Review of The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Sometimes when I see a new book everywhere I look, I just can't help myself. It doesn't matter how much- or little- that I know about the book or the author or even if the genre is my typical fare or not, I just have to jump on board and read it too. This was true of The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies.

Review of fiction book The Tea Planters Wife

After seeing the book surface in multiple review groups, I just had to read it.

From the book's description:

Dinah Jefferies' unforgettable new novel, The Tea Planter's Wife is a haunting, tender portrait of a woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother... Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London. Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult... Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done? The Tea Planter's Wife is a story of guilt, betrayal and untold secrets vividly and entrancingly set in colonial era Ceylon.

I wasn't disappointed.

Although the book is written in third person, it's told from the perspective of Gwendolyn Hooper, the young woman on an adventure to be the wife of a wealthy tea planter in Ceylon. Gwen develops well into a very likable heroine. And through her interactions, the other characters in the cast are also well-developed.

The book is written in a style I would describe as hauntingly beautiful. Although there are happy moments, the tone is such that I constantly expected something difficult or bad to happen. The story isn't really a depressing one, though. And it is so well-written that, even overshadowed by this feeling or foreboding, the story is quite beautiful at times.

I was drawn into the story immediately, and this became one of those books I couldn't put down. There is an air of suspense that hovers around some of the characters, and I was constantly making predictions about what the mystery would turn out to be and then being inclined to read "just one more chapter" to see if my suspicions were correct.

My only complaint about the story at all is that has a rather precipitous ending. After a fairly lengthy story, multiple things seem to be resolved in a very quick manner in the last chapter or two. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book up until this point, I found the ending rather abrupt, making the conclusion of a wonderful story a little bit choppy and less believable.

On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical setting of The Tea Planter's Wife. Set in Ceylon- now Sri Lanka- in the early 1900s when it was an English colony, it was a place and time I've not read very much about. It was also interesting to see how the American depression affected Gwen and her wealthy English husband in Ceylon- something I've also not read or thought much about.

Despite the ending, I give this one five stars. The rest of the story really was that good. This is not Christian fiction- as I often review- and there are a few scenes in the book. There isn't much detail given at all.

You can find The Tea Planter's Wife on Amazon here and read an excerpt of the Kindle book below.

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Review of The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep was a new to me author, but I quickly found myself engrossed in The Captive Heart.

From the book's description:

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

Christian fiction review

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There were several things that I particularly enjoyed about The Captive Heart, and I'll be on the lookout for more from the author.

  • The character development was excellent. The story is told in third person, but it alternates between the view of Eleanor and Samuel, so I felt as if I got to know both of the main characters well. They were developed through reading about their thoughts and inner feelings as well as by the action that happened throughout the story.
  • The historical time period and historical events that were unfolding is another thing that really drew me to the this story. Set in the 1700s in the American colonies, the story focused on the colonists and their devotion to either the English soldiers or the new groups of rebels springing up. It also included a story line that illustrated how the division between England and the settlers affected the American Indian tribes. There is enough of a story that the tale could be continued in further novels. (I hope!)
  • The romance that develops between Eleanor and Samuel is very well-written. It's a sweet romance that is a continual struggle of attraction and annoyance between the two.
I can definitely recommend The Captive Heart. It was one of those stories that I was sorry to see while at the same time wanting it to work out and loose ends to be resolved. I give it five stars. You can find the book on Amazon here and read an excerpt from the Kindle version below.

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Review of Fifth Column: The Blitz Detective Series

Last year I had the opportunity to read and review the first in a new series by Mike Hollow. The Blitz Detective series features an English detective and is set during World War 2.  I reviewed Direct Hit here. Now I've read for review the next book in the series- Fifth Column.

Review of Fifth Column

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From the book's description...

Detective Inspector Jago investigates, uncovering deception and betrayal

At first glance, the young woman found in the early hours of the morning where bombs have landed is just another casualty of the previous night's air raid. But when the post-mortem shows signs of strangulation, Detective Inspector Jago is called on to investigate.

The dead woman is smartly dressed but carries no identification. However, a local engineering company reports a staff member has failed to appear at work that morning and the body is quickly identified as that of Miss Mary Watkins.

DI Jago's initial interviews yield little fruit; no one can think of a reason why Mary would be murdered. But as the investigation continues DI Jago begins to uncover a trail of deception and betrayal.

When I first began to read Book1 in the series, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The book is in third person, but it's told from the point of view of the inspector, Jago. While this makes sense because the book's author is a man, it was different than other books I've enjoyed. The book also has little character reflection and more action. And I often don't enjoy that kind of book as well.

