Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Art of Rivers by Janet W. Ferguson


The Art of Rivers by Janet W. Ferguson


Release date : June 30, 2019


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow. Just wow. I'm really blown away by this novel in so many ways. Being my first experience with Janet Ferguson's writing, I wasn't sure what exactly to expect, but this is one I would love to share with just about everyone I come in contact with. My heart is really filled to bursting with the hope and passion embodied in this story. I fell in love with the real, broken characters Ferguson created and followed their journey with bated breath every step of the way. If you have known or loved someone who struggles with addiction or grief, put this on the top of your must-read list.

When her fiancé is brutally murdered, Rivers Sullivan is forced to continue on with life, including the chore of cleaning up the estate left to him in St. Simons Island. An art therapist, Rivers is used to helping people walk through trauma, but her journey to healing might take more than the training she's received to aid others. A difficult task gets harder when she arrives at the beach cottage and gallery to find more baggage waiting for her, along with some characters that will challenge the constructs she's developed and test her faith.


James Cooper Knight has been haunted by his past for half of his life. His ghosts fresh, pushing him to dedicate his life to rescuing people from addiction and the dangers of the coast, but when he stumbles upon a strange woman, his life gets upended in ways he never thought possible. Tragedy has left a glaring mark on both James and Rivers, making them wary, but connecting them on a level they never could have imagined. Unfortunately, the pain they share could also be the force that drives them apart.


Characters


A painter who uses her gifts as an art therapist, lives a charmed life, engaged to Jordan Alexander Barlow III. Rivers has the perfect life until everything goes horribly wrong in a vicious attack that leads to the death of the man she was going to marry. Struggling to make sense of the hows and whys, she takes a leave of absence to attend to her fiancé's affairs, specifically the house he inherited from his grandmother. As Rivers navigates this new life, she has to deal with the questions that accompany her circumstances. When she meets James "Cooper" Knight, the attraction is quickly combated by her distrust and resentment of his past. Cooper struggles with guilt, the kind that drives you to live a life dictated by fear and an overwhelming drive to earn grace. Both characters are beautifully written - deep, with facets that come alive as they play off of one another and deal with their predispositions and world views.

Characters seem to have a great, consistent relationship with the Lord. The fact that he's intertwined into every struggle they face and they have constant exchanges with him in prayer leads to a good consistency in the book.

The men talk and think like real, honest to goodness bro-dude men. Very straight forward and to the point. First noticing visual, trying to be honorable, sometimes brash, sometimes a little poetic, but not over the top - very accurate portrayal for the artist-type without being frilly. The women are strong and passionate and emotional without feeling fickle or flippant.


Character Inspiration



Naomi Watts as Rivers Sullivan
Thomas Beaudoin as James "Jay" Cooper Knight


Plot


When her fiancé is murdered and she barely escapes the same fate, Rivers Sullivan is left to pick up the pieces of her life, and those left behind by the man she had hoped to spend the rest of her life with. One year later, she finds herself in Georgia sorting through an inheritance she didn't want. When she discovers that the new-to-her art gallery is being run by a recovering addict, aided by others from a nearby Sobriety House, her demons come back to attack her once again.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time being really in-depth in my analyses when I get invested in a book. Pretty much the only note I was able to make myself make was "great flow" because I simply couldn't put the book down. I never felt like the story was dragging, being propelled forward through the romance and the suspense, with a peppering of wonderful characters to allow the plot to flow comfortably and feel light in spite of heavy topics.


Setting


Contemporary - The story starts with the characters entrenched in the "muggy Memphis breeze" of late September. It then transitions to summer on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The scene descriptions are wonderful. There are situational references tucked into common communication, really fleshing out the environment and overall feel, as well as beautiful detailed imagery of various places. You really feel like you're walking through an abandoned beach cottage with Rivers, or sitting on a sandbar with her taking in the beauties of the ocean and the sky.


Style


Third person narrative. Multiple points of view.

Love the introduction with the different depictions of love, as an artist would see it. The character descriptions are great and really bring each individual to life, although sprinkling a little more in could bring a little more depth.

The "Stink Bug" is just one of many quirky features that I adored about this book, Janet has a wonderful sense of humor that really shines through, giving the story a light-hearted feel even when the overall themes can be very serious. The flow of conversations and thought processes are natural and transition so smoothly.

Some authors use poetic flair to compensate for lack of imagination, but the word art in this book is well-placed and doesn't feel forced. I particularly love the depth, sincerity, and power behind the prayers. I want to pray like Davis.

