Book Review: From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the StartABOUT THE BOOK

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?

Pre-order From the Start on Amazon!


REVIEW

When I first met Melissa Tagg at last year’s ACFW conference, I knew of very few contemporary Christian fiction authors, including our own writer of From the Start. It didn’t take me long to become interested in Tagg’s novels—I picked up both of her novels from the ACFW bookstore before the conference finished—so naturally I had to read her 2015 novel as soon as possible. If the one week it took me to read From the Start isn’t enough of an indicator of how much I liked this book, perhaps the following phrase will: I loved this book! Tagg’s From the Start is a charming story of faith, friendship, romance, and self-discovery that delivers heartfelt lessons sure to bring a smile to all readers. We are only a few months into 2015, but I am confident in putting From the Start onto my list of favorites for the year.

Tagg’s newest release is a novel reminiscent of the author herself. For all her quirky charm—including a curly-haired lopsided ponytail, love of puffy vests, and dangly bangle jewelry that pops with color—From the Start reads as if Tagg could star in the story alongside Kate Walker and Colton Greene. I don’t know if I have ever read a novel that put out a story so endearingly close to an author’s heart, and I loved From the Start for sharing so much of Tagg with me without compromising the integrity of the story. The Walkers hometown of Maple Valley, Iowa, for example, is hewn from the author’s love of her home state. I could easily visualize the quaint small town of Maple Valley and am looking forward to returning to this fictionalized but oh-so-real town for the rest of the Walker series.

The cast of characters in From the Start brings the story to life. Kate and Colton, alongside the rest of the Walker family, their circle of acquaintances, and Maple Valley’s community are so endearing that I did not want to put this novel down. With all of her down-to-earth charm, Kate could be any girl’s best friend; her relationships with Megan and Ava demonstrate that Tagg knows exactly the type of friendship most women yearn for. Colton is about handsome, wounded, driven, loyal, tender-hearted, and hard-working as any female would want her hero to be. On more than one occasion I found myself wishing for a real-life Colton Greene to show up on my doorstep. Tagg knows her heroes and heroines and contemporary Christian fiction is all the better for it.

Romance shines brightly Tagg’s third novel, from Colton and Kate, to the Walker parents, to the supporting characters whose own romances I cannot wait to read about in the following novels in the series. From the moment Kate and Colton enter the same room chemistry bounds off the page. With her trademark wit and humor, Tagg puts her leading characters through situations that show romantic comedy for all it should be in Christian fiction: appropriate for its demographic (i.e. in From the Start, clean but applicable to adults), sarcastic without any meanness, and quirky without being strange. I laughed aloud many times while reading this novel, which makes me want to pick up Tagg’s other novels to see what else she can possibly think of for her characters to get into. While laughter made Kate and Colton’s thrive, the passion between them is no laughing matter. Tagg created two characters whose chemistry thrives because they genuinely appreciate and care about one another. With another nod to appropriate text for both content and audience, Tagg put in scenes that respectfully balance passion with Christian principles.

Tagg’s lessons in From the Start, both faith-based and otherwise, are as approachable and poignant as all the other aspects of this story. Both Kate and Colton struggle with their careers throughout the book, and as they learn to let God take control of their lives instead of direct it themselves, readers will see that trusting in His plan always brings the best results. Tagg also takes readers on a wild ride of blind faith as a Kate’s demeanor changes throughout From the Start. Once passive and protective of her heart because of past hurts, Kate shows readers how to chase dreams as she gains confidence in herself and others. Those only a few of the heartfelt lessons of the novel, From the Start brims with takeaways and lines that are bound to fill Picmonkey messages and social media messages.

Female readers of all ages will love this contemporary Christian fiction novel. I heartily recommend From the Start for readers in the “new adult” age range because the situations and characters so perfectly resonate with those of us experiencing similar situations and emotions to those in the Walker clan.

RATING: 4/5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR   

Melissa TaggMelissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com.

Website: melissatagg.com

Facebook: Author Melissa Tagg

Twitter: @Melissa_Tagg

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Dauntless

Book: Dauntless (Valiant Hearts series, book 1)

Author: Dina L. Sleiman

Publisher: Bethany House (March 3rd, 2015)

Upon King John’s ruthless revenge against her family, Lady Merry Ellison takes refuge with her band of homeless children within the forests of England. Merry and the “ghosts of Farthingale Forest,” as she and the other orphans are called, take risky measures to ensure their survival amidst threats against their lives. The ghosts almost always remain hidden—until a high-jacking of gold goes wrong. Timothy Grey, Merry’s former best friend and now an assistant to an earl loyal to King John, managed to stay alive after the destruction of Ellsworth. Now an assistant to an earl, Timothy is working to make a name for himself; however, the price for recognition could came at Merry’s expense. When the two of them come together—and Timothy’s reputation rests upon his capture of the ghosts—Merry and Timothy face their greatest adversaries…knowing their own hearts.

Dina Sleiman’s Dauntless is a young adult novel with so much more than what can be held within those two words. Young adult, or YA as the genre is referred to in the publishing industry, revolves around characters who experience a coming of age. While the Dauntless characters certainly experience maturation over the course of the novel, this story is about so much more than the transition from childhood to adulthood. Sleiman has created a world of both magic and reality within the confines of medieval England that brings readers into the hearts of teenagers and the world of adults. With a gripping tangle of faith, friendships, romance, and survival, Dauntless should be on everyone’s to-be-read list regardless of the reader’s age.

