I'm back! After way too long, I'm finally back to the blog. I'm surviving the crazy Oklahoma weather so far and even this storm and rain loving girl is hoping we are about done with it all. Our poor state can't handle much more. I'm hoping to have an update for you all on publishing soon (it's been a crazy ride, ya'll) but for now, I'm here with a book review!
Those of you who know me, or have been following me for awhile, have undoubtedly heard me talk about Melissa Tagg, one of my all time favorite authors. I wrote a blog post about finding her and her books at a time when I really needed them a couple of years ago. (You can read that here if you want a-fake-snow-day.html). Her previous Walker Family series was one of my favorites and I fell in love with the fictional town they took place in, Maple Valley. So I was delighted to learn this brand new series was also going to take place there and even more excited to receive an early copy of the first book Now and Then and Always for review before it releases tomorrow. Here's the back cover description:
“It was just a house. Just a weathered old house in a hidden grove, shuttered and still . . . ”
Last year, after traumatic circumstances forced her from her job as a nanny, Mara Bristol finally found a place to belong—the winsome Everwood Bed & Breakfast at the edge of Maple Valley, Iowa. For months, she’s helped its owner, Lenora, maintain the ramshackle property despite their shortage of guests. But when Lenora fails to return from a month-long trip and the bank threatens foreclosure, Mara worries she’s once again alone . . . abandoned . . . about to lose the only true home she’s ever known.
Detective Marshall Hawkins is no closer to whole today than he was two years ago . . . the day his daughter died. Between his divorce, debilitating migraines, and a dependence on medication, his life is falling apart. And when a reckless decision on the job propels him into administrative leave, he has no other plan but to get in his truck and drive. A one-night stay at the Everwood was supposed to be just that. But there’s something about the old house—or maybe its intriguing caretaker—that pulls him in.
Together, Mara and Marshall set out to save the Everwood. But its secrets run deeper than they could’ve imagined. As they renovate the house and search for its missing owner, they’ll each confront the pain that brought them to the Everwood in the first place . . . and just maybe discover a faith and love to help them carry on.
This description drew me in immediately and once I started reading, I was even more enthralled. Both Mara and Marshall's stories were tragic and heartbreaking but were so true to life and made me want to root for them all the more. What I also loved was a small group of friends who were included as secondary characters. All of them were characters that had appeared previously in other books, but their roles were more predominant in this one and the depiction of a close-knit group of friends, a chosen family of sorts, was amazing to see. The group folded Mara and Marshall into their group and it reflected what true friendship and community is supposed to look like.
Another element that was a little different than Melissa's previous books was the inclusion of a mystery (which turned into multiple mysteries!). The mystery was intriguing and added the perfect amount of suspense that had me at the edge of my seat. I kept wondering how it was all going to play out, and just when I thought I'd had it figured out, she would add a twist or turn that had me perplexed all over again.
The friendship and eventual romance between Mara and Marshall was satisfying without being formulaic or predictable. Two people who have problems trusting anyone are forced to admit that they need each other and it left me wondering if they would ever get past their many obstacles and find their way to each other.
Overall, while this book was a little more serious than some of her previous novels, it is definitely among my favorite books not only written by Melissa Tagg, but in general. The seriousness of some of the storyline felt true not only to the characters but to life. So often life is messy and full of tragedy. We don't always get neat and tidy solutions to problems and things happen that leave scars we can't ignore. But God is right there in the midst of our sufferings and trials, if we allow him in. He also provides people to help shoulder our burdens. This book was such a sweet reminder of that.
Now and Then and Always releases tomorrow! You can pre-order it here: http://bit.ly/nowthenalways.
It's review time again! I once again had a chance to preview an upcoming book by Nicole Deese. This one, releasing TODAY is called A New Shade of Summer. It is a part of the Love In Lennox series and let me tell you, I love this charming little town in Oregon. I was so excited to come back to this fictional town and explore both characters I had previously encountered and new ones!
The main characters in the story are Callie and Davis. Davis was a side character in Love in Lennox book two, A Season to Love. I remember being compelled by his character in that story so I was excited to see him get his own story. He is a veterinarian and single father to twelve year-old Brandon. Davis is straightlaced and a rule follower. Callie is an artist who is always on the move. Her sister and niece and nephew have made Lennox their home and Callie is in town for the majority of the summer to spend time with her family and work on a mural at a local bakery. These two meet when Brandon is hanging out with Callie's nephew. Callie instantly sense an artist ability and creative soul in Brandon, one that completely alludes Davis.
Even with their vast differences, the chemistry between these two is evident early on. In fact, it is their differences that make them such an interesting match. I enjoyed seeing them figure out why the other one viewed something differently. The book alternates between both characters' points of view, told in first person, so it is fascinating to see how each one views the other's personality.
