Book Review: The Broken Road By Richard Paul Evans

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Blurb:

Chicago celebrity, Charles James can’t shake the nightmare that wakes him each night. He sees himself walking down a long, broken highway the sides of which are lit in flames. Where is he going? Why is he walking? What is the wailing he hears around him?

By day, he wonders why he’s so haunted and unhappy when he has all he ever wanted-fame, fans and fortune and the lavish lifestyle it affords him. Coming from a childhood of poverty and pain, this is what he’s dreamed of. But now, at the pinnacle of his career, he’s started to wonder if he’s wanted the wrong things. His wealth has come legally, but questionably, from the power of his personality, seducing people out of their hard-earned money. When he learns that one of his customers has committed suicide because of financial ruin, Charles is shaken. The cracks in his façade start to break down spurring him to question everything: his choices, his relationships, his future and the type of man he’s become.

Then a twist of fate changes everything. Charles is granted something very remarkable: a second chance. The question is: What will he do with it?

The Broken Road is the first book in a much-anticipated new trilogy by beloved storyteller Richard Paul Evans. It is an engrossing, contemplative story of redemption and grace and the power of second chances. It is an epic journey you won’t soon forget.

General Thoughts: 

This story was different from the stories I tend to find myself reading. When I purchased the book, I thought it was a completely fictional tale, but upon reading it, realized that it was fiction based loosely on a true story. The story follows the life a man, named Charles James, with him telling the tale of his rise and fall from grace.

As I say this, I loved the story. The author, who was able to write this story by interviewing Charles (which is not the man’s true name, but alias), really brought Charles to life. He was able, in first person, to vividly convey the main character’s thoughts and feelings in a way that made me, as a reader, feel like I was right there with him, having a heartfelt conversation.

Though Charles loses focus, chooses the wrong priorities, and makes what some would see as unforgivable mistakes, he is a sympathetic character. Quite possibility because of knowing about his upbringing in earlier chapters, I couldn’t help but to see him as the good guy who wanted to do the right thing, but easily found himself getting caught up in the ills of modern day life.

If I have to say something that was lacking in this story, I would say it had a sort of incomplete, cliffhanger, ending. Towards the end, Charles, after his fall, sees himself having a second chance, to sort of start all over in life, and possibly mend some severed relationships. But the story ends there, with the idea of him having a second chance and with him questioning himself on what he will do with it. Now seeing that this story was loosely based on a true story—an actual man’s life, he’s not there yet—he’s not at the point where he’s actually pursued that second chance, and the author makes that known in the book. So although it was a disappointment to not know what became of Charles James, it was understandable. If it’s possible for the author to do, it would be nice for him to follow up with the man who is Charles James and see what becomes of his second chance at life.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to those who like character driven stories that can make one think about life, it’s purpose, and what matters.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. I ended up liking this story despite being sort of incomplete. I believe its strength was the author’s ability to bring the main character to life, make him sympathetic and relatable.

Book Review: Deadly Proof By Rachel Dylan

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Blurb:

Standing For What’s Right Could Cost Her Everything

Tapped as lead counsel in a corporate cover-up lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical, Kate Sullivan knows this case could make her career. What really drives her, though, is getting justice for the victims whose lives were ruined by the company’s dangerous new drug. But when a whistleblower turns up dead, it paints a target on the back of everyone involved.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James steps in to handle security for Kate. He’s still haunted by mistakes in his past and is determined never to let something like that happen again. But it soon appears someone is willing to do anything–even commit murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

As danger closes in, Landon can’t help but admire Kate’s courage and resolve–but will her determination not to back down become too great of a risk?

General Thoughts:

I have to say this story was more enjoyable than I initially anticipated it would be. Here I was starting the story and reading and reading, thinking I still had a lot left to cover, and before I knew it, I was at the end of the book. I wondered if I actually read the book that fast, which is a good thing, because it tells me that this book is entertaining—it read like a movie. It was a bit suspenseful and realistic. The author really knows how to develop a compelling story from beginning to end.

Another positive to this story was how easy I connected to the main character, Kate Sullivan. I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed this story is I felt I shared the values and personality that Kate possessed. Observing how she dealt with sensitive issues in a no-time, money and status conscious environment, it was nice how the author created a Godly character who was able to draw on her relationship with God to navigate the society she lived in. I especially like the relationship development between Kate and Landon and how Kate was able to share her faith with Landon who was still struggling to understand where he stood in his relationship with God. It all was written authentically and with a sensitivity that I believe many will appreciate.

When I think about the drawbacks of this story, I will say, it’s not as suspenseful as I imagined it to be. The mystery of who was threatening Kate’s life was obvious from the beginning, even if not specific as to whom. I wasn’t surprised to find out who was after Kate—it was really a matter of when they would reveal themself. I believed because the story seemed to be split with its focus on Kate’s and Landon’s relationship and the mystery of who was threatening Kate to back off of the case, that might have been the reason why there was less attention in developing a lot of mystery to the story.

