“What Should I Read Next” Wednesday

Good morning everyone.

I’ve been a busy reader this week, so I’ll probably make some of these reviews a little shorter.

If you’ve read anything good lately, leave me a comment and let me know! I’m always looking for suggestions.

Here Burns My Candle and Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis HiggsThese two novels go together, following the lives of the same characters. I have read and enjoyed many of Higg’s novels, and these were no different. Higgs has a rare talent for writing Christian fiction that is realistic and relevant, without being preachy. These two books tell the story of Lady Elizabeth Kerr, a common Highlander who marries into an upper class family.  Her husband, Lord Donald, is unfaithful to her, and his mother is unwelcoming to Elizabeth.  As Donald tries to prove his love for Elizabeth, he joins the Jacobite uprising against King George, causing his family to be ostracized and branded as traitors. Throughout the uprising and afterwards, Elizabeth remains loyal to her mother-in-law, serving her and helping her in any way possible.  Elizabeth struggles in a journey of faith as she learns to trust again.

Keeper of the Light by Diane Chamberlain– This novel comes before Kiss River, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea! Also, Her Mother’s Shadow (next in this post), comes after Kiss River. So, it’s a little series of 3! Keeper of the Light opens with the murder of small-town saint, Annie O’Neill. Dr. Olivia Simon fails to save her life after Annie is shot, setting into play a complicated chain of events. Olivia’s husband Paul is in love with Annie, though he has hidden the truth about their relationship. Olivia befriends Annie’s husband Alec in an attempt to understand why she can’t measure up to Annie in Paul’s view.  Alec struggles to parent his two children, Clay and Lacy, while dealing with his grief and coming to understand the truth about his wife.

Her Mother’s Shadow by Diane Chamberlain– The third book in the trilogy, this novel delves deeper into Lacey O’Neill’s struggle to deal with her mother’s infidelity and murder. When Lacey’s childhood friend Jessica dies in a car accident, Lacy is shocked to find that Jessica has left guardianship of her daughter Mackenzie to Lacey. Mackenzie is bitter and scared, and Lacey tries to relate with her, while at the same time dealing with the parole of her mother’s murderer.  Mackenzie begins to find happiness again while working with Clay (Lacey’s brother) in his work training dogs. Lacey also brings up the past when she decides to contact Mackenzie’s father Bobby, who never knew of her existence.  Meanwhile, Lacey struggles to decide between Bobby, the former bad boy, and Rick, a lawyer she’s been dating, but has no attraction towards.

Again, Chamberlain weaves together universal themes such as rebellion, forgiveness, and second chances.  Her characters are complex and deal with realistic human problems.  Their emotions are beautifully portrayed, as well as their struggles to make the right choices.

Falling Home by Karen WhiteFalling Home is a beautifully written and evocative novel. Cassie Madison ran away from home and heartbreak, and hasn’t returned for 15 years. She finally comes home to visit her father before he dies, but she is determined that it is a temporary visit.  She fights against the pull of family and familiar faces, determined to be different than the teenager she was when she left home.

This novel was a beautiful story about acceptance, family, and home.  Cassie fights against herself and those she loves, but they never stop loving her. The values of her childhood are strong, and she cannot help but realize that she has grown up and moved past her earlier heartache.  Her emotions are very realistic, and the interactions with her family are believable. I really enjoyed this novel, and I am looking forward to reading more by Karen White.

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks– Wow! Brooks is an amazingly talented author, and Caleb’s Crossing did not disappoint. It is a historical novel based on Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  This novel is told from the perspective of Bethia Mayfield, a preacher’s daughter who grows up on the island now known as Martha’s Vineyard.  Bethia and Caleb are friends from childhood, and she teaches him how to read and introduces him to the world of knowledge and of her English religion. Bethia struggles to bridge the gap between the passion she sees in Native American worship with her own austere religious practices.  Bethia also seeks an education, but her father denies her due to her gender. She seeks out other methods of educating herself, and the novel follows both Bethia’s growth and Caleb’s “crossing” into another culture.

