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Dear Mr. Knightley

I review for BookSneeze®I just finished my second BookSneeze book, and I’m pleased to report I’m two for two in the quality book category! In exchange for an honest review, posted on my blog and at a consumer website like Amazon.com, BookSneeze will send me a free copy of any book I select from their publications. Both of the books I’ve selected to date have been fiction, but there are a variety of genres from which to choose.

If this sounds like a good deal to you, and you have a personal, public blog with a minimum of 30 followers to which you post at least once a week, you can apply to BookSneeze. Be aware, however, that “BookSneeze is a blogger review program owned and operated by HarperCollins Christian Publishing.” I missed the Christian part when I first signed up, and probably would not have joined had I known, simply because I don’t want to be preached at while reading a book for fun. That being said, neither of the novels I have chosen have had in-your-face religious themes, just characters with strong moral beliefs who aren’t afraid to occasionally look to a higher power for help.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

dear mr knightleySamantha Moore has not had an easy life. As a child moving in and out of foster homes, Sam learned early not to rely on characters made of flesh and blood, instead choosing icons from classic literature as her friends. The lines she borrows from those characters may give her a voice to deal with uncomfortable situations, but they also prevent her from making social connections and achieving professional success. When she is fired from her first post-graduation job because of her inability to engage, Sam is forced to reconsider a grant opportunity she had passed up the previous spring. A mysterious benefactor, calling himself Mr. Knightley, offers her a full ride to the prestigious Medill School of Journalism, so long as she agrees to write him personal letters detailing her progress there. 

Sam finds freedom in the letter-writing, revealing her heartaches from the past, her struggles in the present, and her hopes for the future. Anonymity allows her to bare her soul as she never has, analyze her weaknesses without criticism, and eventually trust that her own voice is just as powerful as the words she borrows from the characters in her favorite novels. Sam’s journey is not an easy one, and I found myself alternately wanting to shake her, cheer her, and comfort her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the letter format of Reay’s debut novel, although I admit to being skeptical at first about her ability to adequately develop supporting characters through one-way correspondence. The cast was well-rounded, the story was well-paced, and I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. I have not read all of the classics that are referenced in the story, but I did not find the frequent quotes from unknown literary characters to be any worse than getting stuck in the lunchroom with coworkers who are incessantly reciting lines from movies I’ve never seen. On the contrary, I’ve been inspired to download some of Sam’s reading list to my Kindle to fill my time as I anxiously await Katherine Reay’s next novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Book reviews, BookSneeze

 

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The Merciful Scar

I review for BookSneeze®A few months ago, I signed up at BookSneeze to receive a free book in exchange for an honest review, posted on my blog and at a consumer website like Amazon.com. So long as I read and review within the required time frame, I can continue to receive free books. I love to read, I don’t mind giving my opinion, and I adore free, so it sounded like a great deal to me!

Anyone who has a personal, public blog to which they post at least once a week and a minimum of 30 followers can apply to BookSneeze. Be aware, however, that “BookSneeze is a blogger review program owned and operated by HarperCollins Christian Publishing.” I missed the Christian part when I joined. This is not a genre I generally read, because the couple of Christian novels I’ve read in the past have been quite preachy, which interferes with the escapism I am looking for when I pick up a book. Nevertheless, I made a commitment which I intended to honor, so I tentatively cracked the cover of The Merciful Scar.

I’m not proud of how long it took me to get through my first book–simply a reflection on how many other things have been going on around here, and NOT the quality of the novel. I finished the story on Saturday, while babysitting pumpkins in the rain, and loved every page of it. Here’s my official review:

MercifulScarThe Merciful Scar by Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue

For Kirsten, cutting is a physical outlet for the emotional pain that seethes beneath her skin. When a meddling boyfriend and a slip of the blade lead to an especially serious injury, Kirsten finds herself in the psychiatric ward. She knows she does not belong there—she is certain that she is not suicidal, but unsure how to convince others and unable to promise she will stop the self-injury—so on the suggestion of her pastor, Kirsten chooses a former Anglican nun’s 30-day residential program at a Montana ranch. There, she finds the time, space, and support she needs to examine her painful past and reach towards a more hopeful future.

I generally steer clear of Christian fiction because the preachiness of the author’s tone often overwhelms any pleasure I would get from the story itself; therefore this is the first work I’ve read by Rebecca St. James or Nancy Rue. I have to say, this novel was a refreshing change from what I expected—though God, prayer, and spirituality were cornerstones of the storyline, I never felt like the authors were forcing their religious views on me. The characters were extremely well-developed and believable; neither their dialogue nor their interactions ever felt contrived. I was immediately drawn into their stories, and felt personally invested in the progress of their self-discovery and healing throughout the book, laughing and crying right along with them. The pacing of the action was just right—the authors revealed just enough detail at the right time to answer some of my questions, but concealed enough to keep me turning the pages. I would have liked an epilogue—I really wanted to know if the characters were able to apply what they’d learned, maintain their well-being, and perhaps even help others through future stresses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Book reviews, BookSneeze

 

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