Holy Roman Empire, 1527
In the wake of Martin Luther’s religious reforms, Princess Christyne von Heidelbraum is compelled by her sense of duty to help ease the burden of her people. When she stumbles upon a dying man in the woods, she vows to aid him—even when she discovers the arrow shot in his leg was put there by a heretic hunter. With both her physical and spiritual well-being in danger, she must choose between conscience or adhering to the laws of the Empire.
Doubting her calling to become a hospital chaplain, Amber Carrington takes time off from her theology studies to volunteer with refugees in Germany. Working with children, making a difference, reconnecting with the conviction that once drove her—these were her expectations. An instant attraction to a professional soccer player wasn’t a part of the plan…and she can’t let him distract her from her purpose.
As a new Christian, Seth Marshall is determined to put his popularity as a world-renowned footballer to good use. Unfortunately, old habits and public opinions are hard to overcome. When he falls hard and fast for Amber Carrington, his former life—and her no-dating policy—may block his perfect shot for the woman he loves.
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A Carol award finalist and Selah award winner, Sarah Monzon is a stay-at-home mom who makes up imaginary friends to have adult conversations with (otherwise known as writing novels). As a navy chaplain's wife, she resides wherever the military happens to station her family and enjoys exploring the beauty of the world around her.
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A dual timeline story, Sarah Monzon’s “With You Here” is book four in the Carrington Family series. Not having read any of the previous books, I still had no trouble following along with this one. If I’m being honest, I am not a big fan of contemporary fiction, contemporary romance in particular, but because the second thread of the story is historical, I convinced myself to try it. While I did enjoy the historical aspect better, I was also charmed by the modern-day segments. I was intrigued by the calendar house, an architectural design previously unfamiliar to me. The sports angle didn’t garner my interest, simply because I’ve never been a sports fan of any kind, but I do appreciate the part that it plays in this book.
Indeed, the lives of athletic superstars are not all that they are made up to be. As Seth Marshall’s story reveals, it truly is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). A new Christian still learning about his faith and struggling to overcome the temptations of his old life, Seth feels tainted by his past. Amber Carrington, on the other hand, wrestles with thinking that she can’t help others as she feels called to do because her life has not been filled with hardship. Nevertheless, “[s]he’d come to volunteer. To serve.” Working with Syrian refugees in Germany brings the unlikely pair together, and as their faith increases, it also becomes challenging at times.
Nearly 500 years earlier, in the Holy Roman Empire, Princess Christyne von Heidelbraum faces her own trials. Her strictly law-driven father, a Catholic, vehemently opposes the Reformation, but Christyne risks her life to fulfill her vow to “improve their people’s lives”. Finding a severely wounded man in the woods, she remains true to her conscience and cares for him, even after discovering that he is “nothing more than a cursed Anabaptist.” Should her father or anyone else find out, her life will be forfeit.
Taking a stand for faith and acting according to moral integrity rather than social mores and peer pressure, both stories speak to the fact that persecution is ongoing but that nothing is impossible with God, and that He has a perfect plan for each of our lives.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Two time travel books in one week, that has to be a record! Normally I try to avoid reading books with similar themes at the the same time, as they tend to compare unfavourably with one another, but somehow it just happened this time around.
The Future of Another Timeline is a more straightforward time travel book than the previous one I reviewed, if you'll pardon the description. It's all about a world where time travel is normal, due to the existence of various Machines which have always been present in different parts of the world - using these, it's possible to travel into the past and back again, and the book itself is partly set in two different times, the 1990s and 1890s.
In the former, our protagonist Beth is struggling with living in an abusive family while also discovering that her best friend Lizzy is a bit of a psychopath. After becoming involved in the death of Lizzy's rapist, Beth keeps getting herself in difficult situations where her friend is involved, only to be visited by someone called Tess who says she is Beth's older self using the Machine to travel back and give her advice.
Meanwhile, another part of the book is about people's efforts to edit the timeline. The majority of this storyline is set in Chicago at the 1893 World's Fair, where another of our protagonists is studying the battle for that city's morals and the impact of it on the rights of women through the subsequent decades. Attempts are being made to alter the timeline so that women never get the vote and abortion remains illegal, right through to the present day. There's also a significant role played by another character who has come from an even more oppressive future, who has to learn to embrace freedoms to do simple things that she has never experienced before.
This is another of those books that I'm glad I read but can't see myself re-reading. It's not particularly graphic but the body count is fairly high and I especially have a thing about eye trauma, which nearly led me to nope my way out of the book quite early on. The amount of research done to set up the whole thing is clear from the outset, as the settings feel realistic, but without a heavy-handed approach to demonstrate the time it must have taken to gather all the information required. Many authors could learn a lot from the fine balance taken here, as well as the ways in which the story moves, even if the end is not quite the end and left a little uncertain.