Recommendation:

Yes, I would recommend this story to those who have an interest in law investigative stories with a bit of suspense, as well as stories that focus on character development and growth.

Rating:

3.5 out of 5 stars. The story was a fast and entertaining read and I really felt that the main character was understandable, if not also relatable. However, though I would consider it a suspenseful story, it was obvious who, from a general sense, was after Kate and why, which eliminated the mysterious aspect I was hoping for.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: Fatal Trust By Todd M. Johnson

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Blurb:

A Simple Job. An Unbelievable Payout. But in Risking It All On Blind Trust, He May Just Lose Everything . . .

Ian Wells is a young, ambitious Minneapolis attorney struggling to build up a law practice while caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s. As the stress and bills mount, Ian is nearing the breaking point when everything changes with a single new case. All Ian must do, the client demands, is judge whether three men qualify for nine million dollars of trust funds soon to be paid out by determining whether they’ve been involved in any criminal activity for the past twenty years. Ian’s fee for a week’s work: the unfathomable sum of two hundred thousand dollars.

The job seems too good to be true, and Ian wants to turn the offer down, but his needs weigh more heavily. He warily accepts the job–but is quickly dragged deep into a mystery linking the trust money to an illegal enterprise dating back to Prohibition and the greatest unsolved crime in Minnesota history. Ian soon finds himself the target of a swiftly tightening criminal investigation–realizing too late that this so-called simple job has spun out of control and now threatens his career, his future, and his life.

General Thoughts:

This was a different kind of story for me. I tend to gravitate towards character driven stories, well, more specifically, emotion based and personal growth stories, but this one was primarily plot driven. There was a clear problem that the main character, Ian Wells, had to solve. It had a bit of intrigue, mystery, and suspense that kept me turning the pages until the very last.

On a personal note, I thought it was awesome how the setting took place in Minnesota, where I’m from. I enjoyed seeing Ian travel across town and even the state, passing by familiar places I know and even been to. It was fun wondering which where he would travel to next.

The strange thing about this story is I thought it was an easy read, but at the same time, difficult to follow or understand at times. The author’s writing is very good, and I was able to grasp the big picture in terms of what was going on and what Ian had to do, but sometimes the smaller details, such as how some of the characters became involved in the trust and crime (i.e. Callahan, Harry), were unclear. I also would have liked to know what finally happened to the characters who interfered with Ian’s job of figuring out the distribution of the trust money. It would have been nice to know the final sentence of Callahan, McMartin, Maureen, and Liam.

Overall, the story was an easy read. It had enough elements of mystery, suspense, and intrigue to keep the plot going and interesting. However, it was not emotion based, character based, or message based, so for one who enjoys these elements in stories, I felt I was missing that and therefore couldn’t connect with the characters or story in general—even though it takes place in Minnesota 🙂

Recommendation:

The story was well written and interesting. However, I would recommend this story to those who gravitate towards plot driven stories that have mystery and suspense, than character driven, emotion based, and message based stories, which this story had little to none of.

Rating:

3 out of 5 stars. For me, I couldn’t truly connect with the characters or story. I didn’t find any message that I could take away. The story didn’t make me think or learn something from it, which are the stories I tend to read. However, the story had a clear and succinct plot, and was interesting with elements of mystery and suspense. I think readers who love plot driven stories will enjoy this one.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

Book Review: The Translation Of Love By Lynne Kutsukake

Book Review: The Translation Of Love By Lynne Kutsukake

 

Blurb:

Against the backdrop of occupied Tokyo, a young girl searches for her missing older sister, who has disappeared into the world of bars and dance halls. In the process, her story will become intertwined with those of others trying to make sense of their lives in a post-war world: a thirteen-year-old Japanese Canadian “repat,” a school teacher who translates love letters from American GIs, and a Japanese-American soldier serving with the Occupation forces. An emotionally gripping portrait of a battered nation, The Translation of Love mines this turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of people on both sides—and how resilience, friendship, and love translate across cultures and borders no matter the circumstances.

General Thoughts:

To begin with, I loved the set up of this story. I would describe it almost as a collection of short stories that come together to illustrate a definite point (or message): that in the end, we as people, are all in this—the battle of life, the uncertainty of life, the struggle of life—however it can be described, together.

The story primarily followed that of the young school age girls, Fumi and Aya, as they learned to navigate and understand the world of Japan in the post WWII era. I loved seeing the different viewpoints of life from the two girls, who had very different early life experiences and backgrounds—Fumi, coming from a traditional prewar Japan society, and Aya, coming from a Canadian society as a Japanese immigrant.

