Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life

What an amazing novel by one of my favorite writers, Susan Meissner.

From the back cover:

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

In her signature style, Susan Meissner has crafted an unforgettable story set in both modern day and the Second World War. She seamlessly shifts between both worlds, telling the stories of Kendra, Isabel, Emmy, and Julia with tenderness, sympathy, and yes, intrigue.

I devoured this book. It was hard not to rush through, because I wanted to savor the language. The intriguing plot, however, drew me in and pushed me forward to finish the book inside just a couple of days. It is also the kind of book I know I will revisit.

Susan is a woman of great faith, and indeed she has until recently written for the Christian fiction market. In spite of changing publishers, however, faith still plays a strong role in the story. It’s more like a strong undercurrent than a melody, but it’s unmistakably present.

I highly recommend this novel. In fact, I think it would be a great choice for any book club, because it is a multi-faceted story dealing with love, the most universal of all human experience. Love between men and women, mothers and daughters, and sisters.

Similar authors on the market with this type of story would be Sarah Jio (except for her most recent novel, which I will also be reviewing soon), and Kate Morton, both of whom meld the past and the present in their stories.

The cover blurb by Sarah Jio is absolutely the truth: Susan’s writing is “Beautifully crafted and captivating.” Her books are always good. I can hardly wait for her next novel, which will be set in the golden age of Hollywood.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the author to write this review.

To read my review of A Fall of Marigolds, click here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Let God Talk to You

Becky Tirabassi is probably best known for her prayer journaling method that helped revolutionize women’s prayer lives in her book Let Prayer Change Your Life.

In this book from Bethany House, Let God Talk to You, Tirabassi talks more about how God speaks to us:

  • through His Word
  • through thoughts
  • through silence,
  • and always requiring of us a listening heart.

She intersperses Biblical truths with her own story as well as stories of other Christians. Then she gives the reader tools and suggestions of practical ways to actively listen for God’s voice and then record those prayers and responses and Bible verses for remembrance.

This book will be helpful to Christians seeking to learn fresh ways to listen to God.

Acknowledgement of compensation disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for posting a review, which I am sad to say is long overdue. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

Like a Flower in Bloom

Once again, Siri Mitchell has created a delightfully flawed heroine. She is clueless in the ways of society and the ways of love. I enjoyed her--flaws and all.

Charlotte is almost 22 years old. She's been helping her grieving botanist father for the past eight years, since her botanist mother passed away. She's been making do for so long, she's become indispensable to him--or so she thinks. Then her uncle, the esteemed and feared Admiral, suggests to her father that it's past time for Charlotte to be out in society to find a husband. Before she can realize what is happening, her father hires an assistant who is not all he seems on the surface. Just like that, Charlotte finds herself replaced, and she realizes she is not as indispensable as she thought. She begins a series of gaffes and missteps through which she makes some friends and learns about society and relationships outside her family.

I loved Charlotte and her awakening process throughout the course of the story. Siri Mitchell artfully weaves a huge bouquet of botany facts all through the novel, and it's really interesting and fun to learn about plants and specimen collection and the process of recording various plants and flowers.

I think this book will appeal to fans of historical fiction and of botany. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and author as a part of the launch team. I am honored to have a part in telling all the good things about this book, and look forward to reading more from Siri Mitchell's pen.