The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

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. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Amelia and her fiancé James had planned to marry right away, but she hears that he’s been killed in the war, shot down with his plane. Hence, Amelia can’t legally claim the benefits of a war widow, even when she gives birth to James’s child, Jimmy. With nowhere else to turn, Amelia seeks out James’s parents–even though they don’t know that she and Jimmy exist in The Christmas Blessing by author Melody Carlson.

I’ve enjoyed a few World War II Christmas novellas in the past. Without reading much of the blurb for this one, I took a gander at the soft, Christmassy book cover and decided to check it out.

I think this story has much that fans of nostalgic WWII fiction will enjoy. The plot is serious, but not too heavy, and the holiday theme is strong. Except for the very end, which may be somewhat rushed, I found the pacing to be steady, even a bit slow at points, as characters stop to think or re-think things over maybe a little more than necessary. However, I can appreciate a complete tale on the shorter side that doesn’t hurry through or skimp on all the important parts.

There’s some “info-dumping” in the opening conversation, and although it’s not unrealistic for a woman in Amelia’s position to cry a lot, her sobbing loses some of its effect on the page when it happens over and over. Also, I hope this isn’t something widely common that I’m just starting to notice in general now, but it seems that far too many sentences in the story begin with the word “And,” until it feels monotonous. I’m not sure if this issue appears in the final version of the book; I read an ARC.

Overall, it was refreshing to find a holiday tale that wasn’t completely predictable to me, and I think many other ChristFic readers will like this one.

 

Advertisements

Child of the River by Irma Joubert

historical-books-4

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. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

child-of-the-riverChild of the River by Irma Joubert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

They were fighting for survival, she knew. Because their complexions were dark, their religion considered heathen, their traditions unfamiliar.
Had she been foolish to take on this battle?

Growing up as a poor, white daughter of sharecroppers in South Africa during World War II, it seems that Pérsomi will have few options in life. When an unexpected chance at education opens up to her, it brings her into a new world of possibilities. But at this time of heightening social unrest in her country, her new world may be a difficult place to make a difference in Child of the River, a novel by author Irma Joubert.

Pérsomi is an intelligent heroine full of quiet yearning, and my favorite parts of the story are when her simple, unlikely courage comes to the fore. She has a heart for seeking justice, and for better or for worse, that heart is put to the test in the face of apartheid. Also, as I’ve read a number of novels that deal with WWII, it was interesting to observe some effects of the war from Pérsomi’s part of the globe.

However, when it came to much of her personal life, I found the novel pretty hard to read. Yes, any strong story needs some sort of believable conflict, challenge, or adversity from which to create a plot. But when a book starts to feel like a downer overall, it usually isn’t my cup of tea. It seems this story goes from generally sober, then to gloomy, and then to downright depressing, without enough moments of light or fire to balance it out for me. Once I reached the end of the book, I wasn’t quite sure if the conclusion was a natural outcome or if it was something to placate me, more or less, after all the gloom.

Still, admiring and relating to this flawed but able heroine kept me intrigued enough to stick with her story.

 

Prague: My Long Journey Home by Charles Ota Heller

Memoir Books 3

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. Online Book Club provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

prague

Prague: My Long Journey Home: A Memoir of Survival, Denial, and Redemption by Charles Ota Heller

Autobiography/Memoir

Here’s an account that is at once informative, layered, heartrending, and inspiring.

The author, originally from Czechoslovakia, tells a story of World War II, the Holocaust, and immigration to the United States from his perspective. I must say, one point among many that I found interesting was the author’s comparison of the treatment of Jewish people in the occupied country he left to the treatment of people of color in the U.S.

I’d recommend this memoir to readers of biographies and narrative nonfiction, but more broadly, I believe that anyone who values remembering and learning from history can appreciate this book.

Reviewed at OnlineBookClub.org with 4 out of 4 stars. Do take a look.

 

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

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 Moody Publishers for an honest review.

Four Silver Stars

Feast for ThievesFeast for Thieves: A Rowdy Slater Novel by Marcus Brotherton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

“And if you don’t last the year…I’ll hunt you down and crush you with the full weight of the law. But–” he cleared his throat, “belly chains and leg irons seem like an awful waste of a man with your potential for success.”

Thus, young World War II veteran, Rowdy Slater, is faced with the choice of either going to jail for bank robbery or serving one year as a town minister in author Marcus Brotherton’s novel, Feast for Thieves.

Rowdy is a down-to-earth, flawed protagonist one can sympathize, even empathize, with, as he says what he thinks in unpretentious English, and perhaps he wouldn’t have found himself on the wrong side of the law here in Cut Eye, Texas if it’d been easier for him, and other men like him, to earn a living after the war. His first sermon in church had me cracking up, and I never would’ve imagined myself saying this before, but, man, I enjoyed the bar fights!

Of course, not all of the violence in the novel is fun and games, not by a long shot, and a certain, dire secret of Rowdy’s just about made my whole heart ache. Now, my interest in his story occasionally waned as he’d take a lot of time getting around to the point or importance of a scene, and his pattern of expression became redundant here and there. I was also a little puzzled at his late reference to a “fisherman from Nazareth,” as I wondered if he actually meant a carpenter or a craftsman.

Still, it’s a rather gritty and relatable depiction of a changing man, with an ending more than open enough to call for a continuation. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Rowdy Slater, and I think other fans of historical fiction with grit and faith wouldn’t mind it, either.