exceptionally well written, with even pacing and character development throughout.  She does a great job of showing the influence of the World War II period on a small Georgia town and the surrounding rural areas, through the inclusion of fascinating historical detail derived from her family’s past and additional research.  Additionally, the novel maintains a significant focus on Alice-Ann and the people in her life, offering a compelling narrative that many readers will enjoy without overly graphic descriptions of the war itself.  Based on Ms. Everson’s themes, writing style, and accessible pacing of the novel, I would highly recommend this story to those who appreciate captivating historical Christian fiction.

Fans of Ms. Everson’s previous works will definitely want to read The One True Love of Alice-Ann.  Additionally, readers who enjoy character-driven stories of the American homefront during World War II will also find this novel to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House for the advanced copy of The One True Love of Alice-Ann!

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Review: When Tides Turn – Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin. When Tides Turn. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Since publishing her very first novel, Sarah Sundin has remained among a short list of my favorite authors.  While Ms. Sundin only releases one book a year, I can pretty much guarantee that her work will be among the select group of 5-star reviews posted on the Books and Biscuits Blog.

When Tides Turn serves as the much-anticipated third novel in Ms. Sundin’s Waves of Freedom series.  Lt. Dan Avery has spent his military career with his eye on eventually becoming an admiral.  Under the advisement of his mentor, Admiral Howard, Dan has avoided any and all social distractions, especially those of the romantic kind.  Growing up together in their Ohio hometown, Tess Beaumont has always been Dan’s opposite, a blond known for her beauty over her brains.  After being passed over for a much-deserved promotion, in spite of her business degree, Tess is determined to make her own mark on the war effort by joining the Navy’s WAVES program.  As a fellow officer in Dan’s division, Tess becomes a well-liked and highly-capable member of the team, even as she continues to face challenges to the presence of women in the Navy.  When Tess and Dan encounter an active spy ring with deadly consequences to civilians in Boston, they discover that their duty to their nation extends beyond their careers and requires them to set aside their differences to help their friends survive the threat.

The Waves of Freedom series follows the Avery siblings as they make their own mark on the war effort.  Along with their friends and colleagues, this Boston-based group encounters the realities of war and the evils faced on the homefront.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading When Tides Turn.  Ms. Sundin writes a captivating historical romance, with a balanced element of mystery that will keep readers turning pages long into the night.  As has been the case with Ms. Sundin’s other series, the Waves of Freedom series has included a strong element of family connections between the main characters, while building upon these characters and previous aspects of the series in consecutive novels.  When Tides Turn is particularly fascinating as it serves as one of the few fictional works focused on women’s efforts in military service, particularly the Navy’s WAVES program.  Personally, I would love to see additional works focus on similar auxiliary divisions of the military during World War II, as these women are so often missed in the broader narrative of this era.  This novel offers an excellent conclusion to this series and will leave readers eagerly anticipating Ms. Sundin’s forthcoming series and novels.

Fans of Ms. Sundin’s novels, especially the Waves of Freedom series, will definitely want to read When Tides Turn.  Likewise, readers who enjoy World War II-inspired Christian fiction will also want to try this excellent series.

Special thanks to the Revell Reads Blog Tour program for the advanced copy of When Tides Turn!

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Review: Child of the River – Irma Joubert

Irma Joubert. Child of the River. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

Last fall, I featured Irma Joubert’s first novel that was released in English by Thomas Nelson.  This year, she is releasing a new book, exclusively featuring her home country of South Africa.

Child of the River follows Persomi as she grows up as a poor white girl living in the South African Bushveld.  While the farmers of the area enjoy a prosperous life before the events of the Second World War, Persomi and her family live as illiterate sharecroppers, dependent on the care and provision of the farm’s owners.  Persomi befriends the farmer’s children, but recognizes the inherent separation between their social positions.  When her family falls apart and exciting opportunities become available to her, Persomi begins to experience the wider world of educated children, loving families, and stable professions.  Through the years of World War II and apartheid, Persomi grows from a powerless child into a crusader for justice and equality in her homeland.

