Upon Review: Mountain Girl by Jacalyn Wilson

March 14th, 2012

Mountain Girl by Jacalyn WilsonI love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to three review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes I have the privilege to review a book by an author I know or one who is brave enough to contact me for a review.

Jacalyn Wilson emailed me recently asking if I’d would review her Christian romance/mystery book Mountain Girl (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy), book 2 of a trilogy she has self-published through KDP. I was glad to find a mystery in this book as intriguing as in Heaven’s Mountain, though I’m not fond of romances. Still, as with In The Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner, I do my best to read the book in light of what a romance reader might enjoy.

Here is the description of Mountain Girl:

In the valley below Heaven’s Mountain lies the quiet town of Providence, where life and love and friends and mysteries continue to grow and flourish. 

Pardoned and released from prison after almost thirty years, James MacEwen is now a free man. But his freedom is not complete, for the years of incarceration still bind him, in ways he has yet to understand. Until he deals with the past he cannot fully live – or love – in the present.

Clare Morgan, the playful, gutsy owner of the boarding house, has been hoping for more than friendship from James, but her wait so far has been futile. And now, the arrival of a new boarder, the handsome Mr. English, has made her reconsider her options. She may choose not to wait any longer. 

While Grace and Ethan anticipate the arrival of their first child, there’s a growing tension between them over Ethan’s new job offer and Grace’s insistence on continuing her career in journalism. With neither of them wanting to compromise and with communication at a standstill, they must seek the truth behind their attitudes and be willing to submit – to each other and to God.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you don’t want to know about anything specific that happens in the book, please skip to The Overall… section.

The Good…

Jackie’s message of learning to let go of guilt was refreshing. I found myself often pausing and considering the questions posed in the book on the reasons behind why we allow ourselves to suffer those burdens when we should let them go and move forward in our lives.

The writing has greatly improved in this book with very little head hopping, as well as deeper character development. Grace and Ethan’s arguments over whether Grace will go back to work after the baby is born seem very much in keeping with the time period the story is set in.

The overall romance story between James and Clare is also nicely tied up at the end without any long, drawn-out scenes. In fact, I absolutely adored the scene where James discovers Tom isn’t involved with Clare. Priceless.

The Not-So-Good…

The biggest drawbacks in Mountain Girl, and this may sound odd coming from a former minister, were the number of prayer scenes. While it does show that prayer is an important part of our lives and gives some good examples of the simplicity of prayer, not one of them really helps move the story along.

My other disappointment was that the mystery was easily solved and didn’t appear until several chapters into the book. But, again, I’m not fond of romances so it was the mystery that held my interest more than the actual genre.

The Overall…

All in all, this is an excellent romance with just a hint of mystery. I would recommend Mountain Girl (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy) by Jacalyn Wilson to anyone who wants a comforting read.

Upon Review: Heaven’s Mountain by Jacalyn Wilson

February 1st, 2012

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to two review sites: Book Crash and Book Rooster, but sometimes I have the privilege to review a book by an author I know or one who is brave enough to contact me for a review.

Jacalyn Wilson emailed me recently asking if I’d would review her Christian romance/mystery book Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy), part of a trilogy she has self-published through KDP. I was intrigued by the idea of a Christian murder mystery, though I’m not fond of romances. Still, as with In The Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner, I do my best to read the book in light of what a romance reader might enjoy.

Here is the description of Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy):

On the possibility that an innocent man remains imprisoned for a murder committed thirty years ago, newspaper reporter Grace Turner embarks on a dangerous pursuit of the real killer. Her journey to the idyllic setting of Heaven’s Mountain turns out to be a quest not only for the story of a lifetime, but also for the emotional and spiritual healing of old wounds. Though attracted to handsome Ethan MacEwen, Grace subdues her desire for the young preacher, knowing that her animosity for the church precludes the possibility of anything more than friendship. Still, by the caprice of circumstance, when she finds herself obliged to work closely with him to uncover the truth, Grace discovers that her carefully constructed walls of protection cannot withstand the all-encompassing love of God.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you don’t want to know about anything specific that happens in the book, please skip to The Overall… section.

The Good…

There were two really good things about this book: 1) a thought-provoking Christian message on living a Christian life of forgiveness, and 2) a smart heroine.

If you’ve read my bio, you know I’m a former minister. Jackie’s message of how and why to forgive the church hit home for me, as I’m sure it can for many others who have left congregations because of things Christians have said or done. I found myself often pausing and considering the questions posed in the book on who is hurt by someone carrying a grudge.

