Hello, book lovers. It’s time for another Fast Five Review Roundup!
Review #1 ~ Beneath the Blackberry Moon: The Sacred Writings (April Gardner)
Oh, my heart! I love this series sooooo much. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, The Red Feather, make sure you read that one first, because this follows on from it. Also know that you’ll be in it for the long haul, because this is a saga (in the best sense of the word)—it’s one of those stories that you can’t do justice to in a shorter amount of space. And it will alternately tear your heart out, squeeze it until you can’t breathe, fill it until it’s going to burst, and make you feel ALL the feelings. You’ll know you’re alive! But what a story!
The Sacred Writings is largely Totka’s story. I can’t say much about why without giving spoilers for the first book in the series, but the overarching story is Totka’s journey to understand—and to find—Adela’s (Copper Woman’s) ‘Jesus Creator’. It begins by jumping back into Totka’s past and his history with Leaping Waters and Tall Bull, but this builds well into what is to come when the story picks up where it left off after The Red Feather. There are some difficult times ahead for Totka, but God uses all of it to slowly reveal pieces of Himself, and the most amazing part for me was how well April Gardner portrays this journey from the point of view of a Native American. Beautifully written, and an amazing story. And it’s not over yet—thank goodness!
Totka wasn’t sure he could worship a Creator who cared so little about the plants and animals that he would give them no spirits, that he would leave them to man’s tending.
Man was flawed. Despairingly so. Even the Muscogees who strove tirelessly to honor nature, to keep it in balance, had to constantly cleanse and pray, for having muddled things. A man could never hope to keep it all in harmony. He could only be diligent in the attempt.
But the idea of a Creator who’d created all three worlds—the Upper, the Under and the one Totka’s feet rested upon—yet worked intimately in a man’s heart and life was so alluring, he kept turning pages. Hadn’t Copper Woman always spoken to her Creator as though he were a pawa from whose loving eye she could never escape?
Call on my Jesus Creator, and see if He does not answer. Her plea was alive in his head. Seek Him and He will find you.
Review #2 ~ Blue Ridge Sunrise (Denise Hunter)
This was one of those reads that was just ‘okay’ for me, and I’ve had a little trouble putting my finger on the reasons why. Firstly, although I was generally sympathetic towards the heroine Zoe, I found it difficult to empathise with some of her decisions—or perhaps more to the point, to understand what motivated her to be strong in some circumstances, but weak in others. Secondly, I wasn’t convinced that Zoe had grown much in this area by the end of the book, as one of her poorest decisions sets up the climax of the novel. A third sticking point was the predictability of several plot points. These things took away some of my investment in the story.
So, what did I enjoy? I liked that we travelled back in time to witness the development of Zoe and Cruz’s relationship as teens rather than simply being told what happened, and the suspense at the climax definitely ramped things up, even if it was brought on by that aforementioned poor decision of Zoe’s. The story also carries a subtle message of forgiveness and grace, and leads Zoe to turn to turn the reins of her life over to the One who knows best, although much of this spiritual journey is implied rather than demonstrated in the story.
Despite my diminished enjoyment of this story, Brady’s and Hope’s presence in this novel has whet my appetite for their story, Honeysuckle Dreams, coming in May.
They hadn’t exactly parted as friends. Did she even want him around that much? Her eyes fell over his familiar form. Those sturdy shoulders, those sculpted arms, those calloused hands that had touched her with the utmost gentleness.
His ball cap shadowed the top half of his face, but she well remembered the way he used to look at her. Like she was heaven sent, just for him, and he was never going to let her go.
Only he had.
Review #3 – Finding Amanda (Robin Patchen)
I’m not sure that this technically qualifies as a psychological thriller, but it definitely had that feel about it. It also deals with the topic of sexual abuse (in the past), so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it had me on the edge of my seat from the first page, even when the danger was only a shadow hanging over the characters’ heads.
But it’s not just a story of suspense; it’s also one of reconciliation. Although it’s been twelve years since a nineteen year old Amanda walked away from the psychiatrist who seduced her, it’s only been two years since her husband Mark learned of the abuse. In those two years, Amanda has poured everything into writing her memoir and their marriage has slowly fallen apart. Mark is struggling to process his anger towards Amanda’s abuser, which has affected both their physical intimacy and their communication, and Amanda mistakenly interprets this as rejection. Mark has recently become a Christian; Amanda rejects Christianity. Mark believes publishing her story will put her in danger; Amanda believes it’s the only way to move on. And if she has to move on without Mark, she will.
