Category Archives: Fiction

Christian Chapters: The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Thoroughly Historical and Wholly Enjoyable Amish Fiction

The Newcomer
by Suzanne Woods Fisher


Series: Amish Beginnings (Book 2)
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Revell
Length: 336pp
ISBN-13: 978- 0800727499

Related Links:
Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Website (Tons of info!)

Publisher’s Website

 

 


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Publisher Synopsis

A fresh start in the New World will test Anna’s resolve . . . and her heart.

In 1737, Anna König staggers off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. It’s a time of new beginnings, and for Anna and Bairn’s shipboard romance to blossom.

But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World, his enthusiasm evaporates. When a ship captain offers him a first mate position, he grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?

As a newcomer joins the church, Anna is torn. This man is everything Bairn is not – bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And he is here. Bairn is not.

Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves the lives of Bairn, Anna, and the newcomer together. When the secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?


My Review

The Newcomer is the second book in Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Beginnings series. Let me assure you, since I’ve not yet read book one, Anna’s Crossing, you can pick up The Newcomer without any prior knowledge and completely enjoy it. In fact, Ms. Fisher originally wrote Anna’s Crossing as a stand alone novel. It was only after years of readers’ requests for a sequel that the tale developed into a series. And it’s only natural that readers wanted more since The Newcomer begins in late 1737, soon after a group of German Amish immigrants emigrate to the New World. Anna’s Crossing chronicles Anna’s group’s voyage to the New World, and The Newcomer tells us about their journey toward settlement.

Indeed, in many ways The Newcomer is about journeys – physical and spiritual, personal and communal. Other thematic elements include pain and loss, dealing with the past, forgiveness, freedom, family, community, leadership, faith, God’s providence, and perseverance.

A true historical novel, The Newcomer will teach you a thing or two! For instance, you might learn about ships, naturalization (there’s an interesting story about the Amish immigrants’ views on the Oath of Allegiance and the resultant changes that were made so they could take the oath in good conscience), Penn’s Woods, or about what led the Amish to leave their homeland. You might even learn a bit about Benjamin Franklin: Good ol’ Ben appears in the novel, working as a printer in Philadelphia. You’ll really enjoy his character and his wit, including the wise sayings of his alter ego Poor Richard — and their German counterparts (and possible origins). One of my favorite proverbs mentioned in The Newcomer is “Ken Rose ohne Dornen,” which translates to “there is no rose without a thorn.”

On top of Mr. Franklin’s humor, a young Amish boy named Felix supplies plenty of smiles and laughs. In addition to levity, Fisher uses short chapters with brief, alternating story lines to carry her plot along without delay. The result? You’ll be turning the pages so quickly you’ll forget you’re reading historical fiction!

I certainly enjoyed my stay in early 18th century Pennsylvania. Though it was definitely not a place for the faint of heart, it’s easy to see the promise that our then young country held for those who faced oppression and possibly even danger for simply practicing their faith, as well as understand why they were willing to endure hardship and combat fear to secure their religious freedom.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 of 5 Hearts. Thoroughly Historical and Wholly Enjoyable Amish Fiction.

With her latest novel, The Newcomer, Suzanne Woods Fisher has successfully accomplished several ticklish feats. She has written an engrossing sequel that also reads perfectly well as a stand alone; her novel is thoroughly researched yet fast-paced and easily read; she’s crafted likeable and memorable characters (some of whom are even based on real people!); and she’s tied it all together in a beautiful bow that teaches her readers about faith and leaves them with an uplifting message: “There is always something to fear. There always will be. But God will be with us wherever we go.”

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Revell Reads for providing me with a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fiction Shelves: The Candidate by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

Grab It, Read It, Savor the Thrills!


The Candidate
by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart


Series: Newsmakers (Book 2)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 334pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718037680

Related Links:
Lis Wiehl’s Website
Lis Wiehl Podcast on The Newsmakers

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Publisher Synopsis

How far will a candidate go to become president? Erica Sparks—America’s top-rated cable-news host— is about to find out.

Mike Ortiz is a dynamic war hero favored to win the White House. Standing by his side is his glamorous and adoring wife, Celeste. But something about this seemingly perfect couple troubles Erica. Is Celeste really who she seems? And most importantly, what really happened in that squalid Al-Qaeda prison where Mike Ortiz spent nine months?

But more than the nation’s future is at stake. Erica’s relentless search for the truth puts the life of her preteen daughter Jenny in danger, even as Erica’s own dark past threatens to overtake her.


