February 12, 2017

Fresh From the Bookshelf: No Way Up by Mary Connealy {Book Review}

No Way Up by Mary Connealy~ Book Review
When I am looking for fun read set in the western frontier, I enjoy reaching for a book from Christian fiction author Mary Connealy. I had a chance to review No Way Up, the first installment of her newest series The Cimarron Legacy through NetGalley. I hoped that it would be another fun read, set in the wild west of America.

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About No Way Up

No Way Up is the first installment of the latest series The Cimarron Legacy by Mary Connealy. Thanks to a novella (FREE!) we were able to meet the father of this series in The Boden Birthright, which set up the new series. The first book begins about 20 or so years after the novella. We get to meet the Boden family--ranchers living in the frontier New Mexico Territory in 1880. Chance Boden owns a vast land grant that he calls Cimarron Ranch. When

Fresh from the Bookshelf: A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander {Book Review}

Do you like book series? I do! The one pet peeve I have with many series relates to the quality of the books down the line. It seems like some authors just lose steam and the later books become a bit lackluster. Other authors seem to pick UP steam with each book progressively getting better and better. One of my favorite authors within the Christian Fiction genre, is Tamera Alexander. There has YET to be a book I didn't like. She has been working on two series lately that I have been enjoying--but ESPECIALLY the A Belmont Mansion series. She recently released book three in the series--the final installment--titled A Note Yet Unsung. I was pleased to have a chance to review this title through BethanyHouse and I hoped that it would be the same level of enjoyment the previous books in the series have brought me.

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About A Note Yet Unsung

A Note Yet Unsung is the third and final installment in the A Belmont Mansion series. This series takes place in Nashville, around the famous Belmont Mansion--home of Adelicia Acklen Cheatham. Set in 1871, the story follows the gifted musician and master violinist Rebekah Carrington as she returns to Nashville after spending the previous ten years in Vienna. Having been trained by some of Vienna's fineness, she is ready to return and take her spot in the music world. She wheedles her way into an audition with the maestro at the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic--however, her hopes are swiftly dashed because the conductor bows to the public opinion that women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra. Forced to find employment due to uncomfortable family issues, Rebekah finds herself in the role of violin tutor to the daughter of Adelicia Acklen Cheatham at Belmont Mansion. Unfortunately the nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb, who denied her the chance of making a dream come true, is indebted to Mrs. Cheatham and when he needs an assistant to help him complete the symphony he is writing, Rebekah is cajoled into the role. Will she be able to help him finish the symphony in time for the grand opening of the new opera hall? Can he continue with the strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head worsening? Will he ever be able to help Rebekah reach her dream of performance on a stage?

My Thoughts

Wow. I kid you not when I tell you that I could NOT put this book down. I have a special affinity for books about musicians with my own background as a pianist and piano teacher--but THIS one. This one touches some things that I have thought about myself--what if something happened and God allowed circumstances to occur which took my joy and love of music from me? What if I have been given this talent just for the purpose of giving God glory? The hard questions that both Rebekah and Nathaniel dive into were very personal for me. 

Another level of the book I enjoyed was the revelation of Nathaniel's upbringing. I LIVE at the mouth of the Appalachian Mountains, so the description of the people and the culture was wonderful. I am definitely drawn more to books that showcase this area. Everything she portrayed was as accurate as I could ever discover going and visiting the "hollers" around me here in KY. 

Adding in the information about the classical music selections both Nathaniel and Rebekah played or referenced was wonderful--I knew EXACTLY what they were. I also appreciated tying in the classical composers of the day like Brahms! My musical background filter came to the surface while reading this book--I nodded my head at the declarations of the difficulty of some pieces. The issues with transcribing. The complication of sight reading vs. playing by ear. I appreciated and understood it ALL! And the talk about how music moves you to a different level--yes! 

