Thursday, February 28, 2013

REVIEW: SURRENDER THE DAWN ~ MARYLU TYNDALL


Cassandra Channing once had it all; a loving family and a privileged life.  But the war of 1812 stripped her family of their wealth and ripped her family apart, and in the absence of her father and brothers it falls to Cassandra to take care of her family.  With precious little money left, Cassandra realises the only way she can provide for her family, without getting married simply for security, is to invest in a privateer.  The only problem is, the men of Baltimore refuse to do business with a woman. 

Luke Heaton has always had a hard life.  Bearing the guilty of his parents’ death, Luke has gone through life taking pleasure wherever he could find it.  Notorious for his love of women, gambling and drink, Luke is the undisputed rogue of Baltimore.  When his drinking gets out of hand, Luke is fired from Noah Brennin’s ship.  When all seems lost, Luke wins a ship of his own through his gambling.  Unfortunately the ship is not fit for privateering and nobody in Baltimore will risk going into business with the likes of Luke. 

With no other option available to either of them, brought together by mutual desperation, Luke and Cassandra become partners.  Cassandra provides the initial funding, and Luke sets about making both of them a fortune in privateering.  It seems their partnership is doomed from the beginning; the people of Baltimore are scandalised that a proper lady like Cassandra would consciously be associated with the town rogue, and outside forces work together to see them fail – the man who will do anything to secure Cassandra’s hand in marriage (including sabotaging her precious investment and forcing her to live a life dependent on a husband), and the man who will do anything to exact revenge on the man who “stole” his ship (including setting Luke up to be caught by the British Navy - again). 

Despite the uncertainty and danger that surrounds them, despite the rules of propriety that must separate them, Luke and Cassandra grow closer as they get to know each other.  Luke discovers Cassandra is not the aloof socialite he always saw her to be, but a brave, intelligent, compassionate woman, and Cassandra realises that Luke’s tough exterior hides a wounded soul with a generous heart.  Despite Luke’s belief that Cassandra is out of his league, the way she sometimes looks at him makes him wonder; is it possible that against all odds, Baltimore’s most eligible beauty could come to love the town rogue? 

Just when it seems a happy future is secure, extreme circumstances force Luke to turn traitor and aid the British with supplies, risking everything and everyone he holds dear.  Can he hide his treacherous activities from a woman as smart as Cassandra? 

When the money sustaining her family dries up and Cassandra must seriously consider marrying a man she cannot stand, she sets about finding out what Luke is really up to.  If she were to find out Luke was a traitor, would she ever be able to forgive him?  And more importantly, when Luke and Cassandra are separated and placed in the most dangerous of circumstances, when they feel the most deserted, is that when they will finally come to realise that they have never been deserted at all?  Can the God they both believe has forsaken them use them to make history? 


MaryLu Tyndall’s Surrender The Dawn is the third and final book of the Surrender To Destiny series.  It follows Surrender The Heart, and occurs more or less simultaneously with Surrender The Night.  In this instalment we follow Luke and Cassandra, both of whom we have met in the previous two books.

Tyndall’s writing effortlessly combines action, intrigue, romance and faith.  Once again she combines fact and fiction so perfectly, it's very easy to believe Luke Heaton and Cassandra Channing truly existed and had a special role to play in the war of 1812.  Luke and Cassandra’s relationship is very accurately depicted considering the time, and the rules of propriety that goes with it.  The obstacles between them are very real; the struggles they face in their daily lives, their relationship and their faith is very realistic, making both Luke and Cassandra very real, relatable characters. Their doubts and fears don't make them weak - it makes them real and believable.  While their desire to love and be loved is powerful, their respective unnamed and unacknowledged desires for a relationship with the God they believe doesn't care about them is the most touching part of the story.  The way God provides for them, cares for them and protects them (even when they can't see it) is beautifully done, and their tentative first steps in the direction of the Lord is a joy to experience.

Tyndall’s flawless imagery takes you back to 1812, and places the reader in the middle of the war.  As she describes events you can feel the cold, smell the smoke and experience the devastation.  Equally, she makes you feel the passion, the joy and the elation in equal measure.  Tyndall’s writing is always a pleasure to read and this instalment is no exception. 

Surrender The Dawn is a lovely conclusion to the Surrender To Destiny series.



