An archive of this Sojourner's Journey – Reflections, book reviews, and other random thoughts

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Book Review: The Weaver’s Daughter

About the Book:

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?

Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder — including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls – even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Thoughts:

This regency novel has little to do with the ballroom setting you might expect from this genre and instead focuses on the political and social upheaval in England’s wool and weaving industry in the early 1800s.  Prejudice, bitterness and an inability to listen to any viewpoint other than your own are all aspects addressed within this plot.  Love, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and gender roles are also strong themes.

The plot was fast moving and engaging.  I must admit to a high level of frustration with the stubbornness and narrow-minded thinking of some of the characters, which I believe was the author’s intent.  The love interest in the story wasn’t overdone, which I appreciated.

As for the fact that this book is marketed by a Christian publisher I have to say that this book is not a book that is presenting a gospel message.  The novel is merely reflective of the times when it speaks of church.  The author speaks of right, wrong and moral living, as well as forgiveness, but the gospel or any type of intimate relationship with God is absent from the story.

And, I’m happy to say that there was not a single kidnapping in the novel.  I’ve a running joke with a friend that all the regency novels I’ve read over the past few years have included at least one abduction, so the fact that it was absent from this plot made me very happy.

All in all it was an interesting read.

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I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Winning Miss Winthrop

About the Book:

Years ago, the man who stole Catherine Winthrop’s heart rejected her–and she’s never recovered from the grief. Now tragedy has brought him back into her life. This time it isn’t her heart he’s taking, it’s her home and her family’s good name.

Jonathan Carlew’s serious demeanor and connection to trade, not to mention the rumors surrounding his birth, have kept him from being a favorite of the ladies, or their parents. Now, suddenly landed and titled, he finds himself with plenty of prospects. But his demanding society responsibilities keep pressing him into service to the one woman who captured his heart long ago–and then ran off with it.

These two broken hearts must decide whether their painful past and bitter present will be all they can share, or if forgiveness can provide a path to freedom for the future.

Set in the sumptuous salons of Bath, Regency England’s royal breeding ground for gossip, Winning Miss Winthrop is the first volume in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series. Fans of the wholesome and richly drawn first series won’t want to miss this new set of characters–or appearances by their old favorites.

“Fans of Christian Regency romances by Sarah Ladd, Sarah Eden, and Michelle Griep will adore Carolyn Miller’s books!”
–Dawn Crandall, award-winning author of The Everstone Chronicles

My Thoughts:

First, if you have read my other reviews of regency novels you will know that I have a bit of a pet peeve for how often a kidnapping shows up in the plot.   I am happy to say that there was no kidnapping in Winning Miss Winthrop so that alone raises it in my opinion.  Bu seriously, this novel was engaging.  While I might admit to becoming a bit frustrated with how the main characters refused to actually talk through the past, I loved the fact that each character was real and multi-faceted.  I also appreciated that the alternate love interests weren’t villains and I must say that I am looking forward to the novel that is surely to come about Jonathan’s sister.

I also appreciated the theme of how distorting bitterness can be along with the accompanying theme concerning the evil of gossip.  And while the lessons were in the story, the novel never felt instructional.  In fact, Catherine surprised me several times by breaking the mold of societies expectations to follow her own heart in ways that certainly would not have been prescriptive for a young lady of her era, but showed real courage and liveliness.

And while it is a new series, character’s from Miller’s other series do show up in the story so you might want to read them first, starting with the Elusive Miss Ellison.

 

I received a free unedited digital pre-release of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: The Pandora Box

About the Book:

While investigating mysterious happenings at a state mental hospital, journalist D.J. Parker learns the location of a famous cache of diamonds stolen during World War II. What she doesn’t know is that the federal government has secretly been following the case for years. With an old journal to lead the way, she sets out aboard a yacht that once carried the infamous Herman Goering and embarks on a thrilling treasure hunt that could prove to be the adventure of a lifetime… if the captain and his partner don’t turn out to be crooks. And the FBI officers following D.J. are really working for the FBI, and if the horrendous secret Dee uncovers during the investigation has absolutely no connection to the famous jewels. But just how long can a secret remain a secret? And more importantly how can a person know whom to trust?

My Thoughts:

The Pandora Box was a fast paced adventure novel that I didn’t want to put down.  In the spirit of her hero, Nellie Bly – America’s pioneer female journalist, D.J. Parker is up for adventure in the pursuit of a good story.  But somehow things become personal when a man that she hopes to help dies and leave her a treasure beyond her wildest dreams…if she can only find it.

