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Far Side of the Sea, by Kate Breslin

Revisiting the Mabry family from Not by Sight (you should read it if you haven’t!), this book follows the story of Colin, a veteran whose life was forever changed with his war injuries and experiences. He’s taken a job decoding messages received from carrier pigeons, and when he discovers one that’s directed at him, Colin decides he has no choice but to travel to Paris to take action and keep a promise he made.

Colin is surprised when he meets Johanna, having not expected this spunky young woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and those she loves. The two of them set out on a daring rescue mission to find Johanna’s sister, the puzzle piece that Colin and Johanna have in common.

This is such a fast-paced book that keeps the reader turning pages while following along on this adventure. With World War 1 in full swing, nobody knows who is to be trusted, and many risks are necessary. The faith element included is beautiful and thought provoking while not being at all preachy.

Kate Breslin’s latest is truly an excellent read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The research and care that go into her books are impeccable. I also love the audio book, which is read by Sarah Zimmerman. She is one of the best audio book readers I’ve ever heard, with accents and expression that further put the listener right in the middle of the story.

Having never really ever known much about the Easter Rising in Ireland until just recently, it surprised me to find that it factors into the background of Far Side of the Sea.

I think I’ll compare this book to potato soup. Think creamy soup with potatoes, carrots, celery, onion. Bacon crumbled on top, with green onion and cheese sprinkled on. Really, really good, with substance that fills you in the best of ways.

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Castle on the Rise, by Kristy Cambron 

Spanning over 200 years, Castle on the Rise has characters in three completely different time periods. It includes three different stories, all intertwined quite artfully.

A quick summary of the three storylines: Laine and her young daughter take a trip to modern day France for Laine’s best friend’s wedding (please read The Lost Castle if you haven’t already). Upon receiving some unexpected difficult news, Laine and Cassie end up tagging along to Ireland with them to sort out some complicated family matters. As she navigates her friends’ new reality with them and explores an old manor house with six (or maybe seven..) pianos, Laine is also dealing with secrets of her own.

In 1916, Lady Isolde decides to stand up for a cause she believes in as the Easter Rising takes place and Dublin finds itself in the midst of a heartbreakingly bloody battle. Issy risks much for her dreams and love as she follows the fighting with her prized camera, counting down the few shots she has available.

Upon the discovery of a trespassing pirate on her family’s estate in late 1797, and realizing that not everything is as she’s always believed, Maeve is suddenly compelled to question much. She must choose who to trust and what risks are worth taking.

I really love the way these stories and the settings surrounding them are woven together into one story. It so adds to the beauty.

At the heart of this book is the theme of daring to rise above. Each character has a choice. They can give in to the seemingly hopelessness of their situations, or they can dare to dream of hope and healing for the days to come. Each one comes face to face with the value of showing up for those who need them, and of the value of having people who stay no matter what.

Having never really read much historical fiction set in Ireland before, I can now say that it’s on my list of Places I Must Visit. I just fell in love with the castle views, the crashing of the waves, the greenness of the landscape, and the way it all charmed my heart.

As for the characters, oh my goodness. Cormac, I think, is my new top favorite modern-day hero in a book. If you want to know who he is, you have to read the book.

This is quite possibly Kristy Cambron’s best yet, in my opinion. Her heart was so evident in these pages, and as much as I’ve loved her other books, I think she brought something extra beautiful to this one.

I’m going to liken this one to a perfectly-made grilled cheese sandwich. It speaks of the value of just being present when someone needs you, and of being just a bit of hope for that person.

 

Cold Read, by Sharyn Kopf

Sharyn Kopf’s dual timeline story, Cold Read, is fun with quirky characters. I’m not usually excited about reading present tense, but I really liked it in this case. The modern storyline was written in present tense, while the historical part was told in past tense. It flowed well that way, moving back and forth. 

I personally enjoyed the modern part part more in this book, I think because I felt like, as the reader, I was able to get to know Stephie better than the historical main character, Juniper. 

Stephie is directing a play in her small town’s historic theater, and she finds herself liking the man playing the lead role. As someone who has always been sort of on the outside and alone, Stephie almost panics at the mixed feelings she has at war within her. 

Juniper is less developed as a character than Stephie, but she also shows up less frequently in the story, so it seems natural to not be able to get to know her as deeply. In spite of knowing her less, Juniper irritated me… I think because she pined away after someone who was clearly arrogant and thought he was above her and her family, and because of that she put down a true friend in much the same arrogant way. 

Did I like the book? Yes! It was an enjoyable quick read, and I highly recommend reading Sharyn Kopf. She has a uniquely frank style of writing that feels like you’re having a conversation, as well as creative plots that are unlike any others I’ve found so far. 

I would compare this book to pepperoni pizza. It’s easy going and fun, but at the same time isn’t just fluff. Good stuff:) 

 
 

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Sons of Blackbird Mountain, by Joanne Bischof

Oh. My. Goodness. I could not put this book down. For real. When I had to because other things needed my attention, my thoughts kept going back to it. This will be a re-read many times over. 

