Book Review: Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia

Happy Friday, diverse reader friends!

I’m excited to share my review of Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia. You may have remembered I interviewed her Monday as we discussed her debut novel. Before I share my review, let’s check out the book.


About the Book

“Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

Vivir el Dream gives us a realistic glimpse into the immigration struggle in the Hispanic community. Ms. Garcia weaves a tale giving the reader three view points.

Linda Palacios is an undocumented college student. Brought to the United States at the age of three, Virginia is all she knows. It’s her home and the community she lives in helps define her identity.

I loved how Ms. Garcia explored the prejudice and ignorance the outside world has regarding immigration. I loved getting to know Linda and see her strengths. She taught me so much.

Ms. Garcia also gives us the view point of Juanita, Linda’s mother. You get to see the reasons behind her decision to immigrate across the Mexican border into the U.S. My heat ached for her as bits and pieces of her story were slowly shared.

And Tim. I struggled between empathizing with his plight and being extremely annoyed (that’s the nicest thing I can say) about his prejudice and ignorance of the Latino community. As a fellow writer, I admire the depth Ms. Garcia went through creating his character. You can see the stereotypes that others believe through his eyes. I think he’ll be the eye opener for readers. Will they see similar prejudices and ignorance?

Vivir el Dream really made me think about the truth of “walking a mile in someone’s shoes.” This is a must read for all who want to understand another culture and widen their views.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.


Review by Toni Shiloh

Book Review: Secrets of the Heart by Lee Tobin McClain

About the Book

Secrets of the Heart by Lee Tobin McClainJavier Quintana knows his family’s struggling restaurant, El Corazon, needs help. But when his interfering siblings hire Molly Abbott, a successful food entrepreneur and his high-school sweetheart, he’s livid.

The way their relationship ended wasn’t pretty. And although Molly never married, she’s the single mom of an eleven-year-old daughter conceived right about the time of the breakup.

Molly’s ideas about farm-to-table, health-conscious Mexican food conflict with Javier’s strong sense of tradition, even as her joyous faith convicts him about his own lapse from the church of his youth.

Can a reunion romance bring happiness to two lonely souls who never forgot each other… or will their relationship be derailed by the secrets they both carry in their hearts?

goodreads | amazon

 

My Thoughts

What a wonderful beauty from ashes sweet romance! Fresh food and sustainable living are seamlessly tied into the storyline along with weightier issues like faith, forgiveness, legacy, and abuse.

Javier is a quintessential Darcy hero… tall, dark, and broody, devastatingly handsome, occasionally quick to judge, fiercely protective of his family, and he has some pride in there too 😉

As the eldest sibling, Javier is used to running the show and calling the shots in the family business (it’s a first born thing, believe me). I can see his white knuckles clinging to the comfort and security of control and tradition (I might have been helping him just a little bit… it’s always prudent to be cautious when considering possible changes).

Molly is a survivor, a mama bear, and an innovative entrepreneur. She has no intentions of being taken care of (or taken advantage of) ever again. Readers will relate to Molly’s single-minded determination to give her daughter the best life possible.

Secrets of the Heart gave me warm fuzzies and a serious craving for Mexican! Even though my stomach doesn’t benefit, I’m looking forward to visiting El Corazon again soon (fact or fictional, the food still makes my mouth water)!

I requested the opportunity to read and review this title through the author. The opinions expressed are my own.
This review first appeared on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

website | facebook | twitter

 

Also Available

Arcadia Valley Romance

 Summer's Glory by Mary Jane Hathaway 
goodreads | amazon
Website

 

Sacred Bond Friends & Family


goodreads | amazon

 

Let’s talk authentic Mexican food! I have a lot to learn!
Anyone have a favorite restaurant, dish, or recipe to share? 

Review by Beth Erin

Book Review: Signs of Life by Valerie Banfield

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!

I hope you’re having a great week. Today, I’m sharing a review of Valerie Banield’s Signs of Life. But first, let’s share a little info about the book.


About the Book

Maybe Zach Hoyt’s expectations were overly optimistic; the business he inherited from his father wasn’t exactly booming. He might also concede that he was a tad naïve to imagine that his past would remain buried, along with his sullied reputation. Now what?

