Book Review: ‘Her Part to Play’ by Jenny Erlingsson

There is lots to like in this debut! Erlingsson demonstrates her history of writing through her story telling craft and her own experience in being in an interracial relationship. I really enjoyed the fact this story featured such a relationship and Erlingsson presented it in such a way that it felt natural.

John Pope is an actor, not getting the best roles at present, and now trying to get a leg up by making a movie in small town Hope Springs, Alabama. His usual make-up artist, Doris, is on leave caring for her ailing sister and in steps Adanne Stewart, a gusty local Hope Springs young lady.

The connection between the two feels at times a little forced and I felt for parts of the story that the author was creating something between them so she had a story to tell because not a lot happens in the first two thirds of the book.

But John becomes more engaged and senses something in Adanne and her heart for her town and community centre, established by her deceased parents. The centre is struggling to survive and perhaps one of the reasons is Adanne tries to do it all, her brother, Daniel, caring for his son, who is going through cancer treatment.

The faith element in this story is very good. John’s story of repentance and seeking after God is lovely to read. His preparedness to make significant changes to his life is a strong demonstration of what a life living for Jesus can be about. I also loved Adanne’s extended family’s faith. There is one scene late in the story when her two cousins come around Adanne and the three of them pray in surrender to God. Erlingsson captures the beauty of this sacred moment wonderfully.

The romantic twist at the 80 percent mark really bothered me. I felt it was disingenuous to John after all he’d was doing to impress and give to Adanne. Movie stars receive inappropriate approaches from fans, in this case, from an ex-girlfriend of his, and it bothered me that for the twist he was made out to be the bad guy. I’m not sure how he could have responded differently without insulting his ex. which didn’t fit with his character. It made me wonder whether Adanne would ever be able to deal with the attention John would receive from female admirers.

However, the story does end beautifully and I love how the town got around Adanne to show how appreciative they were of her and her unyielding devotion to the community centre.

I was fortunate to receive an early ebook copy from Revell as part of the readers program via Net Galley. This has had no bearing on my review.

Book Review: “Shadows in the Mind’s Eye” by Janyre Tromp

Tromp’s debut was a pleasant surprise and I especially enjoyed the Southern voice she adopted. It’s the 1940s in the small town of Hot Springs and Sam Mattas has just returned from war suffering with combat fatigue (which we now know as PTSD). He arrives unexpectedly to an empty house which sets the scene for much of the early tension of the story.

Annie, his wife, returns from town to find Sam asleep in the barn and even though warmly welcomed it’s clear not all is as it should be. Annie has been well supported in Sam’s absence by his brother, Peter, and best friend, Doc and immediately he senses he’s the misfit. Sam also returns to his daughter, Rosie, who he hasn’t met, she being born soon after his departure for war.

The first half of the story focuses on the tension between Annie and Sam as they seek to settle into their new lives together. But his combat fatigue keeps getting in the way making both of them question his sanity and her safety. Doc’s strong friendship with Annie also adds cause for unease.

In parallel, there’s this undercurrent of corruption that is rife within the town and how Sam, at one point, was involved in it to some extent being employed by Annie’s father, The Judge, who happens to be up to his eyeballs in no good working for the Mayor who encourages it. Or is he?

A lot can happen in 3 years; people change, towns change.

A story that starts as a relatively sleepy small town tale of a marriage reunion suddenly takes off in the second half to a thrilling suspenseful one that makes the reader keep turning the pages. It’s tremendous writing as the twists and turns keep on coming. Who are the good guys and who can you trust?

The characters are rich in their portrayal and Tromp demonstrates her story telling skills with the deftness in which we are kept guessing.

I was very fortunate to receive an early ebook version of the story from Kregel via NetGalley as a result of being part of Audra Jennings PR Blogging tour. This had no impact on my review.

Book Review: Roots of Wood & Stone by Amanda Wen

This is a simply stunning time slip story with a wonderful sense of God’s grace and love threading through it.

Sloane Kelley was abandoned by her mom three days after she was born. She’s now 30 and has no clue who her birth mom is. Sloane has been lovingly raised by her adopted parents, however, continues to struggle with a sense of abandonment which continues to raise its ugly head in many of her relationships.

Annabelle Collins, half a century earlier in the 1860s, lost her parents when she was very young and joined her aunt and uncle on settling in the prairies in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Annabelle marries soon after to a local, Jack Brennan, who builds her a dream home where they raise their seven children. Annabelle is a mad diary writer and she documents all of her life in these diaries.

Sloane is an historian by profession and she inadvertently finds one of Annabelle’s diaries. This starts Sloane on her own adventure of discovering the history behind Annabelle’s life. To do this she needs to spend time in Garrett and Lauren Anderson’s grandma’s house and she becomes firm friends with the brother and sister as she heads deeper into the story of Annabelle.

Wen writes a beautiful story of love and loss, abandonment and reclamation, creating a wonderful assemble of characters whom its’ easy to fall in love with. It’s a really clever time slip story in how Wen brings the two life stories together without it being forced or unnatural.

It staggers me that this is a debut novel. There are so many wonderful descriptions of the county, the grand Brennan household that serves as the backdrop for much of the story, and the little tidbits like Sloane and Garrett’s passion for jazz. I frequently found myself with a contented smile on my face as I turned the pages.

If you’re looking for a delightful surprise, then Roots of Wood and Stone will certainly do that for you.

I received an early ebook copy via NetGalley as part of Audra Jennings PR Blog Tour with no expectation of a favourable review.