Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad (2010, Lake Manawa Summers #1)



Official Summary

When spunky Marguerite Westing discovers that her family will summer at Lake Manawa in 1895, she couldn't be more thrilled. It is the perfect way to escape her agonizingly boring suitor, Roger Gordon. It's also where she stumbles upon two new loves: sailing, and sailing instructor Trip Andrews. But this summer of fun turns to turmoil as her father's gambling problems threaten to ruin the family forever. Will free-spirited Marguerite marry Roger to save her father's name and fortune? Or will she follow her heart--even if it means abandoning the family she loves?

Author Lorna Seilstad's fresh and entertaining voice will whisk readers away to a breezy lakeside summer holiday. Full of sharp wit and blossoming romance, Making Waves is the first book in the LAKE MANAWA SUMMERS series.


My Thoughts

In a fit of positive boredom, I browsed through all the Christian fiction ebooks my library had to offer, desperate for something fun. And just happened to stumble across Making Waves. Thank you, Lord, for inspiring Lorna Seilstad to write! For gifting her with a hearty imagination, hilarious sense of humor, and the writing chops to bring a story together.

Making Waves is Lorna Seilstad's first novel, but you would never really guess it by the solidness of her storytelling. A majority of my issues with Christian fiction stems from its preaching to the choir, but Marguerite's faith felt natural, an extension of herself, probably because she spoke to God like you would speak to a friend. In that instance, the authoress reminds me a little of Stephen Bly. Stuart Brannon, Bly's first character, spent a goodly portion of his life conversing with God in a way that said the Lord was standing right next to him. Marguerite's relationship with Christ gave me the same feeling. That's what I like from my Christian fiction, and that's what Lorna Seilstad delivered.

If I were to make one mild remonstrance it's that the "villain" felt a little bit based off Cal Hockley, Rose's intended in Titanic. Abrupt mood changes, nice to mean, etc. Most people don't really swing to such extremes so it felt a bit melodramatic at times, but I loved the book so much that it really didn't matter.

One of the best things in the story was watching Marguerite realize that she couldn't lie any longer. Not to herself, not to Trip, not to Roger, and not to her family. The truth set her free in ways that lying would have never done. And God rewarded her and gave her the desires of her heart and healed her family in the bargain. The story itself is loads of fun, but it also shared a couple of important profound messages about trust and truth.

In the end Making Waves was the perfect way for me to combat boredom on a weekend. While it's wholeheartedly late Victorian, the story also delves into an area of the US that I never really experienced or even imagined. Who knew that the wealthy would go camping by Lake Manawa in order to escape the brutal heat of the summer? I learned some exciting tidbits of history and fell in love with Marguerite and Trip along the way.

Now I just have to fight back the urge to dive into the 2nd book in the series, A Great Catch. As much as I'd like to, I can't spend all my time just reading, no matter how tantalizing Lorna Seilstad makes the idea!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Book Review: A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (2017)



Official Summary

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family's history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family's German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered. 

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors' scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he's more than his name?


My Thoughts

Oh dear, dear, dear.

I don't know what happened.

Roseanna M. White is a lovely author and I absolute adored her Ladies of the Manor series. But something just missed the mark for me with A Name Unknown. It shouldn't have. I mean, this book has a library and a charming hero who is politeness personified.

But I felt like something was missing.

Entire scenes were skipped. I mean, if the hero and heroine are going on a trip to a magnificent castle, I want to go with them! I want to tour it with them and see what they see. Not be in the carriage with them heading to the castle and then find myself skipped ahead several hours as the heroine reminisces on how the castle was so awe-inspiring. 

Chunks of time were chopped. Weeks were lost. A chapter ends with the heroine realizing she needs to get back to the manor on her own and it's late at night. Then we're ahead at least a week at the start of the next chapter.

I honestly don't remember her other books having this time choppiness, but I could be wrong. I just felt like I was missing stuff. We had plenty of character growth, but not enough relational growth. Peter and Rosemary needed to spend loads of time together. I needed to see them go for walks, for rides, for drives into the country, and to see them walk through the bloody castle.

Rosemary's friendship with a local woman needed to be experienced and not just referenced back to after one of these leaps in time. Apparently she spent that time getting to know this young woman. I just didn't get to experience it with her, so I had no connection with their friendship.

As you can tell, the time leaps is my biggest complaint with this novel. If that had been fixed, then everything else would have fallen perfectly into place. As it is, I came out the other side disappointed and wishing that I'd waited for a copy from the library rather than shelling out $10 for a Kindle book that I will likely never read again. Oh well, live and learn. I'll still pick up her next book in the series, but my expectations are now significantly lower.

Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...