Juanita Hoyt wants a do-over. She shouldn’t have yielded to her husband’s unrelenting pleas to move to this ghastly community. Now Zach has hatched a harebrained scheme to save the business and, once again, he hasn’t heeded her objections.

Stan Benton collects trouble like a magnet picks up stray nails, and he reaps disorder as often as he dispenses justice. Every little thing fuels his bitterness and his anger—dangerous traits for an officer of the law.

When hoodlums set out to overturn the good intentions of the neighborhood watch, why do they heap their efforts at Zach’s feet? Why him? And why does Stan get stuck babysitting the community where his notoriety makes him about as welcome as the hooligans he’s charged to deter? Is anyone in control here?

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

This was my first read by Ms. Banfield and I enjoyed it. First, let’s talk diversity. The book takes us on the journey of Zach Hoyt who is Caucasian; his wife, Juanita, who is American Indian; and Stan Benton, who is African American. There are also a diverse cast of secondary characters. I would have loved this book alone for that reason, but Ms. Banfield added another element: Juanita is deaf.

I adore that Ms. Banfield tackled this subject. Her deafness is what ties all the stories in together. I would categorize this book as general fiction, because it’s not just one person’s story. It kind of reminded me of a TV show and then you find out how it all intersects together.

I also loved the faith element. To see where another struggles in their faith helps you realize you’re not alone. It also shows you where your lacking in trust. This book is realistic, captivating, and full of diversity.

*I received a free copy of this book. This review is my own, honest opinion.


About the author

Valerie Banfield is a talespinner to the lost, the loved, and the found. When she isn’t making up stories, she tangles with basket weaving projects, defies thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles, immerses herself in good books, and enjoys early morning walks with her dogs. She counts her participation in international short-term missionary campaigns among her life’s most blessed and humbling journeys, and firmly believes that when we give God control, He rocks our world. These days the Central Ohio transplant enjoys the warmth and sunshine of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Some day she might adjust to the humidity.

Links: Website, Facebook


Review by Toni Shiloh

 

Book Review: The Bedwarmer’s Son by Caryl McAdoo

~ About the Book ~

What if Abel had killed Cain, but there was no jury of his peers?

In 1928 Georgia, a black man who kills a white man is automatically guilty, but the bedwarmer’s son, an ex-slave, is no normal black man. And the dead white man is his half-brother. Once his lily-white lawyer lady learns the truth, everything changes. Can she save him from swinging?

Will the bedwarmer murder the one she’s been bought to serve?

From the antebellum South, come travel the dusty trails of Jim Crowe Dalton, Georgia, with slave and master, saint and sinner. See if God is really big enough, if He truly cares about His children.

Amazon  //  Goodreads


~ Excerpt ~

The door closed behind Jasmine.
A faint hint of smoke mixed with the soft scent of whisky and lemons and honey she carried on the silver tray Mammy put the mug on. Like she was some fancy house slave bringing the master his night cap.
Bathed in shadows, next to the brick hearth, her new owner sat in a stuffed chair, staring at the dying embers. A patchwork quilt wrapped him like a cocoon.
She eased up next to him and extended the tray. “Your hot toddy, sir.”
He turned toward her. “What did you say, girl?” His words poured out slow as sorghum on a freezing cold morn.
The tone in his voice sent shivers up her back, and a pesky woodpecker thumped against her chest. “Your drink, sir.”
Mister William didn’t look nearly as old as she thought he would. Pasty though; she had that right.
“Mammy fixed your toddy, and I got it right here for you, sir.”
“Oh.” He stared at her for a double fist full of her heartbeats before he finally nodded. Still didn’t take his toddy. “Who are you?” His question came as one word, and it took her a minute to get them separated and understand.
“Jasmine, sir.”
He nodded. “Oh. Yes. Now I remember.”
“Yes, sir. Your toddy, sir?”
“Mama told me all about you at supper.” He extended his hand and lifted the mug from her tray, but she didn’t move a muscle. Stood there holding that tray as steady as an old oak. After a sip, he held it to his chest and returned to his ember watching.
“Would you want me to put another log on, sir? It be a mite chilly tonight.”
Taking another sip, he reached down and retrieved a brown jug, the kind they put corn squeezin’s in. The man couldn’t be half as old as Miss June. The words of the old woman waiting outside the door wormed their way up, her baby boy.
So…this man was Miss June’s son. No wonder old Mammy wanted Jasmine to be nice to him, being his wet nurse and all. Probably raised him more than his own mam.
But that didn’t make any difference. She would kill him dead if he laid a hand on her.


