Shadowed by Grace, by Cara Putman

book coverShadowed by Grace is a dramatic story inspired by the Monuments Men of World War II by acclaimed author Cara C. Putman. Desperate to save her dying mother, Rachel accepts her newspaper’s assignment to travel to Italy to capture images dangerously close to the front lines of WWII. Her real motive – to find the father she never knew — an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive. It’s an unlikely situation for love and faith to flourish, but soon Rachel not only finds herself, but also her long-lost earthly father, and ultimately, the man her Heavenly father created to cherish and provide for her.

World War II in Europe was about removing Hitler from power and freeing the people his Nazis had conquered. Before the dramatic D-Day landings in June 1944, the Allies landed in southern Italy and began their march north. Fighting between the Allies, Germans and Italians left the country in a bad way. Innocent civilians were caught up in the conflict, and some of Italy’s priceless historical artefacts were damaged, destroyed or stolen. An allied group, unofficially known as Monuments Men, was sent out to recover and restore what they could.

In Shadowed by Grace, photographer Rachel finds herself teamed up with Monuments Man Scott Lindstrom as they advance north. En route, they encounter locals who either welcome or distrust them, and pillaged Catholic churches. They help where they can, and Rachel takes photographs of the devastation. They eventually reach the castle of Montegufoni, where many works from Florence were hidden for safety during the war. It is there that they meet a former associate of Scott’s, a man who may hold the key to Rachel’s personal history. The final, pivotal, scenes take place in Florence. Weirdly, I experienced a sense of déjà vu while reading the climactic scene. I was certain I’d read this or a similar turn of events before, but I’ve no idea where.

This is an emotionally charged novel that is part war, part romance and part whodunit. It showed us how women in the military were often not taken seriously by their male counterparts and subordinates. We get an understanding of life for regular Italians, living among the rubble with little to eat, and never knowing whether they’d survive the day or which army to trust. Romance during a time of war could be fleeting. Here we have two people who get to know each other gradually and fall in love despite their best efforts. I didn’t feel the romance was forced or happening too quickly. Ultimately, this was a book I found difficult to put down.

Thank you to B & H Publishing for my free electronic copy of Shadowed by Grace, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.

Publisher: B & H Publishing

Publication Date: 01 January 2014

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Cara Putman’s Website   B & H Publishing’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

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An Accidental Life, by Pamela Binnings Ewen

book coverIn a 1982 New Orleans courtroom the best kept secret in the world is about to unravel, and a young couple’s jet set lives are about to change. Senior district attorney Peter Jacobs is facing the trial of a lifetime, a passionate, spiritual battle against an evil with far reaching consequences. His beloved wife Rebecca, a glamorous and driven partner at a major law firm, suddenly finds her life spun out of control and her new faith tested while facing a once in a lifetime choice.

New from lawyer-turned-novelist Pamela Binnings Ewen, An Accidental Life is fiction based on fact: the testimony of registered nurse Jill Stanek before a U.S. Congressional Committee confirming that it was routine for doctors in Chicago’s Christ Hospital to have nurses take infants born alive during abortions down to a “soiled utility room” and leave them to die.

Stanek’s testimony led Congress to enact the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2001, a federal-only law that still does not bind state run hospitals or private clinics. The fact remains that what happens to abortion survivors is one of the best kept secrets in the world.

 An Accidental Life is a gripping novel with scenes inspired by real life events. One of the most gut wrenching is taken from the testimony Jill Stanek gave that day in 2001. I read about that testimony several years later, but I don’t think the impact of it ever goes away. Other plot details reminded me of the Gosnell case in Philadelphia from earlier this year. The truth is, however inconvenient it may be for some, there are babies born alive during late term abortion. At that point which holds the greater value: the woman’s right to choose or the baby’s right to life?

The trial of the abortion doctor is the most important part of this book and fills a considerable number of pages. The author spent 25 years practicing law but, with only minor exceptions, the proceedings are easy to understand. Although this is a Christian novel, BOTH sides of the case are presented in the form of prosecution and defense arguments. There is a lot of discussion regarding Roe v Wade, which was only nine years old at the time An Accidental Life is set. I had no idea which way the verdict would go until the end, which made me want to keep reading.

