Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nostalgic Fiction: Missing Isaac, by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Genre: Fiction

Rating: Four out of five hearts ♥♥♥♥= good


After Pete's father's death, the young Alabama boy turns to Isaac for friendship, advice and comfort. True, he's white and Isaac is one of his family's black workers, and most people their 1960's community don't see the African-Americans as their equal. However, to Pete, there are no barriers, and he treasures their close friendship. But then the worst happens- Isaac disappears. No one seems to know where he's gone, and because of Isaac's skin color, no one seems to care. 
 Determined to find Isaac, Pete sets out to the one place he's never gone before. There he meets a girl who will become his new best friend, and who will impact his life forever. 
However, as the years go by, Pete still has questions. It sometimes seems as if he'll never find out what happened to Isaac.

My Review: 

Alabama native Mrs. Luesse takes you back to the classic 1960's in a small-town setting with her new debut novel. The book gives off a slightly nostalgic, sweet feel and takes you back to the days where school dances were sweet, chivalrous and fun; boys offered you their arm; and kids were allowed to run free through the fields and woods. Intermixed with all that, though, is segregation. Prejudice. But even though African-Americans (and others who were looked down upon) may have been considered "beneath" other races, Pete, his family, and his friend Dovey look at all people, no matter the color of their skin, the same. This time in history was not perfect and it was a hard one for many, but Pete's story gives you the sweetness and hope of friends who come from different worlds and defy the boundaries of prejudice. 
 Pete and various other characters have gone through heart-breaking loss, and I think that may be one of the themes of this book- moving through it, even when it's tough, and proving that the song by The Afters true. Life is still beautiful. Even through the trials, heartache, loss and pain. Pete and the other characters come to learn this throughout the story. 
 The author skips around in her narrative; one chapter may be from Pete's point of view, while the next may be from his mother's, or a neighbor. It confused me at times, especially when a new point of view was introduced, but definitely helped broaden the story and show the whole picture. The story is about Pete, he's the main character after all. However, it's also about the people close to him, and together the story flows into a lovely picture of Southern life. 
 While the writing style wasn't my favorite at times, it was still a good story, and I think this was a wonderful first novel for Mrs. Luesse. She takes you on a leisurely journey through a small, lovable community that I think you'll want to visit again. 

Note: I got this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fun, Heart, Adventure, and Laughs // Holding the Fort, by Regina Jennings

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: Five out of five hearts ♥♥♥♥♥= excellent!

Book one in the Fort Reno series


Former saloon singer Louisa Bell (otherwise known as the "Lovely Lola Bell") has nowhere to go. Fired from her job, she decides to turn to Fort Reno, where her brother is a cavalry soldier with a knack for getting in trouble- maybe she can put him in line.  However, circumstances rarely turn out the way we expect...
The major of the fort, Daniel Adams, has his hands full. Running a fort, keeping the Indians happy and in line, and perhaps the hardest thing of all- raising two adolescent daughters- has been keeping him on his toes. A governess could be just the thing he has been needing to teach his daughters decorum (an older widow, stern enough to handle his children, preferred), but he is in no way prepared for the lady who shows up.
Louisa never meant to fall into the roll of a governess, but it may be just what she needs for the time being. Calling upon her stage experience, she embarks upon the hardest performance of her life...

My Review:

Oh my; I can't say enough good things about this book. If I was a bit nervous that Mrs. Jennings' Fort Reno series wouldn't be as good as her Ozark Mountain Romance one, I'm not anymore. This series may very well prove to be even better! 
Let's start with the characters. Lovable and engaging are two words that fit the bill, and I am so very much looking forward to book two, where I hopefully will be able to catch up with them again. Louisa is a fun character, whose efforts in trying to keep up her ruse (coupled with Daniel's efforts to figure out her secrets) make up most of the story and keep it interesting. Daniel and Louisa work beyond perfectly together- her fun and his discipline making quite the pairing, and his daughters (sixteen-year-old Caroline and ten-year-old Daisy) complete the family. Sometimes I feel, in books, that the children of the main character tend to slow the book down, or make the parent seem a bit boring, but that is anything but the case for Daniel and his daughters. They instead complete the story, and help to make it a delightful tale. I absolutely cannot wait to see which character(s) (I have my guesses, although I can't decide which I'd rather read about first) will be featured in the next and subsequent novels in the series!
The content of this story is brilliant. Combine characters with varying personalities, an Indian sighting or two, a governess who is actually a singer of unknown repute, a major who is always in control, and two unwieldy daughters who seem determined to destroy his image, and you've got Holding the Fort in all its charm. 
If you've loved Regina Jenning's other books, are a fan of author Karen Witemeyer, or just want a good western romance filled with love and laughter (this book has the kind of fun I love- the believable kind you probably could find in your own life. Not the focus of the story but enough to spice it up), then you should definitely try Holding the Fort- it's certainly worth the read! 

Note: I got this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.