Is there anything I didn't like? 
Only one thing I was having issues with. How Rebekah's step-father is worked into the events in Chickory Hollow. I never quite knew what he was doing there and thought we could have had a bit more explanation. 

I am giving A Note Yet Unsung 5★
I am happily giving A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander my highest and rare rating of FIVE stars. This book had EVERYTHING that I love in a book. A plot that kept me intrigued like an onion revealing each layer. It had a brilliant setting in the music world, which captured the essence of both the performer and the creator of music. The characters had great depth to them. Their relationship wasn't rushed and just felt--normal. The author captured with words such a great image of every setting that I could instantly picture it in my head. I am just sorry that this book concludes the A Belmont Mansion series. It was lovely to see the characters from the previous two books of the series mentioned in this one as well--although I really think each book CAN stand on it's own. I truly think this third book was the BEST in the series. That doesn't happen very often does it? Oh and the cover was simply gorgeous! The writing is a raised embossed iridescent script which just begs you to run your fingers over it!

As an aside--if you are NOT a music person, I think you will still enjoy the book. It's just that having a music background takes it up a level in enjoyment!

Once again Tamera Alexander has written a winner! I can't wait to continue to read her books, and look forward to the other series she is writing and all the new ones she has YET to write!

A Note Yet Unsung (Belmont Mansion Book #3)
by Tamera Alexander
Available in Kindle and Paperback

I hope you will consider checking out other books by Tamera Alexander!


*****
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February 9, 2017

Fresh from the Bookshelf: The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser {Book Review}

Are you lover of all things sewing related? Do you enjoy historical fiction that gives you a behind the scenes look at people or places in "real" history, with a dash of romance, and a Christian message? If so, you need to try out The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser. As soon as I saw it on a list for reviews from NetGalley, I jumped on it--not only did the subject matter appeal to me, but I've read and loved the previous Nancy Moser books I've had a chance to read.

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About The Pattern Artist

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser follows the life of English housemaid Annie Wood, as she dares to dream for a better future and runs away from the house she's serving in while they are vacationing in New York in 1911. Alone and risking it all, she takes a job in the sewing department of the grand store Macy's. While working, she catches the eye of the Butterick Pattern Company salesman, and with determination and God's leading--ends up opening doors beyond anything she could imagine--discovering that she is a gifted pattern artist of the highest degree. Holding onto her future like a ribbon on a kite, while trying to keep the winds of her past at bay, she enters a creative world that takes her into a life of adventure, purpose, and love.

My Thoughts on the Book

I have always thought about the men and women who designed the "first" patterns and what that must have been like. This book really is perfect for any woman who has attempted to sew for that reason. It's cool to wander into the world of patterns and learning how they gained popularity, what they did to demo them, where the ideas came from, and how they crafted them. It was absolutely fascinating, and convinced me I would not have lasted long doing all that tedious work! LOL.

When it comes to the plot of the story, it really wasn't that believable in my mind. Not the whole housemaid decides to run away in NY, without having any place to live aspect. That would never have worked well during that time period. Especially not in 1911 or New York. Maybe I'm wrong, but everything I've read talks about how DANGEROUS it was for people who tried to do like Annie. 

I really liked the growth that Annie faces through the course of the group, and how she even comes to realize that she's made some wrong decisions. Seeing her wrestle with her conscience and accepting that God is in control, and choosing to rely on Him above all else is very realistic. 
I give The Pattern Artist 3.5★
I think all in all, I would give this book 3 1/2 stars. It's got a great story, but I prefer a bit more meat to keep my interest. I loved the history of the sewing and of the Butterick company and seeing a bit behind the scenes of early 1900's Macy's. If you are wanting a more light read set in a historical era, this is a good option. If you want to learn more about the early 1900's fashion industry, I think you would like this book. It's an also good look at what poor immigrants dealt with. 
by Nancy Moser
Available on Kindle and Paperback

There are quite a few other great reads from Nancy Moser that I highly recommend--you can check them out here:


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Professional Reader
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