Hello sweet friends and readers! I know I've been MIA around here since last November... Unfortunately, my husband and I experienced a tragic event in our lives over the holiday season and as a result, I had to have an emergency life saving surgery. I am now six weeks post surgery and feeling mostly recovered as our lives begin to return to our new normal. For me, the new year snuck in quietly while I was focused on other things, but I do hope that you are having a wonderful, productive start to the new year!
Soon, I hope to be back here sharing about some of my goals (or dare I say, lack of goals) for 2018. In the meantime, however, I want to share some thoughts on a heartwarming, newly released book I received from Bethany House Publishers! This touching story weaves the tale of two people battling different struggles and how God uses those struggles to bring their hearts to Him and then to each other.
* I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts below are my own. Also, this blog post includes affiliate links which means I will receive a commission based on sales generated via these links.
" Can the Majesty of Alaska Foster Hope and Healing for Those Who Need it Most? After the death of their father, Collette and Jean-Michel Langelier are no longer tied to post-war France. While his sister dreams of adventure, Jean-Michel is hoping to finally escape reminders of the horrors he faced in the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925. When an unexpected invitation for them to visit Alaska and the Curry Hotel arrives, it seems the perfect opportunity.
Young widow Katherine Demarchis is also traveling to the foot of Mt. Denali with her grandmother--a last trip before she retreats into a quiet and solitary life, finally free of the dangerous husband she was forced to marry. Yet when she encounters there a Frenchman from her past, her plans for the future are thrown into question.
Both haunted by the violence of their pasts, can Katherine and Jean-Michel rediscover the bond they once had? Or, when Jean-Michel's nightmares return with terrifying consequences, will it be impossible to heal what's been broken for so long? - Synopsis from Out of the Ashes
★★★ Book Number 2/50 | This tender story is sure to melt your heart! When I first received this book, I was immediately drawn to the cover. It's visually appealing for anyone who loves historical fiction and makes you want to dive right in! As this story begins, you'll learn about the two main characters, Katherine and Jean-Michel - two people who loved each other but were torn apart. As their lives moved on without each other, their hearts are scarred by battles they each endured separately as the result of the paths their lives take. When Katherine's grandmother becomes involved, the two former lovers are given the opportunity to reconnect and reunite their love from years ago.
I enjoyed the story line and felt both Jean-Michel and Katherine were genuine, endearing characters. They were easy to relate to and their separate journeys in understanding themselves, finding their faith and rekindling a long lost love was so touching. Throughout the book, the authors do a wonderful job of setting forth the plan of salvation as we get to watch the main characters discover their faith and turn to God to deliver them from their past. In addition, there's sustenance developed for their faith as they find mentors in their friends and loved ones who explain the Scriptures to them and help them grow in their new faith. For that, I loved this book!
While Out of the Ashes is clearly the second book in the Heart of Alaska series, I didn't feel like I'd lost anything by not having read book one, In the Shadow of Denali, first or even at all. Out of the Ashes continues the story of Cassidy, Allan, and the Curry Hotel staff from book one, but works well as a stand alone novel. Readers also get to learn about some minor characters such as Colette, Jean-Michel's sister, and Thomas and Mrs. Johnson, two of the hotel staff. While I did find Colette a little too immature to be believable, I felt these characters added merit to the story.
The book opens with all the interesting details readers need to know about the main characters' backgrounds and lays the groundwork for the story. Roughly halfway through, readers might find themselves anxious to skip ahead as there's a bit of a lull in the drama. But keep reading because 3/4 of the way through the story, just as Katherine and Jean-Michel reconnect on a deeper level, an influenza epidemic becomes a very serious concern for the little town. Then, as you would expect, this novel will wrap up quickly and neatly, with the warm-gooey ending you anticipated in the beginning.
I gave this book three stars because I enjoyed the history that I learned in the book and the journey of personal faith for Katherine and Jean-Michel. The two things that kept me from giving Out of the Ashes a higher review was that, for me, the novel had too many perspectives on the story. While I enjoyed learning about the other characters that made up the Curry Hotel staff, I found myself feeling like the novel jumped between different characters' points of view too often and left me wanting more from one character's point of view. As a result of that rapid shift in perspective, I felt that things moved too quickly and that I missed out on the details and depth the story could have held. I believe, however, that the reason for multiple perspectives is because this book IS a part of a series and the authors wish the readers to be able to connect with all the lovely staff of the Curry Hotel in order to enjoy the series as a whole. I am certain that we will find in the book to follow that the lives of these dear characters continue. Secondly, the novel uses the influenza epidemic as a crisis point in the story, but then downplays the reality of it later, with all the characters miraculously getting well but not attending the six funerals of those who passed. I found that hard to fathom in such a close knit little community. Also, little is mentioned of the outcome for the four people who contracted the disease while camped outside of town during the quarantine. At that point in the story, things move quickly and wrap up with a predictable ending. Overall, though, this book is truly heartwarming if readers focus on the journey that Katherine and Jean-Michel embark on. By the end of the story, readers have fallen in love with these characters, the Curry Hotel staff and will find themselves wanting to pick up other books in this series.
Lastly, pick up your own copy of Out of the Ashes on Amazon or borrow it from your local library.
Then, I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts on the book in the comments below!