My Review

[Click the title to see my review of the first book in the series, The Newsmakers.]

Once again, Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart have turned out a barn-burner of a thriller. Top flight journalist Erica Sparks has her hands full — overly full, I should say — combating a villain that no one else even suspects. And this villain is wickedly, viciously, coldly, frighteningly evil.

If you have not read the first book in the Newsmakers series, I suggest you do so before plunging into this one. Many of the same characters reappear, and it helps to know one of them in particular in order to understand Erica’s romantic plight. Also, Erica’s background is explored more thoroughly in book one, as is usual in a series, and there’s much in her history that will enable the reader to better grasp our heroine’s struggles at being a mother.

Those readers seeking an overtly Christian thriller will not find it here. There is little time for Erica to pause and reflect, other than about her worries. (Yes, she could have used some praying.) But despite the presence of a cruel and heartless antagonist, the book’s language never crosses a line that might offend. So this is a clean read, if that concerns you, though at times a heartbreaking one, as not everyone makes it out alive.

Of course, if you read and enjoyed The Newsmakers, then you know what to expect in The Candidate, and you will not be disappointed!

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


4 of 5 Hearts. Grab It, Read It, Savor the Thrills!

The Candidate is the second in Lis Wiehl’s latest series. In it, she takes her heroine to even darker places, physically and mentally, than in the first book, and the ride this time is bumpier and more painful. But as before, it is the keen wit, courage, and perseverance of Erica Sparks that provides the real entertainment.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of The Candidate in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters – An Amish Home: Four Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, & Kathleen Fuller

An Outstanding and Uplifting Collection of Amish Novellas!

An Amish Home: Four Novellas
by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, & Kathleen Fuller


Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 406pp
ISBN-13: 978-0-5291-1869-1

Related Links:
Beth Wiseman’s Website
Amy Clipston’s Website
Ruth Reid’s Website
Kathleen Fuller’s Website
Publisher’s Website


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Contents

A Cup Half Full by Beth Wiseman

Home Sweet Home by Amy Clipston

A Flicker of Hope by Ruth Reid

Building Faith by Kathleen Fuller


My Review

Early last month, when Amy Clipston surprised those of us in her Bakery Bunch with a beautiful purple welcome package, it was Christmas all over again! She had put together the contents with so much love that it was like receiving a care package from your mom, and amid all the lovely surprises inside was An Amish Home.

I couldn’t have been more excited or felt more welcomed — more at home! I have grown to love these seasonal Amish Novella releases by Thomas Nelson. Typically, I buy each new offering as soon as it hits the bookstore shelves, so to have one early and gifted to me by one of the authors — well, that’s a rare and happy treat!

Why do I like them so much? These little beauties are the perfect introduction to Amish Fiction, or for those like me who may have started with Beverly Lewis, they are a great way to sample the work of other authors in the stable, so to speak. The novella format is also the perfect length to read in one sitting, and there’s always something satisfying about starting on page one and reading a story to its conclusion.

As the title makes plain, the four novellas share the common theme of home and hearth. Wiseman and Clipston each look at home through the eyes of young newlyweds. Wiseman’s Sarah returns from the hospital following a serious accident to find her house remodeled and her imagined future altered. While Clipston also shows us a young married couple, Chace and Mia are Englishers whose circumstances bring them and their young child to Bird-in-Hand to live in the daadihaus of Chace’s boss. Each couple struggles against circumstances to create the home and family life they desire. Meanwhile, Reid’s novella, the book’s longest, stands alone in its portrayal of an older couple. Rather than just having established their home and marriage, Thomas and Noreen lose their house to a fire and appear on the brink of losing their marriage. Finally, Kathleen Fuller brings us a young woman named Faith who has an unusual hobby for an Amish female: carpentry. When she’s asked to make cabinets for her cousin’s new house, she finds herself having to work through some painful memories from her past.

Did An Amish Home live up to my expectations? You better believe it! I like how each author gives us a different look at home. In A Cup Half Full, the characters demonstrate a lot of bravery and love, and Beth Wiseman shows us that physical challenges leave no community untouched — even the Amish have members living productive lives despite adversity. Though neither of Amy Clipston’s characters come from an ideal home situation, they find that with God’s help they can create their own home life in each other. I especially enjoyed how Ruth Reid developed Thomas and Noreen’s story through alternating looks at their present and past. And lastly, Kathleen Fuller illustrates how a home and marriage must be built on trust.