~ Review ~

The Bedwarmer’s Son is a historical fiction novel with a few story lines woven through it. The primary story is that of Billy Sinclair, the son of cotton plantation owner William Abel Sinclair and his bedwarmer, Jasmine. Now in his seventies, Billy is about to go to trial for the murder of his half-brother, Jamieson Sinclair. But it’s not so much a question of ‘Who pulled the trigger?’ as whether a coloured man has the right to defend his life, even if the threat comes from a white man. Many at this time in history would have said not.

The second story is that of Billy’s mother, Jasmine, beginning from the time she arrives at Three Springs Plantation. Billy shares the story with his lawyer, Alice Parmalee, in order to help her prepare his defence, but it is actually told from Jasmine’s point of view as a step back in time. It’s an intriguing story that highlights some of the difficulties faced by an interracial couple prior to and following the Civil War, and while readers may not be comfortable with some of the choices made by the characters, the story is also realistic about the consequences of those choices and the difficulties they create—Billy’s situation included.

For young white lawyer Alice Parmalee, it’s a case that tests not only her legal mettle, but also her belief that faith in an invisible, all-powerful God is ludicrous. Her growing attachment to both Billy and his grandson, Will, only heightens her anxiety that she won’t be able to successfully defend Billy’s case.

The story was engaging, but I did feel as though some aspects developed a little simplistically: for example, the growing relationship between Alice and Will, and Alice’s beliefs regarding God. There was also a scene toward the end of the novel concerning Billy and his now-deceased brother Jamieson that I felt stretched credulity in order to wrap things in a nice neat bow.

Readers may also wish to be advised that there are 10 occurrences of the ‘n’ word used in reference to a black person (and not just by white characters). Due the way the story develops, this is mainly confined to the first half of the novel.

* Tomorrow’s open discussion will be on whether it is appropriate to use racial slurs in fiction. We’d love to you come and join the conversation.

~ About the Author ~

Caryl McAdooBorn in California, Caryl McAdoo got to Texas in time to celebrate her first birthday. As a Dallas seventh grader, she remembers a homework essay on ‘What will you be doing in 2000?’ Looking into the future, Caryl saw herself as an inter-galactically famous author, streaking from planet to planet signing books. She laughs, “But I didn’t start writing again until the late ’80s, then was so blessed to find the DFW Writers’ Workshop in ’93.”

Her first book debuted ’99, then for the next nine years, she averaged a title a year from four presses: two non-fiction, four novels, and three mid-grade chapter books. In March 2014, her first historical Christian romance Vow Unbroken debuted from Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. In the three years since that release, she has published more than ten novels.

For every good blessing – including ten children (four by birth, six by marriage) and sixteen grandsugars – she gives God the glory. Caryl lives a country-life with Ron, her high school sweetheart husband of forty-seven years, and two grandsons in the woods a few miles south of Clarksville, Red River County seat, located in far Northeast Texas.

Connect with Caryl:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter

Book Review: Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne

About the Book

It’s been a long time since Colt Stafford shrugged off his cowboy legacy for shiny Manhattan loafers and a promising career on Wall Street. But when stock market manipulations leave him financially strapped, the oldest son of legendary rancher Sam Stafford decides to return to the sprawling Double S ranch in Gray’s Glen, Washington. He’s broke, but not broken, and it’s time to check in with his ailing father and get his legs back under him by climbing into the saddle again.

He doesn’t expect to come home to a stranger pointing a loaded gun at his chest— a tough yet beautiful woman that Sam hired as the house manager. Colt senses there’s more to Angelina Morales than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding…and why.