Product information:
Title: Surrender the Dawn
Author: MaryLu Tyndall
Number of pages: 320
Publisher: Barbour Books
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 1602601674
ISBN-13: 978-1602601673

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

REVIEW: THE BOOK, THE VOW ~ KIM AND KRICKITT CARPENTER



After only ten short weeks of married life, newlyweds Kim and Krickitt Carpenter were in a horrific car accident.  Kim was badly injured, but relatively stable.  Krickitt, on the other hand, was in very critical condition – she was given less than a 1% chance to live.  Shortly after being admitted to hospital, a doctor brought Krickitt’s personal affects to Kim and told him “I’m sorry”.  For a few horrible moments Kim was under the impression that his wife was dead – she wasn’t; the doctors just believed that her death was imminent and inevitable. 

In The Vow Kim lists several miracles that happened on that day, that led to both of them surviving the accident (which in itself is a miracle).  Continued prayer, unwavering faith, and the grace of God saw Krickitt improving daily to the amazement of hospital staff.  Soon Krickitt awoke and Kim was thrilled – until it became clear his wife had no idea who he was.  The brain injuries Krickitt sustained in the accident caused amnesia; Krickitt’s mind was wiped clean of the previous 18 months of her life – including the time she met, fell in love with and married her husband. 

Kim and Krickitt's car after the accident

At first Krickitt found the notion of marriage to a stranger unbelievable, but her family’s insistence, Kim’s refusal to leave her side and eventual perusal of the wedding pictures and the wedding video soon convinced Krickitt that she was truly married to this man she did not know.  Unlike “Krickitt” in the movie, from the moment Krickitt accepted the fact that Kim was her husband, her belief was that God had brought Kim into her life for a reason, and her attitude was one of “I fell in love with this man before, I can do it again”.  As soon as she was physically able, she left her family and moved back to Las Vegas into her and Kim’s apartment.  She was committed to making her marriage work, even though she could not remember her husband. 

Kim and Krickitt don’t pretend their whole story was a fairytale.  It was very hard for them to readjust.  Kim expected Krickitt to be the woman he fell in love with, and Krickitt had no idea who she had once fallen in love with – since her accident Kim had been more of a coach, and even a parent, than a romantic partner.  They had a lot of fights, a lot of hurtful things were said, and while divorce was never an option for either of them, Kim did consider living separate lives – they just couldn’t seem to get along.  After about a year and a half Kim finally had the realisation that his wife can’t love him if she doesn’t know who he is – and she doesn’t.  All along he had been hoping that she would remember him, and he had expected her to go back to the way things were.  Realising that Krickitt had no memories to build a life on, and that she could possibly never get those memories back, Kim started courting his wife all over again.  Kim and Krickitt started dating again, and built a new relationship with new memories.  Kim proposed anew, and Kim and Krickitt had a recommitment ceremony – all so that Krickitt could have memories of dating, falling in love, being engaged and getting married.

It is now 18 years later.  Krickitt has not recovered her lost memories of her husband, and Kim and Krickitt have accepted the fact that she probably never will.  Nevertheless, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter held tight to the vow they made to each other before God, fell in love all over again and couldn’t be happier today.  Their vow and their relationships with God is the foundation they built their new life on.  Today they are blessed with two children and a wonderful, healthy marriage.  They are quick to tell everyone that God is the hero in their story, and they use any and every platform available to them to share their story.  They give all glory to God.

Kim and Krickitt at the premier of The Vow (the movie) 

The Vow is a wonderful, inspirational account of how God kept his hand over Kim and Krickitt during their car accident, during their recovery period and ultimately for the duration of their marriage.  

Why the movie of the same name even bothered to claim it was inspired by true events, I have NO idea.  Solely the fact that the couple in the movie divorce tramples all over the heart and soul of this story.  Apart from this major deviation, the only thing the movie has in common with Kim and Krickitt's story, is Krickitt's Paige's amnesia following a car accident, and Kim's Leo's attempt to make his wife fall in love with him all over again.  Kim and Krickitt have stated that they are disappointed the couple in the movie was stripped of their Christianity - the power of God was the whole point of them sharing their story, and that was completely left out of the project.  I would be terribly disappointed if it were me - Hollywood made a complete disaster of what could have been an amazing, inspiring love story.  