An Amish Home reminds us that there is no perfect or ideal home — each has a unique set of circumstances to celebrate or even to endure. But take heart: Home is not the sum of our accumulated things or the safety of the walls that surround us. These can be swept away in a heartbeat. That’s why the true measure of a home is not found in its size or its material contents, but in the strength and depth of the love found in the conjoined hearts residing within.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 of 5 Hearts. An Outstanding and Uplifting Collection of Amish Novellas!

Once again, Thomas Nelson has published a quartet of novellas around a common theme, this time An Amish Home. In these four stories by top Amish Fiction writers, you’ll find many of the same things you have at home — good things like comfort, love, and faith, and difficult things like hardship, pain, and loss. Most importantly, though, you’ll finish your reading with a greater appreciation for what makes a house a home.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Amy Clipston and Thomas Nelson for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

An Historical Narrative Demonstrating God’s Redemptive Grace

The Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green


Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Length: 406pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764219061

Related Links:
Jocelyn Green’s Website (Tons of info!)

Publisher’s Website

 

 

 


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Publisher Synopsis

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.


My Review

My first experience with the work of Joceyln Green was Yankee in Atlanta in which a woman named Caitlin McKae disguises herself as a soldier during the Civil War. With The Mark of the King, Green has once again brought forth a historical account surrounding the life of a strong and courageous woman.

This time, Green’s heroine is Julianne Chevalier, a respected French midwife whose life suddenly takes a marked turn when she is accused of causing the death of one of her clients. She is imprisoned in the Parisian stronghold of Salpêtrière, and branded with a fleur-de-lis, an indelible reminder of her crime and a sign that she is the property of Louis XV.

The Mark of The King is a meticulously researched glimpse into a piece of history with which I was unfamiliar. Though we all learn about the Louisiana Purchase in our early American History, I’m sure most of us know little to nothing of Louisiana’s colonial origins. In 1720, when Julianne debarks in Mobile en route to New Orleans, Louisiana was worlds away from being the fertile land of gold and silver that the prisoners and other colonists were told awaited them. In reality, it was a harsh, dirty, unrefined swampy wilderness. Beyond that, it was a political cesspool in which tensions between the British and French, being played out through the manipulation of the Chickasaw and Choctaw, were brewing.

It’s in this desolate landscape where Julianne endures hardship, famine, poverty, and natural disaster while encountering danger, disease, and death. Though the reading is sometimes slow going, Julianne is as likeable a heroine as she is determined, and readers’ heartstrings will be tugged as they watch her withstand judgment and loss, and abuse both mental and physical. Luckily, though, readers will be able to put the box of Kleenex aside, as Julianne also finds love and grace. Because, in addition to being about faith and forgiveness, The Mark of the King  is ultimately a tale of redemption.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. A Thoroughly Researched Historical Narrative Demonstrating the Boundless Power and Reach of God’s Redemptive Grace.

There’s a lot to love about Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. Thoroughly researched, the book will teach you much about a part of history you’ve likely never encountered. You’ll have no trouble pulling for Green’s tenacious heroine while also being enlightened, or maybe just reminded, about God’s ability to redeem and restore.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Jocelyn Green and Bethany House Publishers for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters – A Beauty Refined: Review, Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party

Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance

A Beauty Refined
by Tracie Peterson


Series: Sapphire Brides (Book 2)
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Length: 315pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764213250

Related Links:
Tracie Peterson’s Website
Publisher’s Website

     


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About the Author

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than one hundred books. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana.

TPeterson


Publisher Synopsis

What does it take to reveal the true beauty of a hidden gem?

Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana. Little does she know, however, that her father’s intentions–both for her and the gemstones–are not what she thinks.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family’s deception begins to unravel.


My Review

A Beauty Refined, best-selling author Tracie Peterson’s latest release, is the second in her Sapphire Brides series. Although part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone without any trouble. The heroine, Phoebe Von Bergen, travels to the American West with her father, a German count. On a business trip to purchase sapphires, the count is quickly revealed to be not only unscrupulous and demanding, but abusive.

This is my second experience with Tracie Peterson’s work, the first being Treasures of the North. Award-winning Peterson has written over 100 books and has a large, faithful following. Still, I guess I’m either the odd-girl out, or I’ve had bad luck as far as selection goes, because each has left me unsatisfied. Of course, a novelist with such an abundance of works can’t hit a home run every time, and A Beauty Refined is not without merit.

First, let’s talk about where Peterson succeeds. Her research on the time period, the sapphire business in the American West and Ceylon, and the process of stone-cutting, shines through. Additionally, a Prussian character makes reference to the unification of Germany. Little details like that help make the setting come alive.

