Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Beneath a Southern Sky and Secrets

This month Waterbrook Multnomah sent me two books to review from a selection of "Spring Break Specials" they are offering....

The first book I read was Beneath a Southern Sky, by Deborah Raney. This book was easy to get into and breeze through to the end. The language is simple, the characters are well-defined, and the plot, although a little bit choppy, is easy to follow. You find yourself wondering what you would do in the difficult situations these characters have gotten themselves into. Although the story held my attention and came to a satisfying resolve, I struggled with really disliking these characters. It seems as though only Nate had a faith that put God before himself. All of the other main characters were so emotional and selfish! They all touted a faith in God, but only sought to follow Him as far as their own comfort and firm grasp on their futures allowed. I was not impressed with the level of respect Daria had for either of her husbands, or for the love and support they showed her. I felt like, save for a few brief exceptions, everyone was falling short in their roles, which made the story less believable and meaningful to me. I appreciate that Daria came to realize her wrongs and hone her listening-to-God skills; when she started to put God first it was the first time I had hope for her marriage, even though that was the most tumultuous time for the couple. But the lack of love and respect between husbands and wives during the hard times of marriage left me wanting more spiritual depth and resolution, and I wondered if they had only been attracted to each other because of their outward appearances.

The second book was Secrets, by Robin Jones Gunn. I thought the story flowed well from one day to the next and was entertaining throughout. Robin Jones Gunn has a smart, witty sense of humor that I enjoy. The main character is fleeing her past, changing her name, and gets in a car accident on the way. In the middle of all this crisis, she falls in love with the first guy she sees, even attempting to flirt a little despite her bloody condition. I found this hard to believe; are people looking for love in a crisis? I would think the survival instinct would be greater. There also seems to be a lot of name-dropping in this style of literature (in both novels), such as Wal-Mart and Diet Coke and Eddie Bauer clothing. Does the author get paid for product placement? I think this might unfortunately date a story that could otherwise be timeless, and possibly sour the taste for the readers depending on their opinion of the brand. There are a few sappy moments near the end of Secrets that are difficult for me to relate to, but overall the characters have an authentic depth. I love the personal touch in the end, where Robin talks about her daughter Rachel and shares some recipes from the book. Especially after visiting her website, you really get the feeling that Robin, who is full of joy, wants to connect with her readers on a personal level. I appreciate that.

Here is a press release on the event:

Colorado Springs, CO— Fiction lovers don’t need to budget to travel this spring break with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group’s six full-length novels by beloved Christian authors (WaterBrook, February 16, 2010). At the low cost of only $5.99, these well-read “get-aways” provide quality entertainment at a price that any reader can afford.

Full-length novels offered include:

Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn - Jessica has moved to a new town to start a new life. But a friendly fire-fighter and a suspicious boss both want to know what she’s hiding.

Beneath a Southern Sky by Deborah Raney – Daria Camfield is expecting her first child when her husband Nate is reported dead on the mission field. Devastated, she returns to the States and soon marries again. But two years later Nate is found alive in the jungle. How can Daria possibly choose between he two men who love her?

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt – Aidan O’Connor may be a poor barmaid but she’s also a gifted artists. When a famous cartographer takes her on as a student, Aidan is swept into an adventure that will bring her back to her heavenly Father, and into marriage with the love of her life.

Deep Harbor by Lisa Tawn Bergren – Tora, Elsa, Kaatje, and Karl face trouble, tragedy, and treachery across the Wast, Hawaii, Japan, and the high seas. These four immigrants from Bergen, Norway, each grow closer to God and learn afresh the value of faith, family, and coming alongside each other in times of need.

Faithful Heart by Al and Joanna Lacy – The adventures of certified medical nurse and dedicated Christian Breanna Baylor continue as she travels by wagon train to visit her sister, Dottie, in California. Little does she know that her most dangerous encounter might be with Jerrod, her brother-in-law, who’s suffering from dementia caused by combat fatigue.

Yesterday’s Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin – Rogan Chantry faces danger from tribesmen, ruthless politicians, and his own family as he searches for gold in South Africa. In England, his beloved Evy is injured by a mysterious assailant. The greed and intrigue surrounding the diamond mines could very well drive them irrevocably apart.

These books were provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing.

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