Christian Fiction, Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: Softly and Tenderly (Songbird #2)

Softly and Tenderly (Songbird, #2)Softly and Tenderly by Sara Evans

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Songbird trilogy, The Sweet By and By, a heartwarming tale of love and redemption. This second novel takes up a couple of years after that sweet ending. At first, it looks like Jade’s life is pretty wonderful in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee except for the fact that she and her husband Max have still been unable to have a baby. Then a series of events exposes the many cracks in Jade’s world – her husband’s substance abuse, her father-in-law’s cheating ways and the motive behind them, and, most of all, her husband’s betrayal just before their wedding and a life-changing secret that’s like a knife to Jade’s already wounded heart. On top of all of this heartbreak, Jade’s Freebird of a mother, Beryl, is losing her battle with leukemia and wants to die at home in Iowa.
Grieving for the mother she’s not ready to let go of, Jade, along with her mother-in-law, June, take the opportunity of granting Beryl’s wish as a way to get away from the various sources of heartache and do a little soul searching. Enter Jade’s ex-husband, her father-in-law’s bid for state judge back in Tennessee, and a rolling hill of memories, Jade struggles to deal with everything.
Because it’s a lot. I felt that there were too many problems facing Jade and June at once – substance abuse, infidelity, betrayal, grief, old feelings, an accident at Jade’s business, and more. I mean, sure, that’s how life can be but for the sake of the story, there were just too many things vying for the reader’s attention. There is not a lot of joy to be found in this second story about Jade’s continuing search for redemption but there is a lot of wisdom. And several questions left at the end that are hopefully answered in the final book.

Though it is really about real life and finding the strength to deal with it, Softly and Tenderly and the Songbird series falls under the category of Christian fiction.  With a few exceptions, I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction but if what you’re looking for is the tale of strong women thriving in the real world, I recommend J. Ryan Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota.

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Review: Shepherds Abiding

Shepherds Abiding (Mitford Years, #8)Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

I’ve been making my way slowly through Jan Karon’s delightful Mitford series, relishing the many unique characters as they deal with their individual crises in the picturesque small-town setting that by now feels like home when I read the novels. However, I found the last couple I read plodding. Shepherds Abiding, which takes place in the months leading up to Christmas, though, is fast-paced and particularly heart-warming. With a slightly smaller cast of characters and narrower time frame, it is more focused and happier in tone than the previous books. It was the perfect read for the busy holiday season and a story that can be read over and over again.

If you enjoy a gentle read or heart-warming Christian fiction, I highly recommend reading the entire Mitford series.  It has an open-minded, open-hearted message and a leisurely pace needed when the world gets to be too much.

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Review: Lost December

Lost December
Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first Richard Paul Evans novel and, while he is a good storyteller, stylistically he is not a great writer. His narration is almost entirely in the passive tense and he definitely told rather than showed Luke’s story. I mean, Luke lived to excess while traveling through Europe, lived on the streets (and under them) of Las Vegas, and worked in a nursing home. If those experiences don’t provide ample opportunity to use all five senses, I don’t know what does. This kept me at a distance from Luke’s story.
And it is a good story. A familiar one that teaches the reader about human nature and hope and humility. And the list goes on. Personally, I feel that the whole learning experience was avoidable but then where would have Luke’s life been if he hadn’t had to rediscover his father’s love?

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