Quickly paced, the novel is an easy read that can become a page-turner. Peterson’s fast-moving plot gives her reader a desire to find out what happens next. Whether readers will be emotionally invested in those outcomes, however, is less certain. Peterson’s writing puts plot ahead of all else, at the expense of character development, dramatic and emotional tension, and plausibility. Ultimately, the underdevelopment of these elements works to undercut another of the novel’s desired intentions — Christian teachings.

While A Beauty Refined began with potential, for the reasons above, and other qualms which I can’t specifically disclose without heavy spoilers (I’ll just say I often didn’t agree with choices made by characters or the rationales behind them), I was less than thrilled with the end product. By the time I had turned the final page, I was more relieved than satisfied. It’s a shame, too, because under different circumstances, the novel’s lessons about faith, trust, honesty, and love might have had more impact and a broader reach.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

3 of 5 Hearts. Well-Researched But Less Than Satisfying Historical Romance.

The most interesting aspect of A Beauty Refined is the look the reader gets at the sapphire business in Montana in 1907. But characters who too often make unrealistic, illogical, or just plain dumb choices and a too easily resolved plot undercut the Christian message.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a copy of A Beauty Refined in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Party!!

Join author Tracie Peterson in celebrating the release of A Beauty Refined by entering to win her Precious Gems giveaway (details below) and by attending her author chat party on August 9!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/9. The winner will be announced at A Beauty Refined Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Tracie and fellow fans of historical fiction, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

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RSVP today and spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 9th!

** For more information about the blog tour, and to read additional reviews about A Beauty Refined, please visit the Litfuse campaign page here. **

 

Christian Chapters: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

 A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness

Dawn at Emberwilde
by Sarah E. Ladd


Series: Treasures of Surrey (Book 2)
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 343pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718011819

Related Links:
Sarah E. Ladd’s Website

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Publisher Synopsis

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.


My Review

“We are each on our own journey, and nothing is by accident.”

How often have you looked back at the end of a trying time and understood that what you first perceived as stumbling blocks turned out to be stepping stones? The quote above is spoken by our heroine, Isabel, near the end of Dawn at Emberwilde, the second in Sarah E. Ladd’s Treasures of Surrey series.

In life, perspective makes all the difference. It can be difficult to remember that God is at work when we are too closely connected to the threads of our own story. Eventually, time and distance allow us to begin to view the larger picture. Though we don’t have the luxury of crystal balls or time machines so that we might anticipate our future, we have certain tools at our disposal: prayer and history. We can learn from our past as well as from the stories of others, fictional characters included.

Isabel’s journey begins at Fellsworth School. Though she is a bit of a dreamer, Isabel would never imagine a future for herself that included grand estates, invitation-only dinner parties, dancing, and marriage. Not a chance! She knows her place in the world, and it’s not attending balls or enjoying “a season” trying to secure the heart (or fortune) of an eligible bachelor. As orphaned wards, she and her little sister Lizzie are likely headed for a life as teachers or governesses. But with the sudden arrival of a tall, dark stranger at Fellsworth, Isabel’s life is turned upside down.

Some readers have referred to Dawn at Emberwilde as a Cinderella story or rags to riches tale. You might also consider Isabel as an “Alice” who has gone down the rabbit hole. Indeed, from a utilitarian life as a charity ward, she is thrust into the extravagant world of the landed gentry. Even more disorienting, although there are no strange women hidden in the attic at Emberwilde, the house does appear to have secrets connected to local lore surrounding dark mysteries in the Emberwilde Forest (or as the locals call it — the Black Forest).

Before I wrap up, I want to take a moment to discuss this as a work of Christian fiction. I’ve seen some readers who have wanted more overt Christianity tied into the novel. Some have even gone so far as to say it could have been released as a general market title. In the 19th-century, perhaps. Today? Not likely. Just because the novel doesn’t evangelize doesn’t mean there aren’t Christian messages. I’d argue that, in a sense, this is more Christian because it’s more realistic. We don’t walk through life being pointed to little signs neatly explaining what God is teaching us. Nor do we often run into people with whom we’ve previously spoken very little and suddenly start speaking at length about God and Jesus. Okay, maybe some of you do. But my life hasn’t worked that way. So why should a novel be expected to do so?

Although this is a romance novel, it’s the mystery and the unanswered questions that kept me happily turning the pages. Not to mention the fact that Isabel’s outsider status allows her a critical appraisal of the so-called “good life” of the wealthy. She’s a heroine worthy of your affection. I only wish we could have had more of her story.

