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: A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. A Matter of Trust. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Happy Fourth of July!  With the holiday landing on a Tuesday this year, the Books and Biscuits Blog is featuring an excellent new novel about some of America’s local heroes, search and rescue.

A Matter of Trust serves as the third novel of Ms. Warren’s acclaimed Montana Rescue series.  Gage Watson fills an integral role in the PEAK Rescue team, while also specializing in mountain rescues for the local ski resorts.  However, his career once revolved around his talents as a champion backcountry snowboarder before a tragic accident and a devastating lawsuit forced him to rebuild his life in a different direction.  Years ago, Ella Blair thought she might have a future with Gage, having bonded over a shared love of snowboarding.  However, her friend’s accidental death led to her involvement as one of the attorneys in the case against Gage ended their relationship for good.  Ella now holds the evidence that could have saved Gage’s reputation and career.  She reluctantly returns to Gage’s life, in order to save her brother when he attempts a nearly impossible trek through Glacier National Park.   Together, Ella and Gage must figure out how to trust one another to pull off a nearly impossible rescue attempt in the face of blizzards, avalanches, and deadly terrain.

Ms. Warren returns to her Montana Rescue series and the PEAK Rescue team in A Matter of Trust.  Filled with fascinating details of competitive snowboarding and mountain rescues, fans of the series will be fascinated with the continuation of the team’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Matter of Trust.  The entire Montana Rescue series builds around the PEAK Rescue team, developing the characters and their stories across multiple volumes.  In addition to Gage and Ella’s story, the novel continues to add to the backstories of the other characters, while building up a storyline that Ms. Warren indicates with be continued in the final novel of the series.  A Matter of Trust stands apart from the other novels of the series based on its focus on Gage as a former competitive snowboarder and his work on the ski patrol and related rescues.  As someone generally unfamiliar with the sport of backcountry snowboarding, I found Ms. Warren’s detailed descriptions of Gage’s work to be unexpectedly fascinating, yet easy to follow.  Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the development of Ella’s character, as she offered new insights into Gage’s background and fills a vital role in the general storyline of the series.  Based on the buildup of the story across the series, I am excited to read the conclusion in the upcoming release, Troubled Waters.

Fans of Ms. Warren’s previous work, especially the other books of the Montana Rescue series, will definitely want to read this novel.  Additionally, readers who enjoy books focused on winter sports and contemporary Christian fiction may also find this novel to be worthwhile.

Ms. Warren releases the fourth book of the Montana Rescue series, Troubled Waters, in January 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of A Matter of Trust!

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Review: A Royal Christmas Wedding – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. A Royal Christmas Wedding. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

Admittedly, the end of October seems rather early for a Christmas story.  However, several publishers are already releasing their Christmas books, well before I would think to buy them.  Fortunately, Rachel Hauck happens to be among my list of favorite authors, which makes any story of hers (Christmas or not) well worth reading!

In A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck returns for one last story featuring the characters of her acclaimed Royal Wedding Series.  First introduced in Once Upon a Prince, Avery Truitt has grown up from simply being the kid sister of the King of Brighton’s wife, Susanna.  Avery made a name for herself as a college volleyball star before an unfortunate injury forced her to the sidelines, just in time for her to find a career of her own after graduation.  In the wake of her husband’s death, Avery and Susanna’s mother wishes to travel with Avery to spend the Christmas season in Brighton.  Travelling back to Brighton means that Avery will inevitably encounter Prince Colin, the one man who broke her heart five years ago.  However, time has not left Prince Colin unchanged, as he finds himself regretting the loss of Avery, even as he has begun a successful career himself.  Both Avery and Colin must choose between continuing to pursue their current paths or finally coming back to each other, hopefully in time for a centuries-old Brighton tradition of the prince marrying on Christmas morning.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding books will be delighted with this Christmas-themed conclusion to her acclaimed series of novels.  While the novel brings together many characters introduced earlier in the series, it also serves as a worthwhile stand-alone Christmas story.

Overall, I was exceptionally pleased with A Royal Christmas Wedding!  Even as a shorter-form story (supposedly a novella), it offers a compelling and complete plot with a surprising amount of character development.  As indicated in the author’s acknowledgments, Ms. Hauck received countless requests for a satisfying conclusion to Avery and Colin’s story.  After reading A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck certainly fulfilled that request!  This book offers plenty of extra detail and development that will leave fans with many more of their questions answered, as well as a better sense of what happens to the various families in the years following the series.  Granted, I’m sure that any of Ms. Hauck’s readers would also be just as happy to hear of future novels in this vein.

Readers who particularly enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series will definitely want to read A Royal Christmas Wedding.  Likewise, fans of great contemporary Christian fiction, especially with a Christmas emphasis will also find this to be a satisfying read.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan for the advanced copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding!

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Review: Keep Holding On – Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg. Keep Holding On. Middletown, DE: Larkspur Press, 2016.

