Stranded in Paradise by Lori Copeland

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Stranded in Paradise by Lori Copeland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Tess is looking forward to finally getting the career promotion she’s been working incredibly hard for, but she winds up getting fired instead. She figures her upcoming trip to Hawaii is just what she needs now to give her life a minute to get sorted out. But her tropical vacation leads to one disaster after another, including no less than a violent hurricane in Stranded in Paradise by author Lori Copeland.

This ChristFic novel of comical mishaps and a journey of discovery was once one of my favorite books. It takes a look into Tess’s difficult family life, ties back into the Golden Age of Hollywood, and a romance unfolds while Tess simultaneously gains a new perspective on bitterness and trust.

Yet, while I can appreciate the story’s central message(s), its style of delivery isn’t what I particularly go for these days. The book takes a lot of time teaching lessons on faith and salvation, and through stretches of the read, it does indeed feel more like a spiritual lesson with an evangelistic emphasis than it feels like a story. There are also a number of technical errors that slipped through the editing phase of the 2002 print edition I read, including some recurring errors surrounding the dialogue.

Even so, it’s an easy read with likable characters, and though my tastes in style have changed since I first read this book, it was nice to remember how and why the novel changed my life back then.

 

A Plan for Everything by Beverly Varnado

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

A Plan for Everything by Beverly Varnado

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Connie keeps her life sorted and scheduled with a meticulous agenda, including her plans to expand her coffee and ice cream shop into a catering business. But when a stranger comes to town to open a competing business, it could spell professional disaster for Connie in A Plan for Everything by author Beverly Varnado.

The vibrant blue and blend of the businesslike and small-town feel of the book cover drew me to this ChristFic novel I found categorized as a romance, but I wouldn’t call it that. In a romance novel, the romantic relationship is the story, while everything else is secondary. If the story could still be strong without the romantic element, or the major conflict/challenge of the plot could still work out if the main characters were just friends, it’s not really a romance.

Because Connie’s career and her fixated dependency on planning everything are the crux of the plot, I’d call this women’s fiction.

While the read didn’t give me the best sense of romantic chemistry, the small-town vibe, the friendships, and the power of “doing unto others” make quite an impact. The emotional development is a little thin and rushed at times, and the story could have used more subtlety—”showing” instead of “telling” as much—but the serious turns in the plot are compelling.

Other fans of contemporary stories of faith in practical life should enjoy this novel.

 

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by Ginger Garrett

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by Ginger Garrett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“We are all destroyed, everyone, in our lifetime, but few will rebuild. You must redeem your suffering, Esther.”

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by author Ginger Garrett is the fourth novel I’ve read based on the biblical book of Esther. After reading the story however many times in the Bible, enjoying three other novels, and watching four different film adaptations, yes, I’m still intrigued.

Even so, with a story that’s been retold so many times, in order for me to really get into a new-to-me retelling, it has to give me something the previous retellings haven’t given me already.

On that score, this novel delivered for me.

No, it’s not a romance novel, with King Xerxes painted as a shining romantic hero. And no, this book isn’t a rags-to-riches fairytale full of prettiness that ties everything up with a Happily Ever After bow at the end.

Nah.

This novel’s strength is in the way it tackles difficult, sacred tension. How it paints a bold but deft picture of schemes, depression, injustice, murder, and suicide in a realm of royalty and excess. How it addresses so many ironies, not the least of which is the pairing of power and imprisonment.

How it depicts the conflicting emotions of a young Jewish woman stolen from the life she loved. Stolen by a king.

Granted, I wasn’t too impressed with Esther’s voice in the first few chapters. (Perhaps it’s a reflection of her initial immaturity.) And given that she tells her story in diary entries, the plot development is choppy at times, and Esther’s limited vantage point hampers the development of some other characters. (For instance, seeing Haman from an additional perspective might have made his personality and villainy more convincing.)

Nevertheless, this substantive account of a woman in an impossible situation, using what resources she can to save her people, and even to empower women…

It’s beautiful. Inspiring. Timely, timeless—for such a time…

The king has asked for a whore; I will show him a queen.

______________

The latest cover of Chosen is pictured below, along with the rest of the Lost Loves of the Bible series.

 

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman by Teresa Warfield

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman by Teresa Warfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Medicine is a man’s field. Women aren’t allowed to attend medical school. Proper Bostonian ladies marry and become dutiful wives and mothers, not doctors. Michaela Quinn has heard it all, but medicine is her lifelong passion, and a physician is what she strives to become in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman by author Teresa Warfield.

Yup. It’s a novel based on characters from one of the best historical dramas to ever grace a television screen, a superb family show from Saturday night network television in the 1990s.

Still, I didn’t step into this read expecting to relive my beloved onscreen drama through it. Television is television and books are books—very different mediums for storytelling. So I let this historical fiction novel be what it is: a historical fiction novel.

It’s the coming-of-age story of an imperfect, ambitious heroine who has much to learn and must fight numerous frustrations and rejections to walk in her purpose. The tale includes Michaela’s vital relationship with her physician father, her difficult relationship with her conventional mother, her first romantic love, and of course, her early work on the path to becoming a doctor.

Some of the medical scenes are pretty graphic, but hey. The medical field isn’t for the faint of heart.

Now, the writing style is rather trite and redundant in places, the storyline rushes at times (indeed, there are a lot of years to cover), and I’m not sure the tale really concludes so much as it just goes along and eventually stops, pretty much where the television show begins. But the novel is rich in historical background and detail, with new inventions of the time, the heated sociopolitical climate in America, the Civil War, and the shifting landscape of medicine.

In all, a worthwhile read for this fan of inspiring historical fiction.

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Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Series