Gone to Green [The Green Series]

Gone to Green [The Green Series]

Judy Pace Christie

Abingdon Press, 2009

225 pages


Book Summary:

In Gone to Green, Lois goes from being a corporate journalist at a large paper in the Midwest to the owner of The Green News-Item, a small twice-weekly newspaper in rural North Louisiana. The paper was an unexpected inheritance from a close colleague, and Lois must keep it for at least a year, bringing a host of challenges, lessons, and blessings into her life.

When Lois pulls into Green on New Year’s Day, she expects a charming little town full of smiling people. She quickly realizes her mistake. After settling into a loaned house out on Route 2, she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts and making friends with the most surprising people: troubled teenager Katy, good-looking catfish farmer Chris, wise and feisty Aunt Helen, and a female African-American physician named Kevin.

Whether fighting a greedy, deceitful politician or rescuing a dog she fears, Lois notices the headlines in her life have definitely improved. She learns how to provide small-town news in a big-hearted way and realizes that life is full of newsworthy moments. When she encounters racial prejudice and financial corruption, Lois also discovers more about the goodness of real people and the importance of being part of a community.

While secretly preparing the paper for a sale, Lois begins to realize that God might indeed have a plan for her life and that perhaps the allure of city life and career ambition are not what she wants after all.

My take:

I believe I have found a new favorite series. The novel is seamlessly written and drew me into the story from the first page. It moves briskly with no awkward scene changes.

While the newspaper’s struggle for survival is the lynchpin of the book, the counter balance is Lois’ unwilling examination of her anger towards God, stemming from the death of her mother. In her urban lifestyle she had been able to ignore God’s nudges, but in Green, smack in the Bible belt, where everyone goes to church and her nearest neighbor is an open and friendly female pastor, she gradually begins to deal with her misconceptions about God. Lois’ spiritual struggle is revealed through conversation between her and Jean, her pastor and neighbor.

I enjoyed getting an inside look at the newspaper business, and the politics involved in keeping it solvent in a small town, where the biggest advertisers are sometimes also the worst offenders and not happy at being on the front page of the paper.

The ending is predictable, but that’s one reason we read romances, right? Lois falls in love with Green and decides to settle forever, and we look forward to seeing if the hint of a developing love interest in a widower in town will go anywhere in the next book.

My Rating: I loved it, 5 ouf of 5

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones is an engaging, insightful YA read with substance

There You'll Find MeThere You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There You’ll Find Me
By:Jenny B. Jones
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
Coffee Beans: 4/5
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Minor
Disclaimers: This book was provided for review by Netgalley
Favorite Line: You sounded down on the phone yesterday. You can talk to your old dad about anything, you know. Except boys. And bras. And that Bieber fellow.

I was supposed to be reading another book, but opened this one by mistake. Once I started reading, though, I couldn’t stop. I have to say, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked this book up, but I’m glad I did. There You’ll Find Me is a YA light romance about a young girl who’s still trying to cope with the loss of her older brother and at the same time trying to renew her faith and relationship with God.

Publisher’s Summary:

When Finely books her trip to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, all she wants to do is let her heart heal, see the sights in her brother’s favorite country, and work on her college audition piece for a prestigious music conservatory. She plans to use her brother’s journal from his time in the Emerald Isle as her guide during her stay, yet from the moment she boards the plane and sits next to Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to her well-ordered plan.

The peace and beauty of the Irish village are no match for the chaos that soon becomes her life. When she gets roped into working as Beckett Rush’s personal assistant, she finds this famous wild child is not quite what he seems. And as she grows closer to the mysterious actor, her own secrets refuse to stay put.

I love how Jones “rips from the headlines” her characters. I got a good chuckle out of the fact that Finley is the daughter of a hotel mogul who’s got herself in a bit of trouble with her partying ways after the loss of Will, her brother. And that Beckett is a teen heart throb actor who’s currently filming a vampire movie in Ireland. It’s the typical Girl-is-not-impressed-by-hot-guy-every-other-girl-wants-so-as-a-result-guy-really-wants-plain-girl. But I was okay with that. The bantering relationship between Finley and Beckett was fun and didn’t grow boring. I found myself laughing quite a few times out loud.

Jones does a good job slipping in the reality that everyone has their secrets for whatever reasons, and some are more dangerous to keep than others. Jones slipped in some subtle hints throughout the book that Finley might have an eating disorder, but it leaves you guessing one way or another until well into the book. The book goes into depression and body image and self-esteem that every young girl goes through, and Jones does so in a very believable, natural-to-the-story way. I found myself nodding many times thinking, “yup, been there before, plenty of times”.

The story is smooth and believable with the protag’s internal struggle with her own depression from beginning through the climax to the end, and shows just how easy it is, with the right conditions, for a person to spiral down certain paths. There were also many emotional points throughout the story that made me tear up a little. Mainly Finley’s own struggles (been there, done that) as well as her relationship with others.

Now for the bad. And it’s really not that bad. Finley was a well-rounded, deep character. Beckett was pretty okay, considering we’re seeing him through Finley’s eyes. The others? Not so much. I felt they were pretty flat and could have been a little more intricate. Like Beatrice. Yeah, she’s the queen bee biotch, but there could have been more complication with her than there was.

Anyway, it’s a fun, sweet, good book. Worth the read and kept me turning the pages, always thinking about what was going on between Finely and Beckett when I wasn’t reading. Even though the only character I found 3-D enough was Finley, the author did such a good job weaving the story together and making me want to get back to it whenever I was away. Because of that, I gave it a good, solid 4 coffee beans.

Pick it up and give it a read. Decide for yourself. Happy reading, my friends!

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

The Wedding Dress
By Rachel Hauck
Thomas Nelson, 2012

Publisher Summary:
Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new-shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.”

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

My feelings:
Rachel Hauck seamlessly blends three vintage tales of love with Charlotte and Tim’s modern-day love story, hiding the surprise of why the gown was destined to belong to Charlotte until the very end.
I enjoyed learning about the bridal business from an insider’s perspective: the competition in the business, the designers, and watching an owner who loves brides trying to fulfill her customer’s special dreams, not simply make a profit. Of course what book worth its salt leaves out the evil character?  In this case a soon-to-be sister-in-law adds the much-needed someone-to-hate factor.  The author also displays the beauty of multi-generational friendships showing the interaction between a young energetic go-getter and the grace of someone who has lived many years.

Reviewing this book brings up a major drawback of Christian romances – they too often tend to be shallow. I enjoy easy, feel-good chick books, but I do not enjoy ones in which problems are ignored or treated trivially. Everyone grows through hard times and when Christian romances present a problem then immediately solve it by a prayer, they trivialize the struggle we go through to surrender our desires to God’s will.

One way this book rises above the banal is captured in Tim’s consuming passion for racing bikes. He doesn’t recognize the effect his hobby has on him and his relationship with Charlotte until he relinquishes it. Only when contemplating the empty space it leaves does he realize God had known all along that it had blinded him to better choices.

My rating system:
What makes an excellent romance story in my opinion is a writer who creates people you can relate to, emotion without cloying sentiment, and a story line that is strong and believable. Rachel Hauck did an exceptional job of skillfully weaving Christian principles with real life people without sermonizing.

I would rate this book: Definitely Read