I ended up really enjoying Direct Hit, however. And Fifth Column has been just as good. Here are a few things I particularly enjoy:

  • The historical time period- World War 2 is always one of my favorite time periods. This book, set in England during the Blitz falls right into the period I find really interesting.
  • The characters- Though the characters in the book don't spend much time in reflection, they are surprisingly well-developed. I feel as if I get to know them through their actions even though I can't hear their thoughts as often.
  • The storyline- There are many historical fiction novels. There are many action/suspense novels. But to set an action/police story right in the middle of war-strewn England is a different concept, one I've never seen done.
  • The mystery- In some suspense novels, the reader knows "whodunnit" before the people in the story. My favorite mysteries are the ones in which I don't figure out what's going on before the characters in the novel. This is one of those. I found myself guessing and changing my mind many times as I tried to solve the case along with Jago.
Fifth Column is another really good read. I give it 5 stars. You can find the book on Kregel here or Amazon here. You can also read a sample from the Kindle version below.

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Looking for a Way to Study the Bible and Deepen Your Walk With God? (And a Bible Study Book Giveaway!)

I've read through the Bible many times. I don't say that to brag because I confess that it's a habit I've developed over the years, and there are times I read when I'm just reading to check it off on my to do list, and I'm not focusing at all. Because I sometimes drift into this reading by habit, I like to take times of not only reading through the Bible but also stopping to do a Bible study that will help me to focus on a part of the Bible or a topic more in depth.

I've recently had the opportunity to look at two new Moody Bible studies for women. If you're looking for an opportunity to study God's Word in a more in depth way, take a look at these two studies. At the end of the post, you can enter to win one of them.

Women's Bible studies

An Unexplainable Life

About the study

An Unexplainable Life women's Bible studyAn Unexplainable Life was written by Erica Wiggenhorn. The study guides women through a fifty-day look at Acts 1-12. The study looks at topics such as the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, and the early church. It's designed to be used as a small group or individual study.

Walking through the book of Acts, the author leads women into considering the early church and the movement of the Holy Spirit within it. In each week, readers will take a look at the unexplainable change, courage, mission, vision, expansion, unity, God, and discipleship of the people in the early church.

How it works

The book is divided into ten weeks, each week with five days of reading and study. Each day has a Scripture reading from a part of Acts, commentary, stories, and illustrations from the author, and questions to be answered.

The author recommends that the passages for each day be read aloud. The questions that are to be answered are in blue. Some of them are more basic questions, while some encourage thought and application. On some pages there are blue boxes where the reader can sketch or doodle or draw thoughts and reflections from that lesson.

The study can be used with a group as well. There is a free resource listed within the book's introduction that will help a group leader know what questions are best used for group discussion. There is also a Deeper Discoveries resource at the author's website where the reader can find opportunities to dig deeper and learn more.

I Am Found

About the Study

I Am Found women's Bible studyI Am Found was written by Laura Dingman. The study is a six-week study designed to help women look beyond shame and realize their true identity in Christ. The study guides women into looking at the power of shame and fear, the desire that we all have to truly be known and accepted, and our real identity in Christ.

The weekly lessons look at topics such as why we feel shame, who we're hiding from, our identity in Christ, and being found and loved by Christ.

How it works

The study is divided into six weeks. Each week has five days of reading and study and then a Truth, Lies, and Action section that guides readers into listing truths learned from God's Word this week, lies in their own lives revealed through the week, and actions that they'll take as a result of what's been learned.

Each week, readers have a Bible verse or two to memorize. The week begins with an introduction to read. Then each day has reading, along with questions in blue. The studies aren't based off of certain passages of Scripture. Instead there is an introduction from the author and questions in blue throughout the day's reading. Within these discussion questions, readers will read Bible passages and answer questions about them.

The authors of both studies write in a personable way, and working through the studies is like talking to a friend, not reading through a Bible textbook. If you're looking for more of an expository study, An Unexplained Life is a good one because of the way it walks through the book of Acts, chapter by chapter, taking time for the reader to consider and learn from each section.

If you are looking for a good topical study, I Am Found covers a topic that so many of us struggle with as women- shame over not fitting, the desire to hide and not be noticed, and a need to find our identity in Christ.

You can enter to win one of these studies below. I'll be giving away one copy of each to two winners. Enter the Giveaway Tools giveaway below.

Giveaway of two women's Bible studies from Moody

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Review of Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer

I love historical fiction that introduces me to a time period of which I wasn't very familiar or from which I learn more about a time or event that I already was aware of on a superficial level. I especially love it when an author can weave a great story out of that setting and time period. Sigmund Brouwer does this in Saffiire.

