To the Farthest Shores, by Elizabeth Camden

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

The unpredictability of her upbringing prepared army nurse Jenny Bennett to face any challenge at the Presidio Army base, but the sudden reappearance in her life of the dashing naval officer who broke her heart six years ago is enough to rattle even her. 

Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher is one of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring government mission overseas–an assignment that destroyed his reputation and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor-bound never to reveal where he was during those years, he can’t tell Jenny the truth, or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk.

Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution to his impossible situation, but he needs Jenny’s help. While her loyalty to her country compels her to agree, she was too badly hurt to fall for Ryan again despite his determination to win her back. When an unknown threat from Ryan’s past puts everything at risk–including his life–can they overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them in time?

First Thoughts:

Give me an Elizabeth Camden novel and I’ll read it. I’ve enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read.

My Take:

To the Farthest Shores is a novel about cultivating pearls, Japanese social graces, and a woman trying to compete with a ghost. Ryan Gallagher returns from an extended mission in Asia with a young daughter and a mountain of mystery surrounding him. Other soldiers call him a coward and vandalize his home but, even though he abandoned her, Jenny stands up for him without knowing where he was or what he was doing. When he asks for her nursing skills to assist a colleague, she agrees but is canny enough to add a few conditions to the assignment. Her adoptive father joins the small group in a remote coastal town, where Ryan is attempting to perfect the art of cultivating pearls.

Although I’m a fan of Elizabeth Camden, this won’t go down as one of my favorite novels by her. I didn’t care much for the two main characters. I’d have been okay if it hadn’t had the required happy ending. The supporting characters were more interesting: Ryan’s daughter was a sweetie, Jenny’s father was intriguing, and I wouldn’t mind another story about Ryan’s colleague, Finn. I also had a problem with so much of the back story being told in block paragraphs. Flashback scenes might’ve appealed to me more. I did, however, learn what a cultured pearl is after having heard the term for so long. I also doubt this’ll be the last Elizabeth Camden book I’ll read. I’m sure I’ll read A Dangerous Legacy when it comes out in October.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of To the Farthest Shores, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read To the Farthest Shores? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Author Q & A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 04 April 2017

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Elizabeth Camden’s Website   Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Valley of the Dry Bones, by Jerry B. Jenkins

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

In The Valley of the Dry Bones, Jerry B. Jenkins overlays the ancient End Times prophecies of Ezekiel onto the landscape of modern California. After a 17-year drought, multiple earthquakes, and uncontrollable wildfires, the state is desolate. The United States President declares the state uninhabitable and irreparable, directing California’s 39 million citizens to relocate. From the air, California looks like a vast abandoned sand box, but to a few groups of people, it’s their home. With less than 1% of the population remaining in California at their own risk, the holdouts encounter a clash of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and politics that pits friend against friend with the future of California at stake.

My Take:

I hoped for great things from The Valley of the Dry Bones despite the limited information available regarding it. On the back of the book it said, “The leader of The Holdouts becomes convinced he’s heard directly from God himself,” and, “The result is a finish you’ll never forget.” On Worthy’s website, there’s also a mention of terrorism. I presumed I would get a book that built in suspense until there was a powder keg of an explosion at the end.

In the notes I made while reading I’d written, “Starts slowly.” On reflection, however, I think the prologue is probably the paciest part of the entire novel. There’s an accident which becomes a tragedy, and an innocent child’s testimony. The narrative then moves four years ahead and then another six years, and what happens immediately after the accident is only revealed later through conversation between the characters. There’s a lot of conversation between characters and what isn’t revealed in those exchanges is given to the readers via backstory.

I wanted this book to be so much more than it is. I wanted tension and excitement.  But I found the writing to be bland, without seasoning. I put the book down at one point, and was reluctant to pick it back up. I actually read another book before I resumed reading. There was no change in tempo, even during scenes which should’ve been exciting, and little to flesh out the characters. I had to do some external research to understand a conversation about another religion because I was unable to join the dots the way the characters apparently did. It began to get interesting towards the end, but the actual ending was anticlimactic and I was left wondering what the point was. The Valley of the Dry Bones could’ve been the start of a fascinating series, especially if it had been fleshed out more, but the one page epilogue makes clear that this novel is a one-off.

Thank you to Worthy Publishing for my complimentary copy of The Valley of the Dry Bones, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Valley of the Dry Bones? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Worthy Publishing

Publication Date: 31 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Jerry B. Jenkins’ Website   Worthy’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Broken Ground, by Karen Halvorsen Schreck

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.

My Take:

I am an immigrant to the United States. I became a naturalized citizen in 2010. I say this because my experience has influenced my opinions on the subject and, particularly, on migrants across the country’s southern border. I had a feeling that Broken Ground might take me out of my comfort zone and test some of those opinions. Since I’d enjoyed Schreck’s previous novel, Sing for Me, I decided I would give this novel a go.

I’m glad that I did. Once again, Schreck has created a thought-provoking work about social differences in 20th century America. The book’s first chapter describes the stark reality of Ruth’s life living with her husband on the Texan oil fields. They are poor and have little more than a shack, but they love each other and dream of a better life. The entire narrative is written in the present tense and in the first person, which means we experience everything the same time as Ruth does. It was difficult to read this part because I knew what was coming and Ruth sounded so happy. When everything changed, we’re plunged into Ruth’s grief. Ruth’s experiences take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions as she journeys from Texas to California via Oklahoma and goes from being a wife to a widow to a student to an activist. There’s sadness, shock, disappointment, and anger, but there are also sweet moments of joy.

This is an aspect of American history I had previously known nothing about. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘left’ to what happened; these acts took place during both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. I was stunned by the knowledge that even American citizens were sent to a country they didn’t know if they couldn’t provide paperwork. Sometimes, it didn’t even matter if they had the correct papers. Today, it’s easy to see the attitudes of some of the characters are racist and chauvinistic but these were considered normal during the 1930s. There’s no happy ending to Broken Ground either. Actually, the ending is rather ambiguous with elements of despair and hope. But it’s an incredible novel, and one that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about long after posting this review.

Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary copy of Broken Ground, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Broken Ground? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Publication Date: 03 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Karen Halvorsen Schreck’s Website   Howard’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com