Kim and Krickitt Carpenter- how the movie came to be


Product Information:
Title: The Vow
Author: Carpenter
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Year: 2013
Pages: 194
ISBN-10:
143367579X
ISBN-13978-1433675799
ASIN: B0077T2BHM


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TYNDALE BLOG NETWORK REVIEW: RESCUE TEAM ~ CANDACE CALVERT


As a teenager Kate Callison ran away – from home, from hope, from God; she never really stopped running.  Amidst a daily battle of keeping her emotions from coming to the surface and keeping her past from catching up with her, Kate faces even greater challenges at her new job where she must fill the shoes of Sunni Sprague, the missing Director of the Emergency Department at Austin Grace Hospital.  Sunni was beloved by all she came in contact with, and from the very first day Kate finds it a fairly impossible task to fill Sunny’s saintly shoes.  Taking over this position would have been a challenge for any newcomer – but for cool Kate, who keeps a firm wall between her and her staff, becoming well-liked and securing permanent employment is a battle she might not be able to win.  But then, Kate is not looking for permanence anyway… is she?

Wes Tanner loves nothing better than to rescue the lost – whether it be physically or spiritually.  He devotes most of his free time to several rescue teams, eager to tell people “You’re not lost anymore”.  When he meets Kate Callison, the prickly beauty with the sad eyes who rarely smiles and never laughs, he meets a challenge he cannot walk away from.  Whether Kate is willing to admit it or not, she needs rescuing – and he is just the man for the job.

When a tragedy in the hospital brings Kate’s past screaming back, the whole Department is under scrutiny and jobs are on the line.  The only good thing to come out of the whole mess is a tentative relationship between Kate and Wes. 

Unable to let Kate continue living in the emotionless existence she has carved out for herself to keep the pain away, Wes slowly introduces Kate to life in Texas, delicately courts her heart and gently nudges her towards reconciliations with her father and God.  Though Kate is still skittish, life is good.  Wes claims to accept Kate just as she is, but when her past unexpectedly collides with his own, can Wes overcome his own demons and forgive Kate’s biggest mistake?  Or will Kate’s haunting past also destroy her future? 


Rescue Team by Candace Calvert is the second book in the Grace Medical series.  We first met Kate in Trauma Plan and it was clear that she had a lot of emotional baggage she had to deal with.  Her tendency to ignore colleagues’ emotional distress and place the good of the Hospital first was also introduced in Trauma Plan, and it was a joy to experience Kate’s growth in Rescue TeamCalvert pays great attention to realistic, beautiful character development – something I value in authors.  This makes Calvert one of my new favourites.

What I love most about Calvert’s work is that while her plotlines are very realistic, her characters are even more so.  I believe them, and I believe in them.  Kate and Wes are wonderful characters that complement each other perfectly.  Kate is the wounded one who thinks she’s undeserving of love, who refuses to turn to a God she is sure will reject her; but inside her is a tiny spark of hope that refuses to be extinguished.  While she generally puts on a front of a strong, independent, all-business woman, Wes glimpses the repressed Kate in unguarded moments – a vulnerable and lonely woman desperate for the love and acceptance she insists she doesn't need. 

Wes is a kind, humble gentleman of great faith, but he has a dangerous tendency to be judgmental and unforgiving regarding a certain topic.  His intense (and sometimes unreasonable) anger was disturbing to witness, but it kept him from being too perfect.  This effectively illustrated that even the most devoted Christians struggle with sin and have issues to overcome.  Nobody is perfect – we all need Christ’s guidance, forgiveness and redemption. 

Kate’s plight was especially well depicted.  My stomach was in knots whenever she experienced pain related to her past, and I cried with her when it became too much to bear.  Calvert effortlessly places the reader in the shoes of her characters, making the reading experience a very emotional affair.

Aside from Kate and Wes, Rescue Team also features wonderful supporting characters who make the story even stronger and more entertaining.  The Austin Texas landscape was wonderfully described without becoming superfluous.  The book as a whole is a combination of all the right ingredients, perfectly combined to present a wonderful journey about letting go and letting God.  Past hurts and mistakes can drag us down and keep us down.  Rescue Team reminds us of the importance of letting go of the past and entrusting our futures to an Almighty God who can make the most beautiful mosaic of the shattered pieces of our lives.

Rescue Team by Candace Calvert is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys a good love-story, medical fiction and/or stories of hope.  I enjoyed every single page, and would recommend this book to… just about anyone, truthfully.  I can’t think of anyone who would not enjoy the Grace Medical series.  Calvert has already finished the next book in the Grace Medical series, First Responder.  Sadly, publication is only expected in 2014.  Since I’m late to the Candace Calvert party (shame on me!) I can at least soothe myself by reading Calvert’s previous series in the interim.   Mercy Hospital, here I come!


