The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

Title: The Story Keeper

Author: Lisa Wingate

Published By: Tyndale House Publishers (2014)

Synopsis: When successful New York editor Jen Gibbs discovers a decaying slush-pile manuscript on her desk, she has no idea that the story of Sarra, a young mixed-race woman trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century, will both take her on a journey and change her forever. Happy with her life in the city, and at the top of her career with a new job at Vida House Publishing, Jen has left her Appalachian past and twisted family ties far behind. But the search for the rest of the manuscript, and Jen’s suspicions about the identity of its unnamed author, will draw her into a mystery that leads back to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . . . and quite possibly through the doors she thought she had closed forever. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I was so impressed by this book. I was drawn in from the first chapter. A book about an editor and the publishing world? I’m in! The author’s talent is so admirable. She effortlessly weaves together so many plot strands, characters, themes, and it works. It was easy reading, while still fun.

I LOVED the aspect of the two separate stories intertwining together—our main character, Jen, finds a manuscript of a story, and we get to read the manuscript in the book as well as Jen’s story. I found it incredibly impressive how the author managed to pull off both stories and also intertwine them. A lot of work and thought went into this story, and it paid off.

I really liked how the author used real locations and places, real facts and real history—it made reading the book that much more interesting. The characters were vivid and alive. The parts about Lane’s Hill were eye opening and thematically, done excellently. I LOVED the sneaky Christian themes that snuck in and yet never took over. I was fascinated by Jen’s family life and the twisted version of Christianity contrasted with the world and the questions presented—“Why did [Lane’s Hill] not line up with the Bible when I read it?”

Sarra and Rand’s story, the story in the manuscript Jen finds, was a little harder to keep track of. The characters were just as alive, and the historical context was strikingly accurate and the story of Melungeons absolutely fascinated me—but some of the action was a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on all the time. Overall it did not lessen my appreciation for the story, but I did have to flip back several times to catch up.

Negative Content/Notes:

Toward the beginning of the story, Jen asserts that she doesn’t date because she doesn’t want to be accused of “sleeping her way to the top” in the industry. I was fine with the line but just figured I should just mention it for the sake of younger readers here, though even then I don’t think it’s a problem. Regardless, I’d recommend this for older readers, just because of the depth.

Overall: This is an eye-opening tale of history, family and loyalty, and it blew me away. I loved reading about the publishing world and I loved the thematics of the importance of stories. I found the story talentedly told and the characters real and living. It was both humorous and serious, delicate yet raw. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 & up

Quest for Leviathan by Amanda Tero

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Title: Quest for Leviathan

Author: Amanda Tero

Published By: Amanda Tero

Synopsis:

Leviathan took the life of Anath’s father. Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.

 

REVIEW:

This was such a sweet short story! It had such a creative premise, and pulled together with so much originality! I loved reading about the Leviathan and was impressed by the character arc the author was able to accomplish in so little pages through Anath. I LOVED the historical setting, which felt very authentic, and the way the author worked in the Christian themes. I thought Joed was a fantastic character, and even though he felt cheesy at times, in the end I was more satisfied then disappointed. The story was a little predictable, but not in a way that diminished my appreciation.

I wish the story could have been a little longer—it felt rushed at times, and I would have loved to see more development on the Leviathan itself. But according to the thematics and the point of the story, the plot was paced perfectly fine. I really, really liked the thematics of the ending, as well.

Negative Content/Notes:

None!

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: All ages!