Sons of Blackbird Mountain was one of those stories that I wanted to devour as fast as possible, yet savor the whole way through. I couldn’t get enough. 

The characters within these pages instantly won my heart. A bit of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” mixed with Bonanza (Jorgan Norgaard is so like Adam Cartwright.. while Haakon and Little Joe share an impulsive boldness..), this story is set in 1890s Virginia. Thor, while gentle and sweet when one takes the time and effort to hear him, struggles with addiction to the hard cider he makes his living from — partially to drink away the pain of his loneliness. Thor is Deaf and for the most part rejected by the outside world, thus leaving him with very few people who care enough to truly know him. 

Aven finds herself in unexpected circumstances, living with her late husband’s cousins far from her native Europe. As she adjusts to American mountain life with a new-to-her family, she struggles with aligning her affections and her wisdom. 

This book is full of redemption and healing, love and beauty. All of this in the midst of some very ugly stuff. Because really, it takes letting God lead us through the ugly hard to discover the true beauty that is around us. 

Joanne Bischof captured here the world of a Deaf man, and she did it in such a way that I found myself imagining the sounds he was imagining, rather than hearing them in my mind. (Do your senses join you in whatever you’re reading, do you see the layout of the house where the characters live or smell the orchard they’re walking through? No? You can ignore me then. I already know I’m strange. 🙂 )

This book is, to me, a fresh, cold glass of apple cider. Crisp and tangily-spicily, refreshingly perfect. Please read this book.

So.. obviously, I just couldn’t resist a photo shoot with this stunningly beautiful book.. in my family’s own apple orchard. These are a few of my favorite photos from the shoot. I’m so in love…

Thank you to Joanne Bischof and her publisher for the honor and joy of being on your launch team. 

 

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The Lost Castle, by Kristy Cambron 

Kristy Cambron never fails to weave an intricate story that speaks to my heart at depths that few others do.

I’ve long been drawn to all things World War 2, but I have also been fascinated by the French Revolution since high school — and The Lost Castle takes both of these and winds them together with a modern day setting, creating one of the most unique books I’ve ever read.

Lovely French wine country is the physical setting for much of this book, and I really love how this is the story not only of three different heroines and heroes (in the three different eras)… but also the evolving history of the castle itself.

The characters are real and endearing, and my heart ached for their hardships. The three-storylines-that-are-actually-all-one left me in awe, and I’m sad that it’s fiction.

This book, for me, is like this amazing bread that I’ve made, brioche au chocolat loaf (not a typo.. it’s French). I will post a photo because that will do more than a description, especially when I’ve already talked about this beautiful book.

 

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Bookishly Ever After, by Sarah Monzon

This was my first story of Sarah Monzon’s.. but it will definitely not be my last. I’d been wanting to try this author for quite a while, and her other books have now been bumped waaaaaay up on my TBR list. That’s how much I loved this novella. 

I could relate in some ways to Emory, the main character.. and — what can I say? — I wish Tate were a real live person. He reminded me somewhat of Gilbert Blythe. And.. if you know me, to say that that is quite a compliment coming from me is a major understatement. (Gilbert is my permanent Book Boyfriend, in case you don’t know me.)

Tate convinces Emory to let him plan weekly activities that give her the opportunity to live out some of the things she’s otherwise only ever read about. Each activity is based on a book that she’s been reading. Emory adds her own side to the bargain, making Tate promise that he will send one of his songs to an agent for each book-inspired outing they complete. She also reads things into his plan that are pretty far off from her friend’s intentions. There’s so much more to it, but that’s as much as I will say. 

Bookishly Ever After. A truly lovely and adorable little story that sucked me in instantly. It made me forget that it’s not a full length novel. There is so much depth here, and love that is True. Yes, with a capital T. This is one of those rarities that I could turn right back to the beginning and start again immediately. 

This one is the equivalent of a nice cup of chai. Something cozy and beautiful and.. just right. Savorable. 

I. Love. This. Story. 🙂 

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Fiction, Friendship, Romance, Sarah Monzon

 

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The Fishing Lesson, by Sherri Schoenborn Murray

The Fishing Lesson was just what I needed right now. It’s light and fun… a very quick read, but not just fluff. And despite the title, this story is about more than fishing and camping. While I enjoy this sort of thing, I can’t say that I’d ever read a book that had it as a backdrop, or that I picked it up because of that. 

Sherri Schoenborn Murray has yet to disappoint me. I really love how she writes everyday characters, believable people you might run into while going about life. Natalie and Cody fit nicely in this category. 

The Fishing Lesson is a cute story about characters growing in trusting God and stepping out in faith, believing that He truly works all things for good. 

This is actually my first of her books to read without having listened to the audio book first, so I don’t know if the punctuation in The Fishing Lesson is typical or an exception. Some of the punctuation would have driven me crazy if I’d let it, but I enjoyed the story too much to let that get to me. This says a lot for the storyline and writing style because I’m the one who will correct typos and other errors in books, whether it’s my own or from the library…. 

I’m going to say that this book is like a picnic lunch of fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Maybe some watermelon. It’s refreshing. 

 

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