Hailed amongst some readers and reviewers as a female version of the story of Robin Hood, Dauntless stands on its own as a strong story that teaches readers about faith and love from the perspectives of teenagers fighting to survive during a time in which loyalty to the monarchy ensured your life. Merry, Timothy, and Allen—three of the main characters of Dauntless—form a dichotomy of beliefs and backgrounds that support the themes of the novel. Through Merry, Sleiman weaves such ideas as women’s roles, gender equality, and feminism; through Timothy, recognition within family; and Allen, leadership and perseverance to pursue one’s goals in life. Each of these characters experienced trials and tribulations in his or her life but found the courage to fight for their lives and dreams. All readers, but especially teenagers, will find Merry, Allen, and Timothy worthy examples of inspiration.

As a Christian fiction YA novel, I found Dauntless to have strong threads of faith that bring the messages of Christianity to readers without becoming overbearing. Sleiman presents her messages in both overt and subtle manners, making Dauntless an excellent choice for readers familiar and unfamiliar with the faith. Christian readers will appreciate the overt themes of staying strong in your faith through trials and blessings and of questioning God’s will, while readers not as familiar with Christianity will draw upon the subtler themes of kindness and unexpected blessings. I am not one who necessarily looks for preaching in novels, but when reading a Christian book I do want a strong presence of Christian themes, morals, ideals, messages, and description—Dauntless has all of these, and I hope to find more novels such as this one in the future.

I happened upon Dauntless through an email thread within the ACFW, with no previous knowledge of Sleiman or the novel. Now just a short time later I have found a new favorite author, novel, and series. I could not be more pleased to have read Dauntless and am eagerly anticipating Sleiman’s next novel in The Valiant Heart series, Chivalrous (to be published by Bethany House in late 2015).

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


ABOUT THE BOOK

Though once a baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest,” her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

DINA SLEIMANDina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Also look for her novels, Love in Three-Quarter TimeDance from Deep Within, and her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US. For more info visit her at her primary website.
http://dinasleiman.com/

Dina’s Facebook         Dina’s Pintrest

Dina’s Goodreads       Dina’s Twitter

Terri Blackstock on the Value of Romance Novels

Terri Blackstock quoteToday popular Christian fiction author Terri Blackstock visits Edgy Inspirational Romance to talk about the value of lessons readers can take away from romance novels.

Amongst Terri’s thoughts about the value of novels is her belief that readers can take away different ideas about the world around them when they are able to experience situations and emotions through the characters of their chosen reading material. “…books teach children empathy, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to be kind to people who are hurting. More than that, they teach us to see the pain of others,” says Blackstock.

Stop by Edgy Inspirational Romance today to read the rest of the article and learn about Twisted Innocence, Terri’s upcoming book. You can find Twisted Innocence  here.

Terri BlackstockTerri, a New York Times bestselling author, has been a successful novelist for over twenty-five years and believes her calling as a writer comes having her imagination as her best friend during the many years she moved and changed schools overseas as a child of an Air Force family. She writes suspense novels in which she weaves threads of hope that stem from her faith.

Book Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

An Uncertain ChoiceAbout the Book

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

REVIEW:

Jody Hedlund is known in the Christian fiction industry for choosing settings, time periods, and plots that reach far into the depths of human compassion and trials. Her first foray into the young adult genre follows her typical path—with a new and positive exception that she ventured into the lands of a medieval fairy tale story. Writing a young adult novel presents different challenges than Jody most likely encounters when penning her adult Christian fiction stories: teens except fast-paced entertainment but writers are potentially limited by the accessibility of language and depth of the stories that young adult readers are able to handle. Jody handles this transition well, and there is no uncertainty as whether or not teens or adults will enjoy this novel. An Uncertain Choice is a winner of a young adult novel for its emphasis on an age-appropriate, clean, and exhilarating romance swept within a fun medieval story.

An Uncertain Choice offers much to like about the story that teens and adults will gravitate to while reading this young novel. Jody is particularly adept at writing descriptions that pull readers directly into her books. While I admit I have read and watched my fair share of medieval stories that might have helped me grasp the setting of this book, the descriptions within An Uncertain Choice we so well written that I felt I was one who had less than a month to choose my suitor. Considering I will never have knights wooing me or to watch a jousting tournament, I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of An Uncertain Choice.

Jody’s adult Christian historical fiction will probably always hold a stronger place in my heart because those novels tend to have characters similar in age to myself, and those are characters with whom I identify. However, in recent years the young adult genre is becoming more popular with adults, and if I am going to read one of these books I will most certainly always choose Jody’s novels first. An Uncertain Choice is a great novel for teens because it centers around male and female characters of a young adult age who question the world around them without giving in to worldly temptations. Teens will also enjoy Jody’s novel because she lets her characters make wise decisions based upon faith and reason while still experiencing all the emotions with which her readers identify. I recommend this novel for teens and adult alike and am very much looking forward to the rest of the books in this series.

RATING: 3.5/5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances for both adults and teens.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.