Review of Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer

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From the book's description...

I reminded myself that once you start to defend someone, it’s difficult to find a place to stop. But I went ahead and took that first step anyway. . .

For President Teddy Roosevelt, controlling the east-west passage between two oceans mattered so much that he orchestrated a revolution to control it. His command was to ‘let the dirt fly’ and for years, the American Zone of the Panama Canal mesmerized the world, working in uneasy co-existence with the Panamanian aristocrats.

It’s in this buffered Zone where, in 1909, James Holt begins to protect a defenseless girl named Saffire, expecting a short and simple search for her mother. Instead it draws him away from safety, into a land haunted by a history of pirates, gold runners, and plantation owners, all leaving behind ghosts of their interwoven desires sins and ambitions, ghosts that create the web of deceit and intrigue of a new generation of revolutionary politics. It will also bring him together with a woman who will change his course—or bring an end to it.

A love story set within a historical mystery, Saffire brings to life the most impressive-and embattled- engineering achievement of the twentieth-century.

Right away I was intrigued with the setting and time period. I read a biography of Teddy Roosevelt this past year, and I was interested in his life. That alone was enough to draw me to want to read the book.

Saffire is narrated by the main character- James Holt. I liked him right away. He's a cowboy who is blunt and matter of fact. He's not afraid to say what he's thinking. And we learn in the first chapter that he has a daughter waiting for him at home and that he's kind.

The story drew me in right away, and I was especially interested because the plot was so different than that of other books I've read. There were several elements going on- a mystery that seemed to get deeper and deeper for James, a love story that is developing, and the historical element of the building of the canal that is mentioned throughout as James experiences it.

The book is rich in description, and I was thoroughly drawn in. I can definitely recommend this, and I'll be looking for other books by Sigmund Brouwer.

I give Saffire 5 strong stars. You can find it on Amazon here, and you can read a Kindle sample below.

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Grit of Berth and Stone by Lisa Dunn: Awesome Young Adult Fantasy

Although I've probably reviewed hundreds of books over the years, this is my first experience in reviewing a book written by an author I actually know. Like in real life, ya'll. We actually move in the same circles. And until recently I had no idea that she was a published author.

Being the avid reader and all time book reviewer that I am, I, of course, told her I would be happy to review one of her books (because that means she'd have to give me a book, right?). And so I received the first book in her first series- Grit of Berth and Stone. The series is Chasmaria, and it is in the young adult, fantasy genre. I would also consider it dystopian fiction.

Review of Grit of Berth and Stone, young adult fantasy

Now I'll admit that, after asking to review the book, I was a little worried. What if I read this book and it was awful? What if I hated it? After all, I know this author. And while it's cool to know a published author, I also know what kind of books can actually get published. I've reviewed hundreds, remember?

As it turns out, I had absolutely no need to worry. Grit of Berth and Stone is an awesome read. And even though it's considered young adult fiction, I definitely enjoyed it as an adult reader.

The story...

Grit is a sixteen-year-old from her home village- Thresh in Chasmaria. She's banished from her home for a foolish mistake. But she's convinced that she doesn't need anyone else and can live just fine with the home and people she's always known. Worrying about these things would make her weak. And she's most certainly not weak.

But war comes to Chasmaria. And Grit is taken in by a band of rebels. When she learns an awful truth about herself, she has to come to terms with what strength and honor really mean. And she has to decide whether or not she'll return to her home and fight for Thresh.

My thoughts...

The book begins with a bang. Readers are drawn in immediately when Grit is facing a ceremony at the turning of sixteen. As a ritual of their village, she's turned out into the woods to attempt to avoid two chosen hunters for sixteen days.

With this dramatic opening setting the stage, I was instantly hooked. The action remains pretty steady throughout the book, keeping the reader interested. It's a book you truly won't want to put down.

Character development is always my pet peeve, and you'll know, if you've read other reviews I've written, that I really dislike books that are continuos action with little character development. But Grit is a well-developed character. We get to know her through her thoughts as well as through her actions and reactions to other characters. The supporting characters are also developed well, and feeling as if I got to know the characters went a long way toward my instant liking of this book.

From an educational perspective, there is much to think about while reading this book. Grit's personal growth- the ideas she must come to terms with, the moral choices she must make- offers good opportunities for personal evaluation or for book discussions.

This is a book I'll definitely recommend. Not only will young adults appreciate it, but adult readers can enjoy it as well.

More information...

Author Lisa Dunn

Young adult fantasy author Lisa Dunn

As a child, Lisa Dunn fell asleep to her father’s fanciful bedtime tales and played with her own story ideas during the daylight hours. She now resides in a small southern town with her husband, four children, and an ever-changing assortment of pets. Local librarians habitually thank her for their job security.

