Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Forever (Firstborn Series: Baxters 2 - Book #5)Forever by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

FOREVER . . . finally! I loved the characters, I loved the drama, and I loved the storyline. But, I didn’t love the long drawn out series. Of course, we all knew how the series would end, but it truly became a quest to get to the end. One of the issues I had with this series is the constant rehashing of past circumstances and trials. I understand the need as a writer to want each book to be a standalone novel, but let’s face it . . . if the series is five strong, people need to read the whole series. The writer should not try to summarize past books. It frustrates the true fan that has read each book up to that point. But, who am I to correct or critique Karen Kingsbury. Her stories are inspiring and engaging, and even though I don’t like redundancy, I will continue on and read the Sunrise series and hope that I don’t have to do too much skimming to get past repetitive information.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Family (Firstborn, Baxters 2, Book #4)Family by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After reading other reviews regarding FAMILY, and the Firstborn series as a whole, I would say I have to agree with some of the more critical reviews regarding redundancy, exaggeration, and rehashing of the same scenes. But because I wanted to continue with the series, and see where the Baxter family ends up before I move onto the Sunrise series, I had to learn to recognize the tells of Ms. Kingsbury digressing into a reflective moment and condition myself to skim the large authorial or superfluous sections.

Dayne and Katy are the typical Romeo and Juliet. Their relationship is made up of clandestine moments, others keeping them apart, a love so deep it aches, and the feeling as if life is not complete without the other. Thankfully, Dayne and Katy don’t end up like their counterparts.

This installment in the series is a lot of back and forth between Katy and Dayne. At times, I felt like pulling my hair out because of the conjured up reasons they both kept coming up with that would make their relationship too difficult to continue. But, the highlights –the courtroom scenes, the times Katy and Dyne are together, and a fulfilling ending, is enough to keep true Kingsbury fans connected. The series could’ve easily been wrapped up in three books, but hey, Ms. Kingsbury and Tyndale House Publishers know a good thing when they have it. And no matter how repetitive the stories, I am still committed to finishing the series so I can move on to the next.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Found (Firstborn, Baxters 2, Book #3)Found by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FOUND, the third book in the Firstborn series by Karen Kingsbury was amazing!

Dayne Matthews’ world continues to get more and more complicated. Just when he thinks he will be able to set the record straight and start a relationship with Katy Hart, he receives information he can’t ignore. With his back against the wall, he does what he knows is right, even if it means the end of his chances with Katy.

John Baxter is doing everything he can to find his son, the one that he and his deceased wife had to give up for adoption. When he finds out it is Dayne Matthews, he is stunned. He struggles with the secret he has kept from his kids, but doesn’t want to expose them to possible rejection.

Katy Hart tells herself over and over again she has no future with Dayne Matthews. His choices and decisions in life have set his course for him. But, no matter what she tells herself, she knows it’s love that she feels for Dayne, the man she can never have.

FOUND is fast and furious. Jumping from Dayne, Katy, John, and Ashley, it was fast-paced and riveting. It is the third book in the series I have finished in so many days. I loved seeing Dayne opening up to the possibility of seeking out God and how it was handled. I have already started reading FAMILY. And it kills me that I won’t be able to give it my undivided attention. Darn my adult responsibilities!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forgiven (Firstborn Series: Baxters 2 - Book #2)Forgiven by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FORGIVEN, the second book in the Firstborn series definitely had the Karen Kingsbury spark I remember from books gone by.

Dayne Matthews, Hollywood heartthrob finds himself in a no win situation. His feelings for Katy Hart, a director of Christian children’s theater, go beyond infatuation. But he knows with the playboy label he’s been given by the press, to allow his connection to Katy to surface, would only ruin her reputation. It is because of his love for her, that he has no choice but to keep his distance. And, it is for that same reason that he has not revealed himself to his birth family. Though he has watched the Baxter’s from a distance, and even stumbled into a chance meeting with one of his sister’s, to open their lives up to the scrutiny of the tabloids would be the worst thing he could do. So, though he knows he is in reach of everything he’s ever wanted–love and family–he knows the price others will pay is too great and so he continues to go on as the world sees him, Dayne Matthews, box offices superstar.

Katy Hart cannot ignore her feelings for Dayne. Though she has tried and tried, knowing the lifestyle he leads is diametrically opposed to her Christian faith, she can’t help herself. She knows she loves him, and allows chance, even risky meetings with him while he is in Bloomington filming the movie she was supposed to star in with him. Even though her love for him is deep and genuine, her love of God is deeper. So, she prays for Dayne and tries to show him the way to real truth.

I finished FORGIVEN in one day. This is the writing of Karen Kingsbury I have enjoyed throughout the years. Though FAME seemed to drag a little, FORGIVEN moved along at a fast pace. Page after page I wanted nothing more than for Dayne to throw in the towel on his Hollywood existence and seek out a life in Bloomington with the people he truly cares for. Of course, with three more books left in the series, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So, I am off to read FOUND, and can only hope the title tells it all.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

FameFame by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

FAME is the first book in the Firstborn series, which follows the Redemption series by Karen Kingsbury.

Dayne Matthews, Hollywood heartthrob, whom we briefly met in REUNION, is captivated by Katy Hart. Katy is a director of children’s theater that Dayne stumbled across while he was in Bloomington, Indiana. Though their meeting was brief and one-sided, for whatever reason he can’t seem to get her out of his mind. When he returns to Hollywood and is cast in a new romantic comedy, the only woman he can picture to play his leading lady is Katy. After digging into her background, and finding out she was once an actress before a director of children’s theater, he convinces the casting director to give her a call. Dayne’s infatuation with Katy is of overwhelming proportions. His mind wanders constantly about how it would be if they became more than co-stars. His fear–the Hollywood lifestyle will scare her off, and the down home, wholesome, Katy will never be able to see past his tabloid, playboy image.

Katy Hart cannot believe what is happening to her. One day she is casting the roles for her children’s theater, and the next, she is being contacted by a Hollywood casting director wanting her to test for an upcoming movie starring none other than Dayne Matthews, Hollywood’s own