D.J. is a lovable, but wildly impulsive character, which lands her in more than one tight place.  Her heart is good, but her decisions don’t always follow her good intentions.  So, when she starts off on a wild treasure hunt she ends up roping her best friend into the mix and teaming up with complete strangers as the lure of riches grows to outweigh common sense.  A fast paced and exciting adventure follows.  My only real disappointment was to find out that there aren’t more D.J stories out there waiting to be read.

 

I received a free digital galley (unedited version) of this novel to read  in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: The InnKeeper’s Daughter

About the Book:

A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown

Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.

All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse.

Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

My Thoughts:

I was surprised how much I liked the book.  While I do love Regency novels sometimes I find them a bit on the overly dramatic side.  In The Innkeeper’s Daughter elements of suspense and intrigue were present and even intense at times, but not overdone.  There were a number of plot twists and turns.  I love it when an author includes events that I couldn’t predict that still seem authentic to the tale.

The characters were real, with their own hang-ups, false beliefs, deep desires and well kept secrets.  The introduction of Mr. Nutbrown and his oddly endearing mental instability was truly a brilliant move to add interest to the story.

As a Christian novel God is very much a part of the story, but only in so much as each character interacts with Him.  This is not a book that is teaching about God as much as it is a book about characters who have a relationship with God and are growing in their understanding of Him.

While this book is not marketed as a part of a series, there were references back to Brentwood’s Ward, which I have not read.  It did not detract from the story except that I did find myself wondering what I might have missed by not reading the first book.

All in all, I found The Innkeeper’s Daughter to be an entertaining read and I’d recommend it.

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I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Book Review: A Song Unheard

About the Book:

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

My Thoughts:

A Song Unheard follows after A Name Unknown (click title to see my review), but could be read as a stand alone book.

Willa is part of an unusual family, a family of orphans who chose each other and learned what they needed to survive the streets of London.  They are thieves.  Good ones.  So good, in fact, that they have attracted the eye of the government who has need of their skills in the war effort.

I really enjoy Roseanna White’s writing.  Her characters are well developed having believable motivations and weaknesses, alongside rather extraordinary skills.  I enjoyed reading about Willa and Lukas and their complicated relationship.  I also appreciated that fact that the author had a German officer with a multi-faceted character providing discussions on belief, ethics and assumptions and how our thoughts on those subjects send us down different paths.

All in all, A Song Unheard, is a well written story with intrigue and interesting characters that provides enjoyable and insightful entertainment.  I would recommend it.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Keturah

About the Book:

In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

My Thoughts:

I generally really like Bergren’s writing so I was very excited to see her releasing a new series, but I have to say that this wasn’t my favorite of her works.  There were positives to the story.  I appreciated Keturah’s journey back to God and to herself after struggle and suffering.  I appreciated the way that the injustice of the time was dealt with on multiple levels.  And yet, the characters each seemed to have only one real facet, whether that was a striving for independence, compassion, a need to prove themselves, I just found all the players in the story a bit too one note for my taste.

If you have an interest in reading about Nevis in the 1700’s and the history of the era then you’ll probably enjoy this novel, but I just didn’t love it.

I received a free advance digital copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Out of the Ordinary

About the Book:

Rollicking New Release from Humorous Historical Romance Author Jen Turano

Miss Gertrude Cadwalader hoped her position as the paid companion to Mrs. Davenport would be easy. But as she becomes acquainted with her employer, she realizes the wealthy Mrs. Davenport has a strange tendency to be a bit light-fingered with other people’s trinkets. Gertrude is relieved when Mrs. Davenport decides to have a quiet summer away from the social scene–until the woman changes her mind in order to help a young socialite launch into society.

When Gertrude is caught in the act of trying to return one of the trinkets by Mrs. Sinclair, the mother of shipping magnate Harrison Sinclair, the woman jumps to an unfortunate conclusion. Harrison is determined to mend fences with Miss Cadwalader, but he’s unprepared for the escapades a friendship with her will entail.

My Thoughts:

Jen Turano writes humorously laugh out loud, out of the ordinary regency novels.  While the story was far fetched, it was also fun.  And while the story was fun, it wasn’t without a deeper layer of truth.  I enjoyed reading Out of the Ordinary and will look forward to Turano’s next release.