Although this novel is not entirely factual, I feel as if the characters are real and breathing. Brooks uses historical fact, mixes it with fiction, and serves up a beautiful tale of friendship, prejudice, and passion. Their emotions and conflicts are believable, as well as the judgmental society they must struggle against.


“What Should I Read Next” Wednesday

What have I been reading this week? I know you’ve been dying to find out!

Miss Delacourt Has Her Day by Heidi Ashworth– This novel was short, light, and easy to read. The plot direction seemed a little silly to me, but overall, it was very enjoyable. The book tells the love story of Ginny Delacourt and Sir Anthony Crenshaw.  Because Anthony is a member of the nobility, and Ginny is a vicar’s daughter, their match is discouraged by Anthony’s family, especially his uncle, the Duke of Marcross. Anthony must fulfill certain tasks in order to receive his uncle’s approval for their marriage. However, the tasks are difficult, and made even harder due to gossip, rumors, and disapproval from every side.  After checking out Heidi Ashworth’s website, I realized that this is actually a sequel to the novel Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind. Some of the missing details make more sense now, so I recommend reading the books in the correct order!

The Courage Tree by Diane Chamberlain– I know, I know, more Chamberlain! I just can’t help it. The Courage Tree is about Sophie, an 8 year old girl with end stage renal disease, and her mother, Janine, who would do anything for her daughter.  Sophie’s medical treatments have been hard and painful, until her most recent experimental treatment, Herbalina. Janine’s ex-husband Joe, her parents, and Sophie’s doctors all disapprove of Herbalina, but Janine is determined that it is helping Sophie.  Janine lets Sophie go to Girl Scout Camp with her troop because she appears so much healthier, but Sophie doesn’t return home from the trip.  Sophie must survive in the woods while everyone searches for her.  Eventually, only Janine is convinced that Sophie is still alive, and she does everything possible to find Sophie and bring her home before it’s too late. Sophie finds an unexpected refuge, but it may not be the safe haven she needs.

I enjoyed this novel, as I have all of Chamberlain’s novels so far. There were parts where some relationships felt forced or overly coincidental, but the characters were dynamic and interesting.  Sophie especially was a beautiful picture of a strong little girl. Janine’s determination not to give up on her daughter was very convincing and realistic. I feel that some of the other characters gave up on her too quickly to be believable.

The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney– This novel is told from the point of view of Ben, and it covers the relationship and adventures of Ben and his close friend, Kate Begley.  Kate is an Irish matchmaker, who was trained by her grandmother to bring people together and teach them to be happy. Kate falls in love with an American soldier, Charles, during WWII  and ultimately marries him. When he goes missing, Kate and Ben travel Europe and America trying to find him. Ben struggles to understand the relationship between Kate and Charles, as well as his own relationship with Kate.

It took me a few chapters to get into the story and understand what was going on, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book. The characters were engaging and the story unpredictable. It was a story of World War II from a side I would never have thought of. Delaney really brings Ireland to life with quirky yet totally realistic characters.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin– I actually bought this book at Barnes and Noble. This is rare for me, as most books I get from the library! However, I’ve been on the waiting list for this book for a long time, and I got tired of waiting. This novel is a fictional account of Alice Liddell, on whom Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) based his Alice books. Written from the perspective of Alice Liddell, she recounts her childhood memories of Dodgson and how their relationship changed her life.  Dodgson’s interactions with Alice would give her immortality which was both a gift and a burden.

I have always been fascinated by Dodgson/Carroll and his Alice books, since I was a little girl. I know there is a good deal of controversy over their relationship, and I am always interested to learn more about the real-life background. This novel really opened up the people for me, and I loved reading from Alice’s point of view. Benjamin delves into Alice’s thoughts and experiences in a way that is totally believable and enchanting. Benjamin blends fact and fiction into a story that is both fascinating and provocative.

