Tag Archives: Howard Books

Book Review: Close to You by Kara Isaac

Title: Close to You
Author: Kara Isaac
Publisher: Howard Books
Published: April 2016
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

My Thoughts:

Fans of romantic comedies will love this debut novel. Such a fun read! Its situational comedy, quirky supporting characters, and witty banter had me grinning and chuckling, even as I got to know and empathize with the lead characters in their struggles and disappointments.

The unique backdrop of a Lord of the Rings themed tour in New Zealand sets this book apart from the start, and makes it quite memorable. There are some fabulous descriptions and details throughout the book, the kind that make me want to go on exactly this sort of tour.  Though I think I’d want to brush up on my LOTR trivia first….

But it’s the characters, their hurts, and their goals that carry the story. Both characters are likeable – Allison from the beginning, and Jackson as we get to know him better – and they each have some unfortunate emotional baggage to work through, and some growing to do. I enjoyed cheering them on along the way toward a charmingly romantic ending. Perfect for those readers of clean contemporary romance looking for a good chuckle along the way to happily ever after.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary electronic copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Book Review: Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury

Title: Angels Walking
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Publisher: Howard Books (Simon & Schuster)
Series: Angels Walking, Book 1
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Karen Kingsbury has a real talent for crafting characters, situations, and scenes that tug at a reader’s heartstrings.  Her most recent book, Angels Walking, is first in a new series and does exactly that.

About the Book (from publisher, Howard Books):

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury comes the first in a brand-new series about second chances—a dramatic story about a washed up baseball player, the love he left behind, and the miracles that might save them both.

When former national baseball star Tyler Ames suffers a career-ending injury, all he can think about is putting his life back together the way it was before. He has lost everyone he loves on his way to the big leagues. Then just when things seem to be turning around, Tyler hits rock bottom. Across the country, Tyler’s one true love Sami Dawson has moved on. 

A series of small miracles leads Tyler to a maintenance job at a retirement home and a friendship with Virginia Hutcheson, an old woman with Alzheimer’s who strangely might have the answers he so desperately seeks.

A team of Angels Walking take on the mission to restore hope for Tyler, Sami, and Virginia. Can such small and seemingly insignificant actions of the unseen bring healing and redemption? And can the words of a stranger rekindle lost love? Every journey begins with a step.

It is time for the mission to begin…

My thoughts:

Tyler and Sami are each striving for perfection in some area of their lives. The weight of unmet expectations and sacrifices made in other areas of their lives has separated them and changed them each in detrimental ways since they first met and fell in love. This book explores restoring broken relationships, regaining faith, and discovering that God really can bring good things out of what may look like impossible situations.

I loved the way the romance played out. The gradual reconnection and uncertain hope made sense given the circumstances. And there were a few heartrendingly wonderful scenes that made me long for things to work out for Tyler and Sami. They really did seem perfectly suited for each other.

Another element I enjoyed was the complex intertwining of the various characters’ lives. It was neat to watch how seemingly insignificant interactions could add up to have a big impact in the long run.

I was a little less enthusiastic about the scenes from the angels’ perspectives. The angels felt a bit more human than I expected, with their doubts and uncertainties about the future. Plus, I felt like the premise of their mission had (maybe unintended?) theological implications that I didn’t necessarily agree with. The idea that there’s one specific child not yet born who will be a great teacher and that “The salvation of countless souls depends on this child” (from the Prologue) seemed a little off to me. I’m not an expert or a theologian by any means, but it’s my understanding that God can and does use anyone willing, to achieve His purposes, and empowers them to do what’s necessary. The idea that God’s plans can’t go forward if one particular person isn’t born? Not sure I’m buying it.  Then again, I may be reading more into this than was intended.

All nitpicking aside, I did thoroughly enjoy the story, and the idea that there’s more at stake than just the hearts and souls of Tyler and Sami themselves is an appealing one, so I’m not going to complain too loudly on this point.

I’m definitely curious to find out how this angelic team’s future missions will go and to learn more details about what they’re trying to achieve and why. The epilogue in particular piqued my curiosity about what comes next in the series. Sounds like the next book could turn out to be a really exciting one.

My favorite parts of this installment were the touching and emotionally stirring scenes included.  There were a few points where I found myself crying.  The storytelling made me really empathize with the characters, feeling their fears, regrets, and disappointments right along with them, which made me want to root for them all the more.

A big thank you to Howard Books for supplying an advance reader copy of Angels Walking through Netgalley for purposes of this review. I would gladly recommend this book to fans of Karen Kingsbury’s other books and to anyone who enjoys a good story centered around the themes of grace and reconciliation.

If you have a minute, and you’re not already rushing to go out and purchase the book (or even if you are), check out the book trailer for this one.  It’s very well made with a great sound track and images, and seems true to the book.