Sweet Olive (Book Review)

sweet olive cover

If you’ve followed my blog for long, know me in person or are friends with me on Facebook then you will not be at all surprised to learn that I like to read. I love spend my free time immersed in a good book. My Kindle and bookshelves are full of books I have yet to read because I am always getting distracted by one book or another. What you may not know about me, though, is that while I love to read all kinds of different genres, I am a sucker for a romance novel. I think it’s probably because I know in the end the guy and girl who are meant to be together will be together and it’s entertaining and enjoyable to follow the couple as they navigate secrets or misunderstandings until they come to the point where they realize they are meant for each other. Sweet Olive by Judy Christie is a romance novel that takes a little too long to get there, though.

Camille Gardner is the best there is at her job. She has worked for her uncle for years going in and talking land and drilling rights with land owners for J&S Oil. Her job takes her out on the road constantly and she is ready for an office job and a place to call home. When her uncle calls her in for one last job in the small artist community of Sweet Olive, Louisiana, Camille is not expecting to be drawn by the area and the artists who make up the small community, including Marsh Cameron, the attorney for the artists.

From the very beginning of this book I did not like how Camille let her uncle manipulate her. It was hard to have sympathy for the main character when you just wanted her to grow a backbone and stand up to her uncle. The first half of the book was a little slow and cumbersome and it didn’t really start to kick into gear until about the halfway point. It is definitely chick lit romance and you know what’s coming in the end and can even make a pretty good guess as to how everything will come about.

****Zondervan Publishing and Booksneeze provided me with a free eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or a positive review.

So-So YA Dystopian Story

aquifer cover

Before I review this book I think it needs to be said that with the high quality of YA fiction that is being written right now, it’s going to be tough for Christian YA fiction to catch up. With the popularity of trilogies like The Hunger Games, Divergent and Legend, where every series seems to be better than the previous, we are bound to come across a book that seems to take a few steps backward. Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen is such a book.

In 2250 water is a commodity and sixteen-year-old Luca knows this all too well as it will one day be his job to negotiate with the people who have the water and bring it to those he lives with. In a world where feelings, emotions and individuality is frowned upon, Luca sees himself as different (or Other) than everyone else. When Luca’s father does not return from getting the water, the boy is forced to figure things out. He goes under to find the water and instead finds secrets and mysteries that shed new light on what he has been taught from society since childhood.

Friesen’s dystopian world feels forced sometimes. Some of the characters are not developed well. The story is slow moving at times but it does have its parts that engage the reader as well. The Spiritual angle in this book is one that you will not find in the more popular YA novels that are popular right now. Aquifer does have death, destruction and pain in its pages but it also has hope.

I give this book three out of five stars.

*****Booksneeze and Thomas Nelson Publishing provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a positive or negative review.

Swordplay, Magic and Mystery for Teenage Boys

martyrs fire cover

I am always on the lookout for good, uplifting books to pass along to two of my nieces and my nephew. I’ve found that finding books for my nephew is the most challenging. I’m unsure of what is out there in the Christian market for high school boys. Thankfully, I’ve found a great series written by Sigmund Brouwer.

In the third installment of the Merlin’s Immortals series, Martyr’s Fire, we continue to follow young Thomas as he searches to find the answers to the secrets of Magnus. Fifteen visitors calling themselves the Priests of the Holy Grail have come to Magnus. They preform miracles and the people pledge their allegiance to this group of priests. Thomas is forced to flee the city and search for the answers on how to save it. Hawkwood and Katherine watch over Thomas as he makes the dangerous journey to the Holy Land in search of answers.

Martyr’s Fire is definitely not a stand alone book. Readers who have not read the first two books (or at least the second) will be lost by all of the players in Thomas’s world. With references to Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood, young male readers will enjoy this adventure as Thomas struggles with his faith and whether or not he can trust those around him. And with an unresolved ending, there is sure to be a fourth book in this series from Brouwer.

Visit Brouwer’s website here: http://orcabook.com/rockandroll-literacy/ and to learn more about the author click here http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/author-spotlight.php?authorid=59668

Click here for more info and to read the first chapter http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/files/2013/06/SneakPeek_MartyrsFire.pdf

This book was a quick, entertaining read. I give it four out of five stars.

****Waterbrook Multnomah provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a positive or a negative review.

Sluggish and Congested

critical reaction

I like a good legal or conspiracy thriller as much as the next person. I enjoy reading John Grisham, Tom Clancy and James Patterson’s books. Critical Reaction by Todd M. Johnson sounded like an entertaining read but I had a difficult time getting into the story until about three quarters of the way through.

Ryan Hart has all but given up on practicing law since his wife’s death despite a very successful career as trial lawyer when his daughter, Emily, asks him for help on a case he believes is a lost cause. Having been estranged from his daughter, he reluctantly agrees to travel to a small Washington state town and meet with their potential client. Kieran Mullaney was present at an October explosion at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He believes there was more to the story of the explosion than the company is telling. What really happened that night in the building known as LB5 and will Ryan, Emily and Kieran find the truth before it’s too late?

The thing that made this book difficult for me to read was the many perspectives from which the story was being told. It seemed like a juggling act trying to keep straight whose point of view each chapter was coming from. About halfway through the book everyone started coming together a little more. The first half of the book was also slow as the lawyers prepared for trial. Things really didn’t start moving until after the trial had started. I think there was supposed to be a little bit of a romance between Kieran and Emily but it was downplayed throughout. The book did redeem itself near the end as things started falling into place and a little more action was added but not a book I would recommend.

I would give the book two out of five stars.

***Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a positive or a negative review.

Does Not Disappoint

Dear Mr. Knightley

This particular book had a lot of potential to disappoint me as a reader. I saw the book cover as a sneak peak for Thomas Nelson’s October newsletter and when I saw the title I knew I wanted to read this book. When I read the short description of the book, it had even more potential. And I have to say that this release was very timely with the beginning of Emma Approved, the new online series that started at the beginning of October from the makers of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Thankfully, Katherine Reay’s debut novel did not disappoint. In fact, Dear Mr. Knightley exceeded my expectations.

Samantha Moore (Sam) has had a hard life. Raised in the foster care system, she has had some good experiences but many more that weren’t so good. It seems that anytime things start to go right for Sam, her hopes and dreams slip through her fingers and are shattered. When she was young she learned to escape into her beloved books. She often even answers others with quotes from those books. When an anonymous benefactor offers to pay for Sam to go to graduate school to get a degree in journalism, she is hesitant at first to accept the offer. When she does accept, there is one condition that is placed on her. She must write her benefactor, who calls himself Mr. Knightley, and share her progress. While in school, Sam meets Alex Powell, a successful author of action mysteries. Sam is drawn to Alex and enjoys his company. Their shared love of literature helps her feel safe but will Sam ever be able to step out from behind her beloved literary characters and find her own voice, live her own life?

While all but the last chapter of the book is comprised of the letters Sam writes to her Mr. Knightley, Reay does an amazing job of combining classic literary works, more contemporary novels and pop culture throughout her novel. As Sam finds more comfort in writing Mr. Knightley, she begins to open up more and discover things about herself that hurt but help her grow. While I figured out the identity of the benefactor fairly early, it didn’t detract from the story.

Dear Mr. Knightley gets five out of five stars from me.

****Thomas Nelson Publishing and Booksneeze provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or a positive review.