Do not want to put the book down for the night... Just makes my soul feel good. Deep and heavy, but soul cleansing with enough humor to re-lift your spirits, and even some mystery to keep you guessing.


Themes


Wow - some really stirring messages:
Sermon on Jonah (sharing the Gospel despite discomfort) will really light a fire under your rear.

Living through grief (abundant life, He is the resurrection)

Forgiveness for our sins "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."


Quotes


"Her breath hitched. He was a bit of a masterpiece in his own haphazard way."

"God doesn't exempt the godly from hard realities. We live in a fallen world, but it's temporary."

"Every tub has to sit on its own bottom."

"Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."



**I received a copy of the book from the author and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.



My Thoughts


To be honest, I wasn't really interested in starting this book. I had a major book hangover from the last book I'd read that fell woefully short of my hopes and expectations, so starting a book by an author I was unfamiliar with did not hold any appeal. I was delightfully surprised to get immediately drawn into this great story. Have you ever read one of those books that pulls you so far in that you get upset when life interferes with the beautiful fiction world that you've been immersed in? This is one of those books.

Having myself lived through plenty of God's grace for my mistakes, I can really relate to Cooper. His constant war with understanding that he really is forgiven, not because of what he's done or who he's become, but because of Christ's sacrifice is something I think we all struggle with on some level. If you're a Christian, you have to understand that you fall short of God's perfect example, hence the need for Jesus, but even as non-Christians take a look at their lives, I think we can all see areas where we could have or should have been better.

While the challenges I've faced don't seem to measure up to what Rivers faces, I've had plenty of moments that have left me asking God "why"? Life's curve balls can seriously derail us from the faith that we are to hold on to if we do not return to the truth of who God is. We may not be able to understand the ins and outs of why certain things happen, but when we look at the scriptures, we see that He is faithful. He is just. He is also our comforter, but His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are unfathomably higher than our thoughts. If we can rely on him to get us through the hard times when we don't understand, someday we will be face to face with our Lord and His glory will be revealed to us.

I love books that point back to the hope of God's truth, which is exactly what The Art of Rivers does. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

In Him with Love,



Friday, April 12, 2019

One Thing I Know by Kara Isaac

One Thing I Know by Kara Isaac


Release Date: February 12, 2019


A fantastic clean romance about forgiveness and truth, and finding your way through it all. You will fall in love with the characters -- your heart will break with their struggles and your pulse will race with their passion. This is a new(ish) release you will definitely want to get your hands on.

Dr. Donna Somerville has been doling out the best romantic advice for almost a decade, but little do her fans know that Dr. Donna is a false façade, the heart of which is actually young Rachel Somers.

When she's at the end of her rope, Rachel is forced to team up with the unexpected, and much to his dismay and distaste, romantic advisor Lucas Grant. As their relationship grows, Lucas and Rachel are forced to confront the lies and ghosts of their past, but when everything comes to light, can they find a way through the betrayal and pain?


Thursday, June 14, 2018

All This Time by Melissa Tagg

All this Time by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 4.5, leaning toward 5 of 5 stars


Amazing summertime read! Warning: may induce deep seeded need to hunt fireflies or break into abandoned buildings.

Five years of friendship and a secret crush make it really hard to get over a man. Even when he's thousands of miles away. Reagan Walker can't seem to get past her feelings for Bear McKinley, or another dark problem that she's been combating since before her world turned upside down.

Bear McKinley could have sworn he got it right this time, but nothing's turned out like he'd planned. When his life gets completely upended yet again, and he finds himself back in Maple Valley with the care of his niece and nephew entrusted to him, or rather thrust upon him, he's positive about only one thing: he's not sure of anything anymore.

As Reagan tries to overcome her challenges, and bear tries to figure out where he's supposed to go from here, a summer together has them realizing that they can't keep ignoring the forces driving them together.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Keep Holding On is a perfect Autumn read, best accompanied by some apple pie or a warm mug of cider.

Beckett Walker has always followed his impulses, and they had served him well thus far - from running away six years ago to this trip back to Maple Valley - but he may have been wrong this time.

Kit Danby never quite got over losing her best friend, but seeing him in the flesh after all this time was vastly more jarring than she had anticipated. Can she risk spending her days with him to save the only home she's ever known?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Amelia Bentley lost everything once. So now she's safely tucked herself away in a perfect little home community and is only revealed enough of herself in order to be embraced in this new life. But she still has a deep yearning to be a part of a family, especially one like the Walkers have. Unfortunately she seems to lack the courage to let down enough walls to really connect with someone.