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So excited to have gotten to be a part of this blog tour!! Follow the tour and check out previous posts:

June 8 – With a Joyful Noise (Release Day Post)

Resting Life (Spotlight, Review)

The World of the Writer (Review)

Authoring Arrowheads (Review)

Purely by Faith Review (Review, Interview)

June 9 – Victoria’s Book Nook (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

Bekah’s Books (Spotlight, Review, Interview)

June 11 – Clothed with Scarlet (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

Reveries Reviews (Review)

June 12 – Chosen Vessels (Spotlight, Review)

My Purple Pen (Review)

Read Another Page (Review)

June 13 – Once Upon an Ordinary (Review)

Maidens for Modesty (Review)

Yahweh Sisters (Review)

June 14 – Honey Rock Hills (Review)

Life of Heritage Corner (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Kaylee’s Kind of Writes (Review, Interview)

June 15 – The Red-Hooded Writer (Review)

Blossoms and Blessings (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Lit Aflame (Review, Interview)

June 16 – The Left-Handed Typist (Review)

Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review, Interview, Giveaway)

June 18 – Great Books for God’s Girls (Review, Interview)

Peculiar Miss Darcy (Character Interview)

June 19 – Done in Love (Spotlight, Review, Interview, Giveaway)

Creating Romance (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 20 – Keturah’s Korner (Review, Interview)

Rock and Minerals 4 Him (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 21 – A Baker’s Perspective (Review, Giveaway, Character Spotlight)

Christian Author: A.M. Heath (Review, Interview)

June 22 – Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections (Review)

Views from the Window Friend (Review)

Hunting for Truth (Spotlight, Review, Giveaway)

June 23 – Reading on the Edge (Spotlight)

Summer Snowflakes (Review, Giveaway)

June 25 – With a Joyful Noise (Giveaway Winner Announced)

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Connect with the author!!

Email: amandaterobooks@gmail.com

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

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Title: The Writing Desk

Author: Rachel Hauck

Published By: Zondervan (2017)

Synopsis:

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Oh, I loved this book. I was very frustrated by the characters at times, but for the most part, I loved it. The author’s impressive ability to combine two totally different plots together—both full of unique casts of characters—and do so without much confusion on the reader’s part was astounding. Both storylines—Birdie’s and Tenley’s—were unique and completely separate, and yet connected, somehow, through this mysterious writing desk for which the book is named. The sections on Birdie read very authentic to the time period and I thought that while her story of forbidden love wasn’t necessarily a new concept in the historical fiction genre, it still felt new and different—and probably mostly due to the incredible characterization. As the reader, I felt truly connected to both characters and could picture their separate realities clearly and easily. I really liked the similiarities and parallels between the two stories and thought together it produced some powerful thematics to think on, such as the risks and rewards of following your dreams and the struggle of finding yourself.

This was a long book, but not terribly long, and it did not feel drawn out much at all. It just took me a while to read, for there wasn’t much action and most of the story is character driven—but I love character-driven stories, so that was fine by me. 

Negative Content/Notes:

There are some scenes that go into slight detail about two characters on their wedding night. Nothing directly inappropriate, but just a lot more mature than I’m used to reading–though it was only a sentence or two at most. Jonas tells Tenley he won’t sleep with her until they’re married. *SPOILER* Tenley walks in on her ex-fiancee in bed with his coworker, Nicolette.*

Overall:

Aside from a couple mature sexual implications, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It perfectly captured a writer’s life and also wove in some beautiful and adorable romance, along with some themes about finding yourself and trusting God. The ‘follow your heart,’ theme was also very prominent, which I did not like as much ( “The heart is deceitful above all things” Jeremiah 17:9 — I believe in leading your heart, not following it).

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Because of a few more mature scenes, I’d probably say at least 14 and up…maybe even higher. It was definitely intended for adult readers, though I am 17 and I enjoyed it.

Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett

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Title: Porch Swing Girl

Author: Taylor Bennett

Published By: Mountain Brook Ink (2018)

Synopsis:

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I was very impressed. I loved the thematics of the story and I found the writing vivid and alive. I liked Olive,  even though she wasn’t super loveable. Yes, she was kind of a brat and an annoying character, but she was real, and we still cared for her, and that takes talent to pull off. Extraordinary and authentic, the writing style was unique down to the details. The family dynamics were told very realistically and emotionally for the most part.