As the two girls’ friendship grew through a common mission to help find Fumi’s older sister, their early life experiences became a roadblock at times as much as it eventually became a source of understanding and growth.

The search for Fumi’s sister eventually tied in the other stories of Matt, the Japanese American solider and Kondo, Fumi’s and Aya’s school teacher. Seeing these characters motivation to want to help, and at the same time, find meaning and make sense of a world broken by war, left me with thoughts of what it truly means to be human, to relate to one another, and ultimately love one another.

The only weakness I saw was there were areas where things seemed to drag a little. I feel the author spent a little too much time on things that really didn’t have much significance in the story, such as the scene when Fumi met the young teen girl. Perhaps the author wanted to further illustrate things that were going on in the post war era, but I felt she had made a lot of things clear early on.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to those who are not only interested in historical fiction, but cultural fiction. I learned a lot about life in Japan after WWII, especially in terms of culture shifts and values. Also to those are drawn to somewhat emotional stories focused on the human condition.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. The story was beautifully written, in that, the author was effective in illustrating the world of Japan after the war, from the look and feel, to even the atmosphere. As I read, I could feel the culture changing and the frustration of having to assimilate. I could also feel the loss of a time gone by and the fight to hold on to whatever meaning was left. Other than a few slow points, it was a moving read.

Book Review: The Invention Of Wings By Sue Monk Kidd

Book Review: The Invention Of Wings By Sue Monk Kidd

 

Blurb:

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

General Thoughts:

This is one of those stories that stayed with me beyond finishing the book in a positive way, which is sort of a rarity for me. The author was effective in rebirthing the Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina (“Nina”), and bringing the predominantly fictional character, Hettie, to life. As I read this story, I became immersed into their world, as if I was them, living during their times, feeling their frustrations, struggles, and internal and external prisons. With this alone, the author was prolific in building the world in which the story took place, and most importantly, the souls of the main characters, so that I, as a reader, could fully understand them and their desires, as if they were my own.

Within the main characters, Sarah and Hettie, though their position in life from the outside seemed to contrast clearly, they very much shared the same limitations. Neither one of them could be who they wanted to be or live as they wanted to live. They were confined by the social constructs of their time and were viewed less than human. Of course, Hettie’s position of a slave was much graver than Sarah’s position of being solely a woman, Sarah’s love and ultimate dream for Hettie could not be achieved by where she stood in society, so it was nothing short of inspiring, when she found the courage to get away from it all, to embrace the person she was told she could never be, and find a better ending for not only herself, but Hettie.

As I completed this story, I found the character of Sarah speaking to me the most. Sarah was that different and ambitious child with bold dreams that were crushed by those—her family especially, around her. For years, all this kept her in a box that prevented her from living the life she wanted, thus leading to a sort of depression. It wasn’t until she was able to get away from her environment that she was able to surround herself with others who shared her goals, eventually leading her to doing remarkable things. She is definitely someone I want to aspire to.

As for negatives, there is none with this story. The author’s writing style was vivid, full of life, and moving. At times, I forgot I was actually reading a book, I felt like I was there, living the lives of Sarah and Hettie. In short, it was a thought provoking and entertaining read.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story truthfully to any reader. Though this is historical fiction, the subject matter and the lives of Sarah and Hettie will touch anyone, especially those who are struggling to live out their lives in truth, be their true selves, be authentically fearless.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. For all the things I mentioned above: inspiring, vivid, moving, thought provoking, entertaining.

Book Review: Blue By Danielle Steel

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Blurb:

Ginny Carter was once a rising star in TV news, married to a top anchorman, with a three-year-old son and a full and happy life in Beverly Hills—until her whole world dissolved in a single instant on the freeway two days before Christmas. In the aftermath, she pieces her life back together and tries to find meaning in her existence as a human rights worker in the worst areas around the globe.

Then, on the anniversary of the fateful accident—and wrestling with the lure of death herself—she meets a boy who will cause her life to change forever yet again. Thirteen-year-old Blue Williams has been living on the streets, abandoned by his family, rarely attending school, and utterly alone. Following her instincts, Ginny reaches out to him. Leery of everyone, he runs from her again and again. But he always returns, and each time, their friendship grows.

Blue glows with outsized spirit and an irresistible mix of innocence and wisdom beyond his years. Ginny offers him respect as they form an unusual bond and become the family they each lost. But just as Blue is truly beginning to trust her, she learns of a shocking betrayal that he has been hiding. Is it a wound too deep to heal, or will she be able to fight the battle that will make them both whole again?

General Thoughts:

I had great expectations from an author who is well known and a bestseller, so when I picked up this story I was looking forward to a great read. And I’m glad to say that is what I got.