Colt’s return brings new challenges. Younger brother Nick has been Sam’s right-hand man at the ranch for years and isn’t thrilled at having Colt insert himself into Double S affairs. And the ranch’s contentious relationship with the citizens of Gray’s Glen asks all the Stafford men to examine their hearts about what it truly means to be a neighbor.  And as Wall Street recovers, will Colt succumb to the call of the financial district’s wealth and power—or finally the courage to stay in the saddle for good?

goodreads | amazon | christianbook

 

My Thoughts

I just really love Ruth Logan Herne novels! The first page grabbed my attention and the whole book was one wild ride. Colt Stafford and Angelina Morales each bear secrets and past hurts that cloud their better judgment. Colt is the returning prodigal and hesitant to be reunited with the family he essentially shut out of his life. Coming home seems to soften his heart while familiar places and faces unlock memories long suppressed. Colt grows by leaps and bounds into the man he was always meant to be.

Angelina is used to being in control yet her father’s death has shaken her confidence in her own plans and left her with a very unfamiliar feeling, vulnerability. She’s a strong woman, willing to turn her life upside down and go into hiding to protect her son and her mother. Angelina is a force to be reckoned with and none of the men on the Double S dare cross her, until Colt. She never meant for ranch life to be any more than an escape but there’s no denying the growing attraction and respect she has for him.

Back in the Saddle is a great start to what promises to be a must-read series. Readers get to know the Stafford family in this first installment and I am excited to read more about each one of the different brothers and the various ranch hands too!

I received an advanced reader copy of this title from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.
This review first appeared on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Ruth Logan HerneRuth Logan Herne loves Charlie Brown Christmas trees, rooting for the underdog and people who go the distance while others see the path as too long or broken!

She loves God, chocolate, writing, dogs and is blessed by a sprawling family, oodles of grandkids and a sweet old farmhouse in constant need of work. She’s sure that clean rooms are over-rated, snakes and possums should mind their own business and buy their own farm and puppies and kittens and babies are about the cutest things on Earth.

A “pull-up-your-big-girl-panties-and-move-on” kind of gal, she is blessed to be married to her high school sweetheart, work with young families who allow her to exploit their sweet children on blogs, and rock babies on a regular basis. An author for Love Inspired Books and Summerside Press, she lives in upstate New York.

website | facebook | twitter | pinterest

 

Double S Ranch series


Goodreads | Amazon | christianbook

 

review by Beth Erin

Book Review: When God Made You

Book title: When God Made You

Author: Matthew Paul Turner

Illustrator: David Catrow

Number of pages: 48

Book blurb:

YOU, you… God thinks about you.

God was thinking of you long before your debut.

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.

‘Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knew

That the world needed someone exactly like you!

Amazon ~ CBD

~*~

My Thoughts:

When God Made You is a children’s book written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by David Catrow.

The text of the book is neatly organized into clusters of two to four sentences, give or take with splashes of color that decorate each page like paint on a canvas created by an imaginative child.

Turner writes well for his target audience. The story is delightful, happiness is its tone and creativity is a key feature emphasized on every page. The little Black girl who is the main character in this story looks lovely. She bounces from page to page, always engaged in an everyday activity that she makes extraordinary through her active imagination and passion for life.

It’s the joy shown by the little girl that keeps the reader turning the page to find out where she’s going next. The reader may happily join the precious child on her daily adventures and be delighted by the activities.

The illustrations by Catrow are noteworthy. The reader can tell that he knows his target audience well because the pages are filled with splashes of color that does not follow the rules of staying in between neat and orderly lines. These colorful, vivid images are what children love. The fanciful illustrations remind me of a splash park for kids where they are allowed to play without boundaries and get water everywhere.

Just from the cover of the book that’s based in green with hints of pink, blue, yellow and orange with the little girl posed as if she’s diving into the deep end of a pool while also spreading her wings (arms) to fly, the reader can tell that they are in for a wild and fun ride.

The story starts in what looks like a living room where the girl is curled up on a couch with a book, her cat and dog positioned faithfully on either side. It progresses to her getting ready to go outside. She rides her bicycle into town and spends time painting the sidewalk with street artist then she goes on an imaginative adventure with the artist, fueled by their creativity. The author uses these scenes to express to the reader that God gave them the gift of creativity and loves to see the products of their imagination.