Even through Grace’s unintended spiritual quest, she does a great job keeping her head on straight when faced with questionable circumstances. For instance, when a young friend calls to tell her he’ll give her the murder weapon if she will meet him at an abandoned mine at night, she immediately says no. He manages to change her mind, but she makes sure people know where she’s going. That’s smart. A lot of times in books, movies, and TV shows the heroine doesn’t bother, leaving me yelling at the woman and wanting to quit reading/watching right there.

The Not-So-Good…

Writers are always hearing the mantra “show, don’t tell.” While there’s plenty of showing in Heaven’s Mountain, there’s also a lot of telling. At times the reader is left outside the story, watching what’s going on, but not feeling it with the character. An example would be during the characters’ passage across a dangerous old bridge. Although I knew the scene would have been a terrifying experience, nothing in the characters’ actions made it seem so. If anything, it seemed as if this was nothing more than a Sunday picnic to them.

There’s also a bit of head-hopping during scenes. Sometimes a scene will begin with one character’s point of view and then will, within a sentence or two, jump to another’s POV. This can be a bit jarring, but it’s not a deal breaker.

I also felt the romance part took longer than necessary to tie up. There are several chapters after Grace and Ethan are rescued from the mine in which we see them on a date, speaking with family and friends regarding their feelings toward each other, etc. before the book ends with an epilogue. These were unnecessary chapters. I understand the need to show the two characters didn’t just jump into a heavy relationship the next day, but I think readers can figure that out on their own.

The Overall…

If you’re looking for a good, clean romance with a few thrilling scenes and with characters who make reasonably good decisions, I think you will enjoy Heaven’s Mountain (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy).

Upon Review: In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner

September 14th, 2011

Welcome to Spirit Wednesday where we take a look at all things spiritual from meditation to prayer to cleaning the house. Yes, even house work can be a spiritual experience… if you choose to see it that way.

In the Aeirie of the Wold available at Amazon.com

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to two review sites: Book Crash, which is where I found In the Aerie of the Wolf, and Book Rooster, where I discovered The Unfinished Song: Taboo (read my review here).

I’m usually pretty selective, too, because I don’t want to leave a ho-hum review for a book simply because it’s not in a genre I particularly enjoy. This time, however, I read the book description without paying attention to the genre and the result was… interesting. Here’s the description that sold me on In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner:

Set in 18th century England, our heroine Anne is betrothed to a man she’s never met and must leave behind her girlhood fantasies. When she arrives at the home of Lord Wolverton, Master of the Wolf’s Aerie, the mysteries and challenges of her new life cause her to seek Biblical wisdom and guidance concerning honor, integrity, and faithfulness. In this story of the discovery of true love, there is also danger, betrayal, and sword fighting and it all takes place in a castle complete with secret passageways.

I’m a sucker for mysteries and sword fights. I wish I’d realized before I started that this was historical romance. (Note to self: ALWAYS check the genre before requesting a review copy.) That being said, once I figured out what I was reading, it made actually enjoying the book a lot easier.

The mystery…

The beginning is somewhat slow as far as mysteries go (the dead body doesn’t show up until chapter 2) and easy to figure out, which is why I was confused from the start. Again, had I realized this was a romance and not a mystery, as the description seems to indicate, I certainly would have enjoyed the beginning more.

The romance…

In the Aerie of the Wolf is a standard historical romance. The romance itself is quite touching from the start. The historical elements were added with precision most of the time, though I thought the descriptions of objects could have been a little less detailed. And the end was just what was hoped for from the beginning. In fact, I, who abhor emotional displays, found myself reaching for a hankie as I read the end.

The Christian elements…

It’s important to me to review as many Christian books as I can because I write Christian books. I want to support my fellows and I want to learn what’s out there. What I’ve discovered thus far is a continuum from books that are thinly veiled attempts of Bible thumping (on the left) to books where Christian themes seem tacked on at the last minute (on the right).

In the Aerie of the Wolf swings between the two extremes, beginning at the right and swinging almost completely to the left by the end of the novel, with an extended dialogue between the two lovers where they quote scripture to each other. I’m all for using scripture in a Christian novel — sparingly. In the end I skimmed those parts.

Overall…

If you enjoy a good romance, one with strong Christian elements and a touching story, you will thoroughly enjoy In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner.

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Prayer can be as complex as we want or as simple as we need, but sometimes we need a little help getting started. In Simply Prayer you’ll discover the basics of: what prayer is, why we pray, how to pray, and how to know your prayers are answered. If you’re looking for ideas and examples on simple ways to pray you can find them in Simply Prayer, available in print, for KindleNook and audio book.