The parallel story in An Accidental Life is that of Rebecca learning she’s pregnant. She’s a career woman in a man’s world. At the start of the story, she and a female colleague are made the first female partners at the law firm where they work. Traditional attitudes regarding women in the workplace are still around, and Rebecca experiences the chauvinistic attitudes of her male colleagues as her pregnancy progresses. When her doctor tells her to limit her business travel, she wonders if she’ll still have a job after her baby is born. While these attitudes now seem backward and women can no longer be fired for being pregnant, there is no doubt that this was the norm. Given Ewen’s background, I can’t help but wonder if the narrative is based on her experiences in a male-dominated career field.

Thank you to B & H Publishing for my free electronic copy of An Accidental Life, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.

Click to hear Pamela give a reading about An Accidental Life

Publisher: B & H Publishing

Publication Date: 01 September 2013

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Pamela Binnings Ewen’s Website   B & H’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

Invisible, by Ginny Yttrup

Invisible book coverEllyn DeMoss — chef, café owner, and lover of butter — is hiding behind her extra weight. But what is she hiding? While Ellyn sees the good in others, she has only condemnation for herself. So when a handsome widower claims he’s attracted to Ellyn, she’s certain there’s something wrong with him. Sabina Jackson — tall, slender, and exotic — left her husband, young adult daughters, and a thriving counseling practice to spend a year in Northern California where she says she’s come to heal. But it seems to Ellyn that Sabina’s doing more hiding than healing. What’s she hiding from? Is it God? Twila Boaz has come out of hiding and is working to gain back the pounds she lost when her only goal was to disappear. When her eating disorder is triggered again, though she longs to hide, she instead follows God and fights for her own survival. But will she succeed? As these women’s lives intertwine, their eyes open to the glory within each of them as they begin to recognize themselves as being created in God’s image.

Invisible begins on a light note with Ellyn admitting her love of butter but concerned that she might just love the substance more than she loves God. It’s a comical question, but has a serious connotation: do we put material things – including food – before God? Going deeper, we learn that Ellyn is deeply ashamed of being overweight, feeling that she’s disappointing those around her because of her health issues. We don’t know how much she weighs, but perhaps the number doesn’t matter. Ellyn has a very negative self-image, thanks to events in her past. On the opposite end of the scale, we have Twila who is recovering from an Eating Disorder. Can these two be friends and see the truth of who they really are?

There are other characters in Invisible, such as Sabina and Miles, but I want to focus on Ellyn. Her story spoke personally to me. I might not care for butter but, even as I write this, I’ve got a bag of M&Ms in front of me. I’ve got to have the M&Ms. I understand the negative self-image Ellyn had and the difficulty in accepting praise from others. Whenever I’ve made a comment about needing to lose weight, I’ve always been laughed off and told that I look fine. (My husband is great at this.) But the numbers on the scale and in the magazines tell me a different story. They tell me I’m overweight, and there’s also that voice in my head from my past telling me I’m fat and laughing about it. I nodded my head in agreement at many moments in Invisible and, when I got to the section that reveals a pivotal moment in Ellyn’s past I gasped… and then I cried. I had thought I was alone, but a stranger has written a book that assured me I wasn’t.

Invisible looks at how we see ourselves, how the world sees us, and how God sees us. He created us in His image, so we must be pretty near perfect, right? But the devil sits on our shoulder, whispering in our ear, and making us think the opposite. He will especially target Christians to ensure we do have these insecurities about ourselves. Yes, this is a Christian novel and non-Christians may find it preachy, especially when Twila shares what she’s learned from her ED experiences. I actually think Twila would make a good preacher – she knew what she was talking about, and she’s caring too. If you’ve ever been down on yourself and fallen into the pit of despair, this is a book for you. Yes, it’s fiction and there’s no way I’ll change overnight, but it’s reminded me of where my focus should be at.

Thank you to B & H Books for my free electronic copy of Invisible, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.

Read Chapter 1 of Invisible 

Publisher: B & H Publishing

Publication Date: 01 April 2013

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Ginny Yttrup’s Website   B & H Publishing’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com