“What Should I Read Next” Wednesday: Edition 2

Hello and welcome to the second week of “What Should I Read Next” Wednesday!

Looking for a new book to try? Not sure where to start? You’re in the right place!

(Imagine me saying all of that in a game-show host type of voice. That’s how it sounds to me at least.)

What I’ve been reading this week:

Booth: A Novel by David M. Robertson– This novel follows the path of John Wilkes Booth as he plots and carries out the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  The story is told from the perspective of John Surratt, a friend of Booth’s who was tried as a conspirator in the plot but was not convicted.  In the novel, John Surratt is a young man who works as a photographer’s assistant in order to avoid being conscripted into the army during the Civil War.  He is easily led and respects Booth as an actor, as well as being honored by his friendship. Booth uses Surratt to get information and pass messages, without Surratt realizing the depth of his involvement in the plot.

This was an interesting novel about a piece of history that I have not read about before. As a reader, you find yourself feeling sympathy towards Surratt, who is just a young man that does not realize the consequences and profundity of Booth’s actions. Although it’s fiction, I believe that it was well researched, and much of the information is factual. Overall, it was a well-thought-out book, and I enjoyed the plot and the historical information.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer– What a wonderful novel! Orringer tells the story of Andras Levi, a Hungarian Jew who studies architecture in Paris before World War II.  Andras excels at his studies, and he also falls in love with a ballet teacher, Claire Morgenstern. He discovers a connection to Claire when she confesses that her name is actually Klara, and she is from Hungary as well. Klara is older than Andras and has a daughter, as well as many secrets about her previous life. Andras continues to pursue her, even when he is forced to return to Hungary due to the outbreak of war.  Andras must serve as a labor worker for the army for the majority of the war, along with his two brothers and other friends.

This was a beautiful and heart wrenching story. It was well told in a unique voice.  It did drag on at times, at it’s fairly long. The characters are real and believable, and Orringer displayed a wonderful grasp of her characters, the setting, and the direction of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it. As with any WWII novel, there are parts that are sad and hard to read, but it’s definitely worth the time.

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel SawyerIn Every Heartbeat tells the story of three orphans going to college together, each with a different dream for the future. Pete, Libby, and Bennett each come from difficult circumstances, and they hope to make a name for themselves and find fulfilment. Pete, kicked him out of his home as a child, harbors a great deal of bitterness towards his parents. Libby wants to become a famous journalist, and Bennett hopes to surround himself with popular friends. Their dreams sometimes seem to draw them apart, but their friendship is the strongest bond.

In my opinion, this was just okay. It’s really hard to find well-written, enjoyable Christian fiction.  I enjoyed the plot line and the characters, but parts of the story just seemed unbelievable and unlikely. There were parts that were too preachy.  This was a pretty quick read. I did like the characters, but I felt that Sawyer could have done a more realistic job in portraying their development.

Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain– Surprise! Another Chamberlain novel. I’m actually still in the middle of this one, but I should finish it later today. In this novel, Gina Higgins travels to the remote island of Kiss River in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ostensibly, she is there as an amateur lighthouse historian, and she is trying to raise the one-of-a-kind lens that was lost in the ocean when the lighthouse suffered damage.  Gina lives with Clay and Lacey, a brother and sister, in the lighthouse keeper’s home, the same home of 14 year old Bess, whose diary Gina possesses. Chapters alternate between Gina’s pursuit of raising the lens and Bess’s experience as a teenager living on the coast during WWII. Both Bess and Gina’s stories unfold as the novel progresses.

You already know that I’m a fan of Diane Chamberlain! So far, I’m really enjoying this novel.  Her characters have depth, like real people, and the plot line is unpredictable.  Although Chamberlain often includes a love story, the goal of the novel is not to be a love story. It’s a mystery and suspense novel that happens to include some romance. The best of both worlds!