Product information:
Title: Rescue Team
Author: Candace Calvert
Number of pages: 384
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Year: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4143-6112-3

Tyndale House Publishers has kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my review.  I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review, nor did this review lead to any personal gain other than the joy of being part of the Tyndale Blog Network. 

Candace Calvert


Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse who believes that love, laughter, and faith are the best medicines.  Calvert came to know God after the triple whammy that changed her life: “A painful and unexpected divorce, the Northern California floods of 1997, and an equestrian accident that left her with fractured ribs, a bleeding lung, broken back, neck fractures and a spinal cord injury". She’ll tell you that God took drastic measures to get her attention. She is a wife, mother and proud grandmother living in Northern California.



Friday, February 1, 2013

REVIEW: WHEN A HEART STOPS ~ LYNETTE EASON


A killer's deadly game needs new players... but someone's about to change the rules.

Medical examiner Serena Hopkins is used to dealing with death, but her composure is put to the test when a familiar modus operandi marks the piling bodies; the stakes become higher as it becomes apparent that a serial killer copycat is on the loose.  Another chilling common denominator is the fact that the victims are all members of Serena’s High School graduating class, getting ready to celebrate their 10 year reunion.  Serena knows a very dangerous game is being played and she might very well be in danger herself.  Nearly as unnerving is the presence of FBI agent Dominic Allen, her best friend’s brother and childhood crush, lead investigator on the case.

As the bodies and the evidence pile up, Serena and Dominic must work together to find a pattern and stop the killer before he strikes again.  When Serena catches the killer’s eye and a game of cat and mouse ensues, Dominic must face the reality that the girl he once ignored because he believed he wasn’t good enough for her, has become the woman he is falling in love with.  When Serena finds herself in serious danger, she must determine if the secret that she has been keeping is what has put her next on the killer's hit list. Can she trust Dominic with the truth before it's too late?


Lynette Eason’s When A Heart Stops is the second book in the Deadly Reunions series.  As with When The Smoke Clears I really enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the first, simply because the detail this time around wasn’t as solid as in book 1.  I’m big on detail and consistency, and as with Eason’s older works I found myself questioning consistency;  for example something as simple as the location where Serena left her car (Eason missed a great opportunity here, by the way – I found myself waiting for an explosion of a car bomb.  It was set up perfectly, but didn’t happen – this is not Eason’s fault, though, but my own.  My imagination is just way too fertile).  Regardless, I still believe Eason’s writing is becoming more solid and the Deadly Reunions series is still way better than the Women Of Justice series.  The works of solving a case, as well as Serena's work as a medical examiner, is portrayed very realistically, and the case is gripping.
  
While I really like Dominic and Serena, the character development isn’t as strong this time around compared to the growth Alexia undergoes in When The Smoke Clears.  Dominic’s feelings towards his and Alexia’s father, for example, isn’t explored thoroughly. Furthermore the focus on faith isn't quite as prominent this time around either, which is something I missed.

From the very first page the killer's focus is on tormenting two best friends.  Therefore, I would have expected the killer to ultimately focus on Serena and Alexia; however *spoiler alert* he focuses on Serena and a teenage girl instead.  While it is always a good thing for an author when their work is not predictable, this did not make sense to me.  I also think if Serena and Alexia were the ones in trouble the tension and suspense could have been remarkable.  Eason had so many great possibilities that she just did not use.

Eason also set up two potentially important storylines, but didn’t follow through; first, Serena had decided to set herself up as bait for the killer, but things worked out differently – baiting the killer would have been a much more thrilling thread to follow than the one Eason ended up using; so much potential for suspense!  Also, a significant part of Serena and Dominic’s relationship hinges on the fact that Serena doesn’t want to be with a man like her father, and at times Dominic reminds her of her father too much.  This is Serena’s greatest doubt concerning Dominic, and it (as well as the dynamic between Serena’s parents) is something Dominic picks up on.  This setup pointed to an inevitable choice, yet it is one Serena never addresses.  There is not a conclusion to this question mark and it is something that still hangs over Serena and Dominic at the end.  Perhaps Eason will address this issue in When A Secret Kills, the next and final instalment of the Deadly Reunions series.

It will follow Serena and Alexia’s friend, Jillian Carter, as she finally returns home to face the demons that have been chasing her for ten years.  I look forward to finally finding out what Jillian saw that put her life in danger.  When A Secret Kills will be released in May 2013.



Product Information:
Title: When A Heart Stops
Author: Lynette Eason
Number of pages: 336
Publisher: Revell
Year: 2012
ISBN: 0800720083
ISBN13: 9780800720087

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