You can find more information about Grit of Berth and Stone here- including a great book trailer.

Disclosure: I received a free book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Review of Realm of Darkness by C.F. Dunn

A few years ago, I stumbled across the phrase P.A.B.D. on a book review blog. It stands for Post Amazing Book Disorder and refers to that feeling you have when you've finished an amazing book, and you stumble around a bit disoriented as you try to assimilate back into real life. And, of course, any book read after that one can't possibly measure up.

Review of Realm of Darkness

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Every one of the books in The Secret of the Journal series by C.F. Dunn has done this to me. Every one.

I've read and review previously:

Mortal Fire
Death Be Not Proud
Rope of Sand

And now I've read Realm of Darkness.

I'm to the point in the story where I can't give too much description of the book without giving away the story line. But from the book's description:

Emma and Matthew are finally free to marry, but Matthew's secret continues to haunt them.

Emma D'Eresby can look forward to a future with Matthew Lynes. She at last reveals to Matthew the nature of her relationship with Guy Hilliard—her supervisor at Cambridge—and the reason she has found it difficult to forgive him or to trust any other.

Their joy at marrying is short-lived as, to her disgust, Emma discovers that Guy is visiting the United States to attend the history conference at which she is the keynote speaker. Although everyone seems charmed by him, Emma doesn't trust Guy. Worse still, she discovers that Ellie is dating Guy, bringing him within the family fold.

Long-held grudges and wounds surface and it is clear that Guy poses a threat to everything Emma loves.

There are so many things that I loved about this book. It would probably be easier to tell you the few- if any things- I didn't like. But here are a few of my favorite things.

~The characters are so very well developed. The book is written in first person from Emma's point of view. But hers isn't the only character that is so well-developed. All of them are. And these books have a large cast of characters. Now, it helps that this is a series and not a single book. But in every book I think Dunn has done an awesome job helping the reader to get to know the characters.

~The story is so different. I can't spell out too much because I don't want to give spoilers. But this isn't your everyday love story. There's a twist that is done so well that it's believable enough without being trite and too predictable.

~The beginning of the book has a recap of what's happened so far. Chalk it up to the fact that I read sixty to seventy books a year or blame it on the fact that I'm old. If I have to wait more than a month or so for a sequel, I'm forgetting prior books. The author does me a tremendous favor here by giving a recap at the beginning. Although I remembered the basic plot, I found myself nodding and saying "Oh yes, that!" as I read through.

~The romance in the story is just so..romantic. I love a good romance. I love to feel sweet and sappy. But I also love the deep "I'd do anything for you." romances. This, on occasion, is both. But it's mostly deep and thoughtful. It's a poetry and love sonnets sort of romance that you just want to last forever.

In the back of the book, we are promised that the 5th and final book is coming in September 2016. Since we don't have far (it's August 2016 as of this review), I'll probably be holding my breath.

I give this amazing book 5 easy stars- and would give more if my system allowed. You can find it on Kregel here and on Amazon here. You can read a Kindle preview below.

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Review of Bridge to Haven: a Beautiful Story of Love and Redemption by Francine Rivers

Years ago, I fell in love with the writing of Francine Rivers when I read the book Redeeming Love. It's a beautiful allegory of the book of Hosea, set in the Old West. Since then I've found and read most of her books. And I was very thrilled to win a gift card that allowed me to get her newest book, Bridge to Haven.

Review of Bridge to Haven

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From the book's description...

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua―Abra’s closest friend―watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth have etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking charmer who lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at a devastating price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now all she wants is a way back home.

I loved this book as much as the others I've read from Francine Rivers. She has the ability to write characters that are real and believable. They are real people with faults and flaws. And even the ones who are believers have struggles- just as in real life.

The character development is excellent, and I definitely felt as though I got to know the characters and connected with them as I read. The storyline was interesting, and I liked the setting in 1950s Hollywood. Events that happened were believable, and the story flowed well. And- without giving away too much- the book ends with something unresolved, just as in life things don't always all work out in a nice, neat wrapped up way.

Most of all, Bridge to Haven has a beautiful story of love and redemption. It's not preachy in any way. But, throughout the book, we can see God's love and redemptive plan as well as the loyalty and love of family and friends. In Abra's story, we can see ourselves, often veering from God's perfect will but ever able to return to him and be blessed- never without hope, even if it seems so at times.

I can definitely recommend Bridge to Haven. I give it 5 stars. You can find the book on Amazon here and read a Kindle sample below.

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