In recent years, I have become a huge fan of book series, especially those that feature families or other close-knit groups of people.  Melissa Tagg has spent the last several years building out the town of Maple Valley, Iowa, into the much-loved home of the Walker family and their neighbors.  I am thrilled to be able to review her newest novel, even before the release of the e-book version of the novel. :)

In this newest novel in the Walker Family series, Ms. Tagg features the youngest Walker son, Beckett, and his journey home to Maple Valley, Iowa.  When Beckett receives word that his life-long dream of becoming a JAG officer might finally come true, he leaves his job as a lawyer in Boston to finally resolve a long-ago incident in his hometown.  Beckett’s plan goes awry when he is arrested within minutes of his arrival.  His previous crime can be resolved with community service hours, but that means that he must stay in Maple Valley much longer than he intended.  Fortunately, Beckett’s childhood best friend, Kit Danby, desperately needs free manpower to save her family’s orchard.  After working as a horticulturalist at one of Britain’s universities, Kit arrived home to a deserted family farm and a crop of apples that may already be doomed to fail.  With a lifelong love of her ancestral home, Kit is determined to save the farm and finally make a profit, in spite of her family’s lack of confidence in the farm or Kit’s abilities.  However, they vastly underestimate the combined inspiration of these two best friends as they fight to save the orchard and discover their life purposes along the way.

Ms. Tagg brings her signature humor and heartfelt characters to Keep Holding On.  Fans of Maple Valley and the entire Walker family will be thrilled to read the continuation of this series.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with Ms. Tagg’s newest release!  Keep Holding On remains true to Ms. Tagg’s delightful characters and setting, while taking her writing to a whole new level.  Readers will find themselves laughing and crying throughout this story of friendship, determination, and faith.  Ms. Tagg continues to reach multiple generations of readers with this series, including Keep Holding On, as it tells the story of the entire Walker family and their quirky neighbors and friends.  Even as an independent novel released by a different publisher than the previous books of the Walker Family series, this novel remains true to the quality and caliber of Ms. Tagg’s other stories.  If anything, Keep Holding On proves once again that Ms. Tagg manages to surpass expectations and continues to grow as an exceptionally talented author of Christian fiction.

Fans of Ms. Tagg’s previous novels, especially the Walker Family series, will absolutely want to read Keep Holding On.  Readers who enjoy light-hearted, contemporary Christian fiction, such as written by Becky Wade and Susan May Warren, will also want to read this delightful book.

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Review: Can’t Help Falling – Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac. Can’t Help Falling. New York, NY: Howard Books, 2016.

Periodically, I have the absolute pleasure of trying out a new author based on a very early copy of their upcoming release.  For Kara Issac’s October release of Can’t Help Falling, I actually read the book in early July!  I am very excited to share my review of this excellent book with all of you. :)

Can’t Help Falling follows the story of Emelia Mason as she arrives in Oxford, England.  Emelia hopes to find a new start and a second chance after her previous career as a tabloid reporter led to catastrophe.  To make amends, Emelia has given up the glitz and glamor for an underpaid position as an events coordinator for a small British charity.  However, her nerdy obsession with Narnia lands her at the unexpected feet of Peter Carlisle, a former Olympic hopeful with his own need for redemption.  Together, Emelia and Peter find themselves continually crossing paths and encountering Narnia-esque moments of serendipity that just may lead them to the greater truths they need to overcome their pasts.

Ms. Issac offers a delightful tale filled with whimsy and hard-hitting truths about faith and life.  Fans of C.S. Lewis and Narnia will find themselves appreciating her literary connections, along with a quirky set of characters and plotlines.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with Can’t Help Falling!  Melissa Tagg and several other notable Christian authors highly recommended Ms. Issac’s earlier work, Close to You, but I have not yet had the chance to read it.  Based on the quality of Can’t Help Falling, Ms. Isaac’s debut novel has definitely been added to my must-read list.  Ms. Isaac brings a fascinating literary angle to her novels, reminiscent of the work of Katherine Reay.  I found myself completely drawn in by her storylines and character development.  So often, authors attempt to portray flawed or intelligent characters, but never entirely succeed.  Ms. Isaac manages to defy expectations, as she builds an international cast of scholarly and professional characters, including some first introduced in Close to You.  Based on the caliber of Can’t Help Falling, I am eager to see Ms. Isaac’s future work and her further growth as an author.

Fans of Ms. Isaac’s previous release, Close to You, will definitely want to read Can’t Help Falling.  Additionally, readers who enjoy the quirky characters and plotlines of Melissa Tagg should highly consider trying Ms. Isaac’s novels.  Likewise, fans of Katherine Reay’s literary-inspired Christian fiction will want to take a look at these fun novels.  Readers who are interested in Narnia and C.S. Lewis may also want to read this book, although (I can attest) a deep knowledge of these subjects is not required to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for the advanced copy of Can’t Help Falling!

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