I've said it before, but I love how fiction speaks truth. This book is no different. We all have different personalities and sometimes the old cliche is true, opposites do attract. As someone who considers myself creative and more "go with the flow" I related to Callie's outlook on life, but I also understood Davis' point of view on life. When we understand that people view life differently, it helps us to appreciate them more. Nicole Deese did a great job of demonstrating that in this story.
This book was an easy read but one that made me think too. I highly recommend it! Order it in paperback or e-book from your local retailer or from Amazon:
One of the things I've been trying to do more of lately is support other authors. I love to read and have always loved books, but these past few months I have found myself with the opportunity to support authors in other ways as well. One of those ways is by helping authors promote their books by reading them early and reviewing them. One such book I've had this opportunity with is The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese.
The Promise of Rayne is the first in a series taking place in Shelby Falls, Idaho. It's two main characters are Rayne Shelby, and Levi Harding. Rayne is a member of the prominent Shelby family and has the dream of one day managing the family's iconic lodge. Levi is the apprentice of Ford Winslow, enemy number one of the Shelby family. Their story is one of secrets, trust, and second chances.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the characters. Rayne is compassionate yet strong willed, desiring to be accepted by her well to do family, yet also desiring to help those around her. Levi is fierce and protective with a kind heart and the ability to see the good in almost everyone. The two shared a connection when they were teenagers but obligation to family stopped Rayne from pursuing the friendship any further. The story picks up several years later with Rayne so close to her dream of managing the lodge but one big mistake stands in her way. The one person that can help her fix it? Levi of course! Once the line is crossed over to Fred's land, Rayne can't seem to keep away from Levi. I'll refrain from telling you much more so you can read it for yourself but their story is one of secrets, adventures, wildfires, and so much more. There were also a handful of secondary characters that made an appearance and Nicole did a great job of balancing their role in the story without taking away from Rayne and Levi. There was one character in particular though that definitely needs her own story, and soon. I also loved the town of Shelby Falls and though I have never been to Idaho, felt like I was there with them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. But more than that, I find that a lot of times, God speaks to me through fiction, and this was true of this book as well. There were several times Rayne or Levi would express something and I could find myself relating in such a real way. That's why I love books, why I love reading them, why I love writing them. Characters have the opportunity to speak to you in ways you might not otherwise listen. So thank you Nicole for Rayne and Levi's story.
The Promise of Rayne releases TODAY! Here is the link to order it
One of the things I’ve been wanting to do since I finally took the plunge in starting this blog, is review new books, music, and other art forms. So I eagerly took the opportunity to preview Latifah Phillips’ newest project Moda Spira, which releases this Friday, May 13. She was also gracious enough to take some time to chat with me about the project.
I was familiar with Latifah Phillips’ other projects, her Hymn project Page CXVI, and indie pop band The Autumn Film, and was already a huge fan of her voice and song writing abilities. What intrigued me most about this album however, was that it told a story. It is a narrative of the ups and downs of love and relationships. I’m a novelist, obviously storytelling is one of my favorite things. So rather than give the typical review of music style and a question and answer interview, I decided to focus on the narrative that this album tells and what makes me want to listen to it over and over again.
Moda Spira in Latin means the continual act of breathing. When I asked Latifah about what inspired her to write about her experience of love and conflict in a committed marriage relationship, she spoke of a particularly rough season in her marriage. She said that processing through that season made her realize there is a lot in music and popular culture about break ups, or happily ever after romances, but she wanted something that would inspire people that conflict in relationships is normal. Love is messy and hard, but there is something beautiful in the struggle and healing. The narrative style of the album was an intentional choice; she stated she wanted to “wrestle through the stages of a tough season, what happens when we fight.”
As her first solo project in ten years, she told me she “gave herself permission to do what she wanted.” She explores different styles and genres of music. This is fun and interesting, but it also helped inform the narrative. Whether it’s the pulsing of the synthesizer in “In The Fight”, or the instrumental only track of “Stillness”, I felt the emotions. I was not merely listening to her journey; I was on the journey with her. When I asked her about what she most hoped people took away from this album, she said she wanted to create hope in despair; “conflict is normal with people you love, but if we have motivation to work through those conflicts, it can be really beautiful.” I felt that in this album. Though I have never been married, it is something that is true of all relationships. I listened to this album and recalled past hard seasons with my parents, or my best friends. She shared a quote by a friend of hers, author Matt Mikalatos “We judge ourselves by our motivation but we judge others by their actions.” How often have I done this? As fallen, broken, and sinful human beings, we will hurt each other, we will forget that we may not know the other person’s motivations. It is the honesty of that reality that makes what Latifah Phillips does with Moda Spira so inspiring. My favorite books, television shows, and music are those that are unique to the person who created them, yet cause me to pause and reflect on my own life experiences. Moda Spira does this beautifully.
For more on Moda Spira, check out the website at http://www.modaspira.com/. You can pre-order the album there, or it officially releases this Friday!
Christ-Follower. Writer. Caffeine-addict.