Don’t let the fact that Dawn At Emberwilde is the second in a series deter you; the novel stands completely alone. Although this was my first experience reading a book by Sarah E. Ladd, it has not only found a welcome home in my library, but will soon have the company of other Ladd books. This Regency should find favor with folks who enjoy Julie Klassen or Jane Austen. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Dawn at Emberwilde today!

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4.5 of 5 Hearts. A Light Regency Romance With a Touch of Darkness.

The interplay between dark and light in Dawn at Emberwilde makes for a satisfying experience. Like Isabel, readers will be drawn to the mysterious dark woods in search of answers, buoyed by the wise words of her friend Mary, dazzled by the prestige and privilege of wealth, yet confounded at how anyone could choose a life of stability over a home filled with love. Indeed, with Dawn at Emberwilde, Sarah E. Ladd demonstrates that life is neither all light nor all dark, but a delicate dance between the two — one made more secure, not by wealth or status, but by faith and love.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity Group and TNZ’s Fiction Guild for providing me with copies of Dawn at Emberwilde in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Kids Corner: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

An Atrocious ARC = An Impossible-to-Review-Fairly Book

The Lost Twin
by Sophie Cleverly


Series: Scarlet and Ivy (Book 1)
Original Publication Date: February 26, 2015
This Edition Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Length: 304pp
ISBN-13: 978-1492633396

Related Links:
Sophie Cleverly’s Website
Sophie Cleverly on Facebook


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Publisher Synopsis

Ivy, I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me…

When shy Ivy’s troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to “take her place.” But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school’s true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?

Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn’t about to disappear without a fight. She’s left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy’s going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She’s got to.

But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they’ll do anything to keep their secrets buried…


My Review

This was an extremely difficult book to review, primarily because the advance reading copy provided was an absolute mess. Formatting was more terrible than usual in such copies: paragraph indentation did not exist, causing sentences in different paragraphs to run together; dialogue was often printed without breaks between speakers; and justification was inconsistent, each new page’s differently jumbled look distracting from its content. All of this made for a labored reading experience which produced an unpleasant aftertaste when I finished the book. Because of these problems, I could never get into the plot for long, or focus on the characters as much as I wished. This was not my first encounter with a garbled ARC, but it was surely one of the worst presentations of a text I have come across. What made the whole thing strange is that this is a re-publication of a novel first released in 2015, and a cleaner copy ought to have been readily available to give to reviewers.

In addition to the formatting, there was also the occasional error in plot. For instance, in the first three pages of the book we learn: the year is 1935, Ivy is 13 (meaning she was born in 1922), and her Aunt Phoebe’s husband died during the Great War (which ended in 1918). A page or so later we read that Aunt Phoebe’s husband once told Ivy something. But he was dead at least 4 years before she was born! I initially passed this off as another ARC problem, but I checked the sample at Amazon of the 2015 published copy and found the same passages. It’s astonishing that this was not corrected. (Another example is the “hard wooden floor” that, a few pages later, is suddenly covered with a threadbare carpet.)

To judge from the ARC, the author’s prose could use some trimming. She has a tendency to write “my own” and “her own” where “my” and “her” would suffice, and is overly enamored with “sat down”. There are sections where she repeats a word or phrase multiple times, as if she didn’t proof her work with a sufficiently critical eye. How much of this is due to author oversight and how much to the ARC, I can’t say.

The plot was original and interesting, and it was frustrating to not be able to immerse myself in it. Despite the chaos, a few characters stood out, particularly the evil ones. All in all, the finished novel might well-deserve the 4.42 Goodreads rating it has at present. But even making the usual allowances for an ARC, what I read did not.

                                                                                                — Jennifer Michelle

Verdict

3 of 5 Hearts. An Atrocious ARC = An Impossible-to-Review-Fairly Book.

Judging from reviews at Goodreads, and from those moments when I could connect to the main character and sympathize with her plight, The Lost Twin is not a bad Kids book. But reading this ARC was a chore and so prejudiced me against the novel that I don’t feel I can write an unbiased review. Should I ever have the opportunity to read a final copy, I will update this post.

One thing is certain: It is never a good sign when a publisher cares so little about a book (and, by extension, its author) that it releases such an abysmal copy of the text to reviewers. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky rarely disappoints, but they did so this time.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for providing me with a copy of The Lost Twin in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The Lost Twin

The cover as published in 2015.

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