I was alternately holding my breath, waiting for the axe to fall on Amanda, and silently urging Mark on as he tried to save his marriage and keep Amanda safe. Definitely an engaging read, but perhaps in the daytime rather than just before bed!
She’d been hiding from Sheppard for twelve years, and she was sick of hiding. It was time to expose the truth, time to find freedom from her past, and time to move on.
And if Mark couldn’t handle it, well . . . If he really loved her, he’d understand.
That was the crux of the matter. He didn’t really love her. He never had. In a way it was her fault. His comment the previous day stuck with her—“I know as much as you’re willing to share with me.” It was true. She’d been hiding behind a mask for years. The problem was, every time she lifted the mask a little to let him in, all she got from him was anger and condemnation. No wonder she stayed hidden.
Review #4 ~ Escape (Glenn Haggerty)
If you have a teen who likes a bit of action and suspense, then this book is worth checking out. Thirteen-year-old Tyler is the narrator, and he’s hanging with Dustin, the coolest kid in Palm Aire Christian Academy, when they get themselves into a spot of bother—as in, looking-at-the-business-end-of-a-gun-and-running-for-their-lives kind of bother. In between playing a very real game of hide-and-seek, Ty has time to reflect on some of the less-than-wise choices that have led him to this situation and whether Dustin is the best choice of friend, so there’s some good character growth woven into the story, too.
The writing style and plot are both very engaging, and if Ty turns out to be just a little more resourceful and intuitive than your average thirteen-year-old trying to escape from hardened crims, well… I’ll forgive him. Because it made for an exciting read.
“Shada,” the man called. But there was no answer. He held the gun steady and inclined his head as though listening. A muscle flexed in his jaw. His head turned slightly, and sunlight glinted off those sinister sunglasses.
The man seemed to be coming to some decision, and my whiff of hope fizzled away. The hole in the gun’s muzzle was now completely visible. The goon’s finger tightened on the trigger.
Oh God, I’m sorry for everything, please forgive me. Please save me. I closed my eyes.
Review #5 ~ Save the Date (Jenny B. Jones)
This book was so much fun—full of witty banter and droll humour from fabulous one liners through to extended exchanges, not to mention some very colourful characters (yes, I’m looking at you, Julian aka Tijuana Daddy!) I don’t always enjoy the fake boyfriend/fiancé plot, but this is one of the best ones I’ve read because there’s so much more going on underneath—things that really matter to Lucy and Alex on a heart level. Like Lucy’s ‘girls’ from Saving Grace, a home she runs for girls who’ve aged out of the foster system and have nowhere else to go, and Alex’s twin brother, a reporter who disappeared a year ago at a school he opened in Durnama, Afghanistan. And then there’s Lucy’s rather shocking personal discovery…
Best of all, amidst all the banter and the laughs, there are these moments of utterly sincere emotional connection between Alex and Lucy that are even more swoonalicious than the sardonic flirting and the witty repartee are laughter-inducing. Talk about melting the caramel off a Twix! These are the kinds of characters you can’t help loving in spite of their imperfections. If you enjoy a good romcom, I definitely recommend this one!
Alex found her speed-walking down Pecan Street in a knee-length robe and snow boots.
“Look at that crazy woman,” his sister said from the passenger side.
His Mercedes slowed to a crawl as he pulled alongside Lucy and rolled down his window.
Finley double-checked the locks.
“Nice morning for a walk.” His dashboard read eighty-six degrees.
Finley leaned over to get a better look. “You’re not gonna give her a ride, are you?”
“Nah.” Alex kept up Lucy’s pace. “Just gonna marry her.”
Finally his angel of morning hair and bad shoe choices spoke. “Any moment I’m going to wake up. I’m going to wake up and this will all have been a bad dream.” She marched right on, like a soldier heading to the battlefield. “My girls’ home,” she huffed. “Clare Deveraux. My father.” Her next words came out in a hiss. “And you.”
“PMS.” He shot Finley a look. “Hits her hard every time.”
“I hear that.”
He watched as his soon-to-be intended stepped right over a dead, bloated possum without so much as slowing down. “Babe, you want to tell me what’s going on?”
“Go drive off a cliff.”
He gave his sister a smile. “Loves me so much she sometimes has a hard time expressing it.”