Logan Walker desperately needs a break. Trying to care for his three-year-old daughter all by himself is not working out like he planned with a blossoming career as a political speech writer. When an amazing opportunity or what may be a big problem lands in his lap, he's forced to go back home to Maple Valley and reevaluate what he wants in life.

When Amelia and Logan end up locked in a battle-royale over the local newspaper, hilarity and sparks ensue, making both wonder what they're really after.

Excellent spring or early summer read. Preferably on a porch swing lots of comfy cushions, overcast skies that may give a little rain, and a bed of flowers nearby.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

From the Start by Melissa Tagg


From the Start by Melissa Tagg


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


 Kate Walker is a specialist in love, writing acclaimed romantic scripts for TV movies, but is perfectly content with love staying safely trapped on the pages and in the screen.

Colton Greene has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Now permanently sidelyined by an injury, his career as an NFL quarterback is over and he's laying low in small town Iowa trying to figure out his comeback.

That town, devastated by a natural disaster brings both Kate and Colton into the Walker home and opens some doors that neither of them thought possible.

Good Autumn read or anytime during football season!


Characters


I'm predisposed to dislike writer characters in books simply because I feel like the authors tend to glorify the profession. Fortunately, this isn't the case in this story. Kate is a great flawed character who is really struggling to find her purpose. Returning to Maple Valley seems to help her grow in just about every aspect of her life. Colton is a wonderfully complex character who is working through, or rather trying to avoid working through, extreme childhood trauma. Although he starts out as a self-centered individual, his transformation throughout the story makes him into a very lovable character.

My Character Inspiration


Scott Eastwood as Colton Greene
Jennifer Love Hewitt as Kate "Rosie" Walker



Plot


The overall plot really seems to focus around Colton's discovery of his past. There are smaller story arcs throughout that maintain a good pace and keep your interest as well. This is my second time reading this book, so while I wasn't surprised by any of the plot twists, I remember them being really great the first time around. This book has the potential to make you laugh, cry, and dream about small town American life.

Setting


Maple Valley, Iowa is the perfect picturesque small town. While most of the story occurs in modern day Maple Valley, there are parts that take place in Chicago and LA.

Style


You can definitely pick up on how wonderfully quirky Melissa Tagg is by reading these books. The quick wit and banter between characters is always amusing. There are the token classic movie references, along with a nod to the author's favorite band NEEDTOBREATHE.

Theme


The two major themes throughout this book are ones that each character struggles with. Kate gives us a great example of being afraid of going after what you really want when there's a fear of it either slipping through your fingers or leaving you hurt in the end. Colton's challenge is finding the blessings that God has for you when things don't necessarily go the way that you originally planned.

Quotes


"And he was just standing there now, a thesaurus full of synonyms that added up to ridiculous amounts of handsome."

"'Maybe I did, but look where it got me.'
He grinned and stood, his shadow swallowing hers. 'It got you right here. Softened. Flexible. Willing to consider maybe God knows better than you what your life should looks like. And like this little bridge that weathered a slew of storms, ready to be used.'

My Thoughts


No lie, y'all. I'm in super stressed mode. I was slacking with getting this review written and now I have to double check my 8-year-old's packing job, pack for myself, and get some sleep before heading to the airport EARLY tomorrow for my sister's wedding in Oregon. I am so stinking excited about getting to be there for the wedding, but a little nutty from trying to get everything ready for the trip.

ANYWAY, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week! I'll be back here Monday with the next book in the series. 

TheModestMillennial

Monday, May 28, 2018

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg


Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Holy cuteness, Batman! I got this book for free on Amazon, and it just sat on my Kindle for almost a year! I read the Where Love Begins series, and already read the first two books in the Walker Family series before remembering I had this. I don't know how, but I missed that the Ava in the Walker Family books is THAT Ava. *facepalm*. back to this book, though. Seth and Ava's is the best story I've read in months! I felt an instant kinship with Ava, being a bit of a football-loving tomboy myself, and I loved the e-mail relationship of sassy arguments between her and Seth. I admired Seth's loyalty and commitment, even if he almost took it too far. Great read that I'm sure to pick up again one of these days!

This is a perfect quick read, but you may want to read the preceding Whisper Shore novels first. It'll make this book richer and avoid spoilers for the previous story lines.

*Free book, but only available in digital format*