Ginny’s, the main character, motivations and life are what instantly drew me to this story. In a funny way, I saw a part of myself in Ginny, someone searching for meaning, significance, purpose—all those important things, in a world that definitely possessed those, even if not so obvious. The author did an excellent job in navigating through Ginny’s thoughts, specifically the war that she constantly battled with inside. Ginny struggled to move beyond her tragic loss and that shaped how she felt about her life and future, and fueled her activities, which everyone around her couldn’t understand. Nothing mattered but what was external and beyond herself.

One might think that the beginning of the story and the introduction of Ginny is somber and depressing, but as the story progressed, it evolved into an inspiring and powerful example of how tragedy and regret can lead to something simply remarkable.

The story takes off when Ginny meets Blue. I loved seeing Ginny slowly transform from a person who didn’t care about her life and even if she lived, to one who looked forward to everyday. It was nice discovering bits and pieces of Blue and what led him to fall into the life Ginny found him in. With Blue having his own tragedy as well, the author was effective in piecing together the steps Ginny took to find justice and redemption for Blue. And that’s how I would sum up the book: a story starting from broken pieces—in this case people, Ginny and Blue, to slowly putting those broken pieces—people, together to make them whole.

I don’t have any true negatives about the story, the only thing I would say is the author’s writing style is very commercial. Coming from a person who has been reading a lot of literature based stories, sometimes sentence structure, placements, etc. threw me off, but I don’t know—I’m probably nit picking on this 🙂

Recommendation:

Yes, I would definitely recommend this story because I think it needs to be read. I believe a lot of people will see a little bit of themselves in the characters of Ginny and Blue, even if not directly. The important take away I had was although Ginny and Blue went through their own tragedy and loss, they didn’t give up on life. Sure in the beginning they may have felt like they should have, but by slowly understanding their tragedy and finding ways to restore their broken lives, they eventually were made whole and better.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars. Great story and one that will soon not be forgotten. No true negatives, other than if you’re used to reading literature style writing, the commercial style of this story may distract you a little.

Book Review: A Note Yet Unsung By Tamera Alexander

Book Review: A Note Yet Unsung By Tamera Alexander

 

Blurb:

A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic. But women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah’s new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city’s new opera hall. But far more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music–his father, who is dying. As Tate’s ailment worsens, he believes Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream?

As music moves us to tears yet makes our hearts soar, A Note Yet Unsung captures the splendor of classical music at a time when women’s hard-won strides in cultural issues changed not only world history–but the hearts of men.

General Thoughts:

If you have been following my book reviews for some time then you may know that Tamera Alexander is my favorite author. She is effective in grasping the emotional strings of a reader and creating characters with so much depth that you feel like you’ve known them longer than you really have. And with this 3rd book in the series, she still does not disappoint. Immediately being introduced to the main character Rebekah, I connected with her instantly. I think that connection came from her determination to pursue her passion in music, especially during a time when the odds were stacked against her, simply by being a woman. With the author drawing on Rebekah’s upbringing and musical influences, including battling a broken relationship with her mother, I felt her pain and even fear. The interaction between her and Tate was believable and brought sincere meaning when things came full circle in the end.

This was definitely a character driven story. Though there were a series of subtle plots throughout the story, things that needed to be resolved and manifest, the focus was truly on Rebekah’s and Tate’s growth and development as individuals. For Rebekah, it was about being fearless and determined to make her musical dreams come to light. It was about learning to forgive and give people a chance, as she did with Tate and his family. For Tate, it was about letting go and putting someone else’s dream ahead of his own. It was about developing a humble spirit. Together, both Tate and Rebekah learned that anything is possible, even pursuing a dream that the times said didn’t exist for all.

There were no obvious negatives. With the author’s writing style, I was immediately immersed into Rebekah’s world and later on, Tate’s and Rebekah’s world together. Their interactions brought life to the story and the challenges and lessons they learned kept me turning the pages to the very end.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of romance. And especially to those who are looking for character driven stories that focus on growth with relatable and encouraging messages.

Rating:

5 out of 5 stars. This story was an easy read and had many powerful areas. The challenges the main characters faced and the series of subtle plots added enough suspense to keep the story moving.

***This book was given to me by Bethany House for an honest review.***

I Am The Girl Who Now Can See

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I Am The Girl Who Now Can See

I once was lost, but now I’m found
I was wandering, in a strange town
I didn’t know, which way to go
When I thought I was right
I was quickly told no

I was alone
In my cold world
Seeking joy and peace
Seeking purpose and me
And when the days passed more
I still saw no open doors
Who was I
I was only a lie

I once was sad, but now I’m glad
Glad I held on
To learn that I am strong
When failure clung, tightly to me
I didn’t fall down
I held my ground

I was ready to flee
From my old world
I needed to try
To set myself free
There was no time to waste
It was now getting late
I needed to try
I needed to try

I am the girl who now can see
I am the girl who now is free
I am the girl who now can see
I am the girl who now can see
I am the girl who now can see

©2016 C.A. Barnes