 

On the downside, I didn’t connect with Jazz as much as I wished I could. Some aspects of the plot concerning her felt a little cliche and very rushed, too. It had the potential to be powerful, but I felt in the end it just didn’t pull off? For some reason I didn’t like Jazz; I’m not sure why, and I wish I could have liked her better. On a separate note, the one area I found to be unrealistic is how it’s only been a week since Olive’s mom died, and yet she’s mostly over it. A week into that grief you won’t be able to just move on. That takes a lot of time. Still, I did think the grief was written well, I just think the timeline was off.

I loved Brander’s character and the romance that developed was just SO SWEET! Aaaah! I was rooting for it the whole book. Some people might dislike how preachy Brander is, but my personal opinion is, that’s just how Brander is. It’s part of his character. And honestly, it’s pretty brilliant on the author’s part. She did just such a good job with Brander.

The ending was a little bit of a perfect bow, but it didn’t bug me like endings like that usually do. I guess just because it tied everything together so well and closed it up perfectly. It was happy and satisfying and sweet!

Negative Content/Notes:

None.

Overall: A sweet and inspiring story full of amazingly imperfect characters. I think what I liked best about this book, in fact, is just how beautifully imperfect all the characters are. From this perspective, the author did a phenomenal job of showing how God uses all of us even at our worst and how there’s always hope. I loved the friendship themes, I found the story paced well, and I was satisfied and happy at the end.

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 12+.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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Title: Before We Were Yours

Author: Lisa Wingate

Published By: Ballantine Books (2017)

Synopsis:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Wow, this was not the kind of book I was expecting! From the title I thought it might be some sweet adoption story. Not so. Instead, this book dives headfirst into child abuse and illegal “adoptions” that were going on in the early 1910s. This was something I didn’t really know anything about, and it held my attention from page one. 

This book did not skirt around anything that might be considered too hard or difficult to write about, as some writers do when dealing with tough issues, but instead addressed it head-on with gentleness. I did figure out most of the “mystery” pretty fast (well, not all the nitty-gritty, because that was so complicated I doubt anybody could, but I did figure out who was who pretty quick), but it was still enjoyable to read and watch the characters figure it out. The story never felt dragged out and all came together very skillfully. The author is a master at her art and I was very impressed by the her ability to tell this complicated, yet important, tale. Both main characters—Avery and Rill—were unique and their stories were intertwined beautifully.

Negative Content/Notes:

Rill, one of our main characters, and her siblings are stuck in an orphange-type place where they are badly mistreated. Though it never goes into gory detail, it does not skirt around anything either.

Overall: I was very impressed.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14+.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

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Title: No One Ever Asked

Author: Katie Ganshert

Published By: WaterBrook (2018)

Synopsis:

Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district–and in their lives.

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray–the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser–faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

Oh my goodness! It’s been a long time since I read a book this powerful and thought-provoking.

First of all, I loved the creativity of the story—how the author based it on real—but unfamiliar—events, and then took it and made it her own. I loved the characters and how real they were; Ganshert does such a magnificent job perfectly encompassing a realisitic mindset for characters in their positions and so many times I found myself relating to a character even though I have never been in any of their situations. 

There were many characters, and sometimes it was hard to keep track of all of them and who belonged to which story, but the important characters were distinct and easy to remember. They were so many different personalites and so much going on. It was definitely a book I had to read slowly, to make sure I caught everything, but it was soooooo worth it.

It covered some mature topics, but in a gentle and beautiful way. Each character was delicately woven, real and tangible, and distinct in their own unique ways, and through these characters we clearly see the heart behind each differing opinion in the story, making us stop and really consider everything being presented. I was blown away by the author’s ability to show so many differing mindsets and not condemn any one of them but instead offer evidence and leave it up to the reader to make the connection of what is right.

Negative Content/Notes:

I don’t recall any negative content. Some minor violence occurs toward the end, but nothing is glorified or presented in the wrong way. 

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14+