Helena Smith and Barry Sutton are inextricably entwined and yet at the same time, haven’t even met yet. And the way it happens at the same moment is thanks to the astonishing memory technology that groundbreaking neuroscientist Helena develops, inspired by the desire to heal her mother’s Alzheimer’s, to preserve memories and relive them.
The very dangerous ability to alter memories and create new timelines leads countless people to suffer from False Memory Syndrome, and what was intended to be a gift for humanity ends up becoming a nightmare and perhaps spells the end of the world as everyone knows it.
‘Recursion’ is like reading ‘Back To The Future’ crossed with ‘Memento’ and ‘Minority Report’, with a splash of ‘Groundhog Day’ mixed in (except with none of the funny stuff). And it’s certainly not because Blake Crouch is rehashing old territory or that he’s written a book we’ve all read (or that it’s something we’ve seen) before. It’s because ‘Recursion’ recalls the essence of what made all those movies great, and it’s a gripping genre-bending cross of science-fiction and thriller. And he does it in a way that feels like nothing that’s been done before.
Just as he did with the mind-bending science-fiction (and the actual science) behind ‘Dark Matter,’ here in ‘Recursion’ he has tapped into our curiosity about the unknown, the basic human question we all have about our pasts, of how our lives could be different if we could ‘change just that one thing and do things over.’
How everything could be different if someone we loved hadn’t died so soon, or we could’ve stopped that death from happening.
That very scenario comes up for Barry in the book, and just as with the catastrophic repercussions of messing with nature, and the ethical questions behind genetic engineering (thank you, Michael Crichton), most of our instincts probably say we shouldn’t mess with time-travel, our memories, and therefore, our very existence. But science-fiction says we must.
Crouch has written yet another tightly-paced read; the book flits between different timelines and at the beginning of the book, it’s unclear as to the connection between our two main characters. But as the stories entwine, and the science starts to make more sense, the pace and the intensity pick up, the lines blur, and time and memory collide. The consequences of the decisions made by some of the characters, and by humanity as a whole, are emblematic of a whole host of problems and it becomes seriously frightening.
It’s a clear reminder of how our lives are merely made up of a series of memories, and when we stop living in the present, what else do we have? My own greatest fear is losing my memory, my ability to remember my past. But I definitely wouldn’t want to live moments over and over again either.
Ultimately ‘Recursion’ is another breakout novel by the amazing Blake Crouch. Thank you for making me question my whole existence (yet again).
*Thank you Crown Publishing for my early copy, received at ALA Midwinter, where I also got to MEET Blake Crouch, and have him sign my books!!
I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review as part of a book-review tour. Having read the three novels I recommend that the whole series is read to get a better grasp of the story and the characters. See my other two reviews for full details.
In book three of the Complicated Love Series, we follow the story of Dina and Riley from where we left them in book two, when they had worked through some of the issues that had ended their previous marriage, but there were still many secrets and actions the characters had taken that their loved one didn’t know about, ensuring further complications. Again the story is told in alternating chapters from each of the protagonists’ point of view and there are some jumps in time where we get to learn more about the events surrounding their wedding and then the traumatic divorce, which had been referred to, but not discussed in detail. There are fewer changes in time (I wouldn’t call them flashbacks as they seem to come at points in the story where both characters are thinking about that particular event and they’re not exclusively narrated from one of the character’s perspective) than in book 2, and the narration is more straightforward, although it also swings to extremes, reflecting the emotions the characters go through. When things seem to have been solved between them, with all secrets revealed and both of them accepting the other for what and who they really are (and in the process accepting themselves too), thinks get much darker.
There are some sex scenes (I would rather call them sexy and passionate) but less explicit than in book two, and there is a hilarious scene early on in the book involving a cat. Well, there are several funny scenes involving that cat. Again there are funny and sad scenes in the novel, although I found them more finely balanced than in book two, with the ups and downs a bit less extreme.
I was particularly touched by the conversation between Dina and Riley’s Mom, a character that had been particularly difficult to understand up to that point. On the other hand there is a psychiatric diagnostic offered as an explanation in the novel that as a psychiatrist I had my doubts about, but even with that I enjoyed the ending.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters I had come to love in the previous book, and gained respect for some of the ones I didn’t like that much. Gabby, one of my favourite characters, comes into her own and she sizzles. The style of writing was again easy to read, dynamic and with great dialogue exchanges. A fitting conclusion to the series.