The hardship of Persomi’s family and growing up years offers a fascinating view of South African life during the mid-twentieth century.  Readers who enjoyed Ms. Joubert’s American debut, The Girl From the Train, will be thrilled to find a new release from this internationally-acclaimed author.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Child of the River.  Ms. Joubert produces a unique and compelling story for her audience, as she brings the life of rural sharecroppers to readers who have likely never known about the South African Bushveld.  In general, Ms. Joubert uses a writing style similar to that found in The Girl From the Train.  However, the novel focuses on historical elements more unique to South Africa, rather than the broader perspective of the global impact of World War II, which changes the nature of Ms. Joubert’s sources and character development.  In contrast to The Girl from the Train, I found that I never became entirely attached to the characters of Child of the River, in part due to their rather confusing relationships with one another.  Likewise, the quintessential “coming of age” storyline never completely caught my attention as much as the story devices used within Ms. Joubert’s previous novel.  However, I still thought that it was a strong novel that shows further growth and expansion of the Christian fiction genre globally.

Fans of Ms. Joubert’s previous release, The Girl from the Train, will want to try Child of the River.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction, especially as related to the Second World War and the mid-twentieth century, may also want to check out this novel.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the advanced copy of Child of the River!

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Review: Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin. Anchor in the Storm. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

There are only a few authors that I can almost guarantee will release a 5-star worthy book every year, with Sarah Sundin among that esteemed group.  I am very excited to be featuring Ms. Sundin’s newest release, Anchor in the Storm, on the Books and Biscuits Blog this week.

Anchor in the Storm follows Lillian Avery as she moves to Boston from small-town Ohio to serve as a pharmacist, fulfilling her long-time dream of working in her chosen field.  Lillian’s brother, Jim, and his best friend, Arch Vandenberg, regularly spend their shore leave with Lillian and her roommates, building on the friendships developed in Through Waters Deep.  In the early months of World War II, Jim and Arch serve as officers on a Navy destroyer as part of the military’s effort to stop German U-boats from sinking military and civilian ships in the Atlantic.  However, Arch soon finds that the battles at sea are interconnected with Lillian’s role on shore, as his men are becoming addicted to prescription drugs intended to calm their nerves.  Soon, Arch and Lillian are one another’s Holmes and Watson as they search for the mastermind behind the drug ring that stretches from Boston’s pharmacies to the Naval ships in the Atlantic.  When the stakes are high, they must learn to trust one another and the One who serves as their ultimate anchor in the storm.

Anchor in the Storm perfectly interconnects with the other stories in the Waves of Freedom series, offering further insight and development of a great cast of characters.  The Avery family present realistic, yet stalwart Christian characters who will capture the hearts of Ms. Sundin’s fans.

Overall, I continue to be impressed by Ms. Sundin’s ability to write incredible tales of World War II life.  Consistent with the rest of the Waves of Freedom series, Anchor in the Storm presents a mystery/suspense component that brings high-stakes drama to Ms. Sundin’s classic historical romance plotlines.  However, she manages to interweave this drama with an expertly-written and heart-warming story with fascinating characters that feel entirely realistic to the time period.  Fans of the Waves of Freedom series will also enjoy seeing more of Jim Avery and Mary Stirling, as well as their group of friends that served as such a compelling part of Through Waters Deep.  Fortunately, Ms. Sundin already plans to continue the story of this cast of characters in the series’ next book, When Tides Turn.

Fans of Ms. Sundin’s other novels, especially the Waves of Freedom series, will definitely want to read Anchor in the Storm.  Likewise, readers who enjoy World War II-inspired Christian fiction will also want to try this excellent series.  Ms. Sundin brings an approachable style to her works, while offering a well-researched view of the period.  However, fans of Ms. Sundin will attest that her ability to write incredibly realistic and well-rounded characters are ultimately the reason that they return to her books time and time again.

The third novel in Ms. Sundin’s Waves of Freedom series, When Tides Turn, will arrive in Spring of 2017!

Special thanks to the Revell Reads Blog Tour program for the advanced copy of Anchor in the Storm!

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