It should be noted that while you don’t have to read the previous books in this series to understand the story, I believe having previous experience with the characters makes this story even more enjoyable.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Holding the Fort

About the Book:

Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

My Thoughts:

Regina Jennings takes us out west to Fort Reno for a good bit of laughter and a little bit of romance.

Louisa Bell is a complicated character.  Having grown up in a dance-hall environment she lacks a lot of knowledge (and restraint) that most ladies of the day would exhibit.  She does, however, have a good heart, a sharp mind and a desire to live an honorable life.  While the story seemed a bit far fetched at times, it was entirely enjoyable.  Holding the Fort was a good, light-hearted read.

I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion,

Book Review: The Sacred Slow

About the Book:

If yesterday’s word was “simple,” tomorrow’s word will be “slow.”

Our culture is shifting from fast food to health food both physically and spiritually. Self-care, soul-care, life coaches, and spiritual retreats all show our dissatisfaction in quick fixes and fast faith. The Sacred Slow is an invitation to unhurried honesty before God. Formatted as 52 experiences, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them: He always wanted to love them.

Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but unexpected reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty+ years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) intimacy with God.

My Thoughts:

I haven’t finished the book yet so it is hard to give an opinion.  Since I have been asked to give a timely review I will comment on what I can.  The author says that the book could take weeks or up to a year to work through and she did not underestimate the time needed to engage in the exercises assigned with each chapter.  In truth I’d call the whole thing more of a workbook then a book.  Each short chapter is followed with an extensive assignment.  The type of work that the author is asking the reader to engage with is both fruitful and fairly mainstream in regard to counseling or coaching practice.

I’m liking the areas of this (work)book that I have engaged with, however, slow is a good overall descriptor for this undertaking.  If you are simply looking for a good book on the topic of rest or unhurry there are other books that I would recommend, but if you are are willing to engage in a series of activities designed to evaluate and alter the way in which you engage with the world, this might be the book for you.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: You Are The Beloved

About the Book:

Seven million copies of his books in print! This daily devotional from the bestselling author of such spiritual classics as The Return of the Prodigal Son and The Wounded Healer offers deep spiritual insight into human experience, intimacy, brokeness, and mercy.

Nouwen devoted much of his later ministry to emphasizing the singular concept of our identity as the Beloved of God. In an interview, he said that he believed the central moment in Jesus’s public ministry to be his baptism in the Jordan, when Jesus heard the affirmation, “You are my beloved son on whom my favor rests.” “That is the core experience of Jesus,” Nouwen writes. “He is reminded in a deep, deep way of who he is. . . . I think his whole life is continually claiming that identity in the midst of everything.”

You Are Beloved is a daily devotional intended to empower readers to claim this truth in their own lives. Featuring the best of Nouwen’s writing from previously published works, this devotional will propel the canon forward as it draws on this rich literature in new and compelling ways. It will appeal to readers already familiar with Nouwen’s work as well as new readers looking for a devotional to guide them into a deeper awareness of their identity in Jesus.

My Thoughts:

If you know me then you probably already know that I’m a fan of Nouwen’s reflective and insightful writing.  This new devotional is good, but it is honestly much like some of the other collections of Nouwen’s writings.   I’ve only looked at a month’s worth of entries so far, but I’ve yet to come across a reading that I’m not familiar with.  So, if you are already familiar with Nouwen’s works you might enjoy this book while finding that it’s nothing particularly new.  Also, I had trouble seeing the connection of a number of the entries to a deeper awareness of our identity in Jesus.  They are all good for reflection, but maybe not as closely connected to the title as I would have hoped.

On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with Nouwen’s writings, this book might be a reasonable choice, but honestly, it’s not where I’d recommend you start.  If I was making a recommendation for daily readings I’d say start with The Only Necessary Thing and read one quoted section a day.  That will give you a much broader and more well rounded context for Nouwen, how he thinks and how he writes.  Then if you are looking for another Nouwen devotional you might move on to this book and other books like Life of the Beloved, With Open Hands and Show Me The Way (which is a particularly excellent Lent devotional).

All in all, I’d say this book, You Are the Beloved, is a good choice for an in-between Nouwen reader.  It’s a nice collection of quotes to spark reflection.  But it isn’t my favorite collection.

I was sent a digital pre-release copy of this book for review in exchange for my honest opinion, which is written above.

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