REVIEW: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Leni Allbright and her mother live at the mercy of her post-Vietnam war father, Ernt, who has serious PTSD. Set in the 1970s, the book follows the family in their move to remote Alaska after Ernt inherits land and a ramshackle cabin. Convinced that Alaska will make everything better, the family sets off posthaste for the northern frontier. Ernt, though, has demons that are impossible to overcome and drinking doesn’t help. He abuses his wife when he’s in a dark mood. Alaska has lots of dark, challenging times with the long, dark winters. That sets him off at even more regular intervals. Leni doesn’t know a different life, but as she grows through her teenage years, she is pretty sure that her family’s lifestyle is not to be emulated. Ernt kicks into survivalist mode with the help of like-minded neighbors in Alaska.
The bright spots of this book are Alaskan neighbor, Large Marge, along with the one room schoolhouse where Leni can escape sure the days. The school, though, is short on other teens as only 3 attend there. Matthew Walker becomes a pal for Leni and eventually ends up as her love interest.
This was a page-turner book with blackness on so many pages. The reader roots for Leni to escape the madness that is her home. Her mother is not blind to the abuse, but she is tangled in the cycles of her husband’s abuse; sure that he really loves them.

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Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.

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REVIEW: Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Book 2 of the series introduces new guests to the Curry Hotel in Alaska. Set in the mid to late 1920s, this volume tells primarily of the story of Katherine, a victim of domestic abuse and her childhood love, Jean-Michel Langelier. As a retired soldier, Jean-Michel suffers PTSD. Neither Katherine nor Jean-Michel knows if they can heal. The joy-filled, God-lead owner/operators at the Curry Hotel provide gentle guidance for these wounded souls. Other guests include young adult Collette Langelier, searching for purpose and more focus on a maturing Thomas, one of the hotel staff.  We also catch up with Cassidy, Allen, John and the head chef.
Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for an ARC for me to submit a review my own words.
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REVIEW: The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Judd  Markley heads away from West Virginia after surviving a coal mine collapse that took the life of his brother.  Judd vows to live out his brother’s dream to explore more of the world.  The trip takes Judd to Myrtle Beach where he quickly secures a job as a machine repair guy for the timber baron, Mr. Heyward.  Into the picture comes the boss’s daughter, Larkin.  She, though, has wanted for several years to leave Myrtle Beach and go to Appalachia to help the less fortunate that she is sure need her assistance.  Her brother, Bud, estranged from the family, has gone before her and she longs to find him and join him.

Larkin reaches her destination, but it is not quite as she expected.  It seems Larkin is the one who learns the lessons and her eyes become open to other ways of life that are enriching and fulfilling for its residents.

Predictably, Judd and Larkin fall in love.  Thankfully, though, the love story is fresh and doesn’t get stuck in a formula.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.

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REVIEW: Perennials by Julie Cantrell

Lovey (Eva) is called home to Oxford, Mississippi about 2-3 weeks in advance of her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. She knows there is a big party coming as she’s been working on it with her sister, Bitsy. However much she loves her parents, Lovey has been at odds with her sister since their teen years. Now in their mid to late 40s, the sisters are still grating on each other. Lovey resents Bitsy’s stance which keeps Lovey away from home and away from her niece and nephew whom she adores. Without a husband or family of her own, Lovey has tried to build a different life in Arizona. Professionally, she is a success. in love, though, she’s a mess.

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Back at home at her parents’ request, Lovey reunites with her high school love through a landscaping project Lovey’s dad (Chief) outlined. Unfortunately the love is involved with another mutual acquaintance and that complicates things.
I know this sounds like a romance, but I would say it’s more about the marital love of Lovey’s parents, parental love, the missing sibling love between Lovey and Bitsy, and Lovey’s need to accept her situation and release herself from expectations.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing me with an ARC for a review in my own words.

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REVIEW: Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

Set in San Antonio, this book covers about a month’s worth of time. During the story Lizbeth is approached inappropriately by Bushnell. This leads her literally to the room of Ethan. Ethan and Lizbeth met, though only he knows it, during the War when Ethan’s team was scavenging for supplies for the Confederacy. She has haunted his dreams for the years inbetween; he is surprised to run into her in San Antonio.

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Devin and Julianne may be star-crossed lovers; their backgrounds are quite different. But, the book keeps emphasizing that war changes everyone.

The antagonist in the story is Bushnell; a fellow Confederate soldier who has been a pain to Ethan and Devin for many years. To wrap up the trilogy of the four soldiers, Devin and Ethan call on Robert Truax and Thomas Baker to help them settle the score with Bushnell.

Thanks to Zondervan for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.

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REVIEW: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Zoe Collins returns to Copper Creek with the settlement of her grandmother’s estate.  The timing is excellent as she is thinking of getting away, at least for a while, from her music partner and captor, Kyle. Going home, though, means reckoning with her stoic father and adopted brother, Brady. Oh, and let’s not forget high school boyfriend Cruz Huntley who has never won her father’s favor.   At 24, though, Zoe can call her own shots and she decides to try and work her grandmother’s orchard.  

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.

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REVIEW: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Great story of Sarah and her failed marriage, reconstructed life, and call to Christianity and salvation. Sarah comes into her own as the author of sultry romance novels. However, her blossoming romance with the new church pastor (Ben) creates waves with her past following them both. Put into the story some unrequited love from an old flame of the pastor and you have a recipe for disaster. However, with God squarely in the mix, there is hope for a God-filled love story.

Thanks to Revell Company for providing me an ARC for a review in my own words.

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