Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

This novel had me spinning, that's for sure because it is a quite bit racier than anything I have read recently but it was still miles milder than the frenzy over Fifty Shades of Gray (which I refuse to read by the way) so I am okay!  I loved it, gave it a 5/5 rating and encourage you to grab this one - it is a great summer read.

About the Book:

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

About the Author:

New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, and way too many feckless animals. She is the author of five novels: gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, twice been a #1 Book Sense Pick, and been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, and garnered a Listen Up Award from Publisher’s Weekly.

She is hard at work on a new novel titled Someone Else's Love Story, expected in 2014.

Joshilyn Jackson on Facebook
Joshilyn Jackson on the WEB

My Thoughts:

As I mentioned before, I loved this book - I love a good generation story where you become invested in not just one person, but in this case, all three.  I enjoy a bit of a mystery which this novel offered and I think the author did a phenomenal job setting it all up.

This novel has it all, intrigue, complex story-line, multiple storylines, and covers issues that are just plain tough.  She doesn't sugarcoat anything but presents it realistically through her characters Big, Liza and Mosey.

It is a story of a family that NOTHING ever works out for...and it is their story of trial, triumph, and lessons learned the hard way. 

I am intrigued by this author and her work, this was such a great read that I look forward to checking out her other books...and check out her website, it is hilarious and fun!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Pursuit of Lucy Banning as part of an online Christian Fiction Reading Group to which I belong.  I encourage you to check them out, they are a dynamic group of women and I have loved the selections they have read and will be reading.  You can find them on Facebook HERE.

About the Author:
I’m imagining you. You walk past as I water my front flowerbeds and we wave. You check the time as we both stand in a long line at the grocery store. You sit in front of me in church. I’m at my table in the coffee shop and you’re at yours.

We may smile politely and move on with our separate lives. Or one of us may speak, a simple invitation to conversation, and the words flow between us.

Here the adventure begins. When we meet someone new, we never know where it might lead.

I’ve been married for over thirty years and have two twenty-something kids. We live in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where the day lilies in my back yard grow as tall as I am. (No short jokes, please.)

Not every piece of my life is pretty, though. Some days I want to throw out whole chunks. But I am living each day looking for the grace of God to me, in me, and through me. Having your companionship along the way will help uncover a lot of great stories. 

About the Book:

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

My Thoughts:

I realized one thing right off the bat, I love the time period right before the turn of the century, when our country was well out of the War Between the States, not yet into that era including the Great Depression and things were generally well.  This novel is set in Chicago in the 1890s and boy did that time period really add to the overall feeling of the novel.

I learned so much about the city at one of its most up-and-coming times, and the people who populated it.  I could envision the large houses on Prairie Avenue and their wealthy inhabitants. 

Another aspect of this novel that really stuck out to me was the main character, Lucy Banning.  She really is a strong-willed character and I was struck by her determination and perseverance despite the time period she lived in.  Olivia Newport did a fantastic job creating this character and crafting pivotal situations where she would shine as a woman in the later 1800s.

I also appreciated Newport's nod in this novel to mental illness and the complexities involved with it through Daniel's character.  I imagine that during this time period it was hard for people, especially those in the wealthy class to acknowledge and deal with someone who needed that measure of help and the author did this topic justice in this novel.

This is the first I have read by Ms. Newport but being a lover of historical fiction and interested in Christian fiction I will be adding her to my author's to read list and looking forward to more by her!

Book Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

First let me admit, I adore historical fiction and if you have ever tuned in to my past reviews you know that the 19th century is my age of addiction - I cannot learn enough about it!


A house shrouded in time.

A line of women with a heritage of loss.As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

My Thoughts:

This book more than met my expectations regarding history of the time period.  In fact, there is no book I have read recently that told a better story about the Civil War than this one.  I appreciated the fact that it was told through the perspectives of a number of women in the family who lived at Holly Oak.  It made the book more interesting to follow as it jumped back and forth between the women.

I loved how it went to the letter format towards the end, I thought this part of the book was the best.  I wanted to keep reading to see what else Susannah was going to have to endure.

I felt like the side plot regarding Marielle and Carson and their family was a little forced, I didn't find them near as interesting as the central characters - Adelaide and Susannah.  I also had a hard time with the ending, not sure why as I expected it to come to a conclusion just as it did but I couldn't wrap my mind around the summary that the author presented regarding the house.

I am not someone who really enjoys "ghost" stories but this one captured my imagination and it is pretty neat to see how Adelaide convinced herself over the years that it was the house's fault for her problems...and it was refreshing to see her character come full circle.  The house itself really became the central character in this mystery and it was very neat to read about a house with so much history.  Being from Virginia, I have seen and been in many a house just like Holly Oak - they have a rich and interesting history.

The character I just couldn't jive with was Caroline - a drug addict, abandoned her child, ran away and caused her family much pain but them comes back "clean" to fix everyone's problems.  She seemed to just have it all together a little too well if you ask me and I find it hard to believe she would have had any credibility at all in actual life had she played that role.

The author sure know the time period, and she clearly has researched the Battle of Fredericksburg - her descriptions of it via Susannah's letters was far-reaching.  I love studying the Civil War and this novel is a testament to just how much you can learn from historical fiction.

Overall Rating: 4/5