Children may relate to this little girl’s love for creativity and art. What kid doesn’t like drawing pictures or playing with crayons? This book will encourage kids to be more creative and it will also teach them about God’s unconditional love.

The author does a delightful job of creating a story that’s creative, bold and beautiful. He packs it with a powerful message of how much God loves children and it emphasizes the fact that the Master Artist (God) enjoys creating art with His creation (such as the little girl featured in this book).

The author accomplishes his goal of helping children discover how their unique persona and talents fit into their world. He makes it easy for children who read this book to know that God loves them dearly.

I’d recommend this book to parents who want their children to realize their worth at an early age.

~*~

Bio according to author’s official website (with a few sentences edited out for this blog):

Matthew Paul Turner is a best-selling author, writer, storyteller, photographer, speaker, and blogger. As one of the most influential progressive Christian voices in media, Matthew has been featured on The Daily Beast, CNN, Washington Post, Yahoo!, USA Today, The New York …and many more.

What sets Matthew apart from today’s throng of open-minded Christian authors is a talent for combining thoughtful, often opinionated commentary about a variety of faith-related topics with poignant, spot-on wit and self-deprecating insight. Lauded by Publishers Weekly as “one of Christianity’s fresh voices” and revered by some as the “Christian David Sedaris,” Matthew writes what many people are thinking and unwilling to say aloud.

But commentary and humor aren’t this gifted writer’s only talents. Matthew has a sincere heart for the marginalized and relentless dedication to truth-telling. This passionate spirit motivates him to share rich stories that would often otherwise go unshared.

As a writer and photographer, Matthew has traveled extensively with World Vision to places.

Matthew and his family live in Nashville, Tenn. Connect with Matthew on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Book Review: Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

She thought she could outrun her past…

It is 1811, and the prosperous port city of Charleston is bustling with plantation owners, slaves and immigrants. Immigrants such as the raven-haired Adalia Winston. But Adalia has a secret: her light skin belies that she is part black and a runaway slave from Barbados. Skilled in herbal remedies, Adalia finds employment with a local doctor and settles into her quiet life, thankful for her freedom but still fearful that her owner will find her.

Born into one of Charleston’s prominent families, Morgan Rutledge is handsome, bored—and enamored of the beautiful Adalia, who spurns his advances. Morgan’s persistence, however, finally wins, and Adalia is swept into the glamorous world of Charleston high society.

But Adalia’s new life comes at a high price—that of denying her heritage and her zeal for God. How far is she willing to go to win the heart of the man she loves? And when her secret is revealed, will that love be enough, or will the truth ruin Morgan and send Adalia back into slavery?

REVIEW

I read Veil of Pearls a few years back. I remember thinking “Wow, I can’t think of another Christian fiction book that has a person of color as lead.” The seeds were already being planted back then!

Re-reading books is always a fun and interesting experience. Some books I realize are no longer for me, but that was not the case with this one. While there were some things that I wasn’t a fan of (specifically some of the ways secondary characters were described or treated), I like that Tyndall chose to deal with a something that was prevalent throughout the history of slavery and Jim Crow; people choosing to “pass” as white.

This idea of “passing” for white was something many people experienced and wrestled with during this historical era. Even some of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings’ children passed as white once they were freed by Jefferson.

Sidenote/Bonus: This story reminded me of The House Behind the Cedars (published in 1900) by Charles W. Chesnutt (who himself could have passed for white, his grandfather was a white slaveholder, but chose not to). His story also deals with many social issues, one being the main character passing for white, falling in love and what happens from there. (I highly recommend reading it). 

Tyndall has well researched pieces (of both Charleston and Barbados) and faith plays a strong role in the story. There are some dramatic scenes (in very much Tyndall fashion), along with characters who wrestle with their identity, their long held beliefs and come face to face with racial views. I like that this novel opens up that discussion. If you enjoy history, consider adding this to your list.

Where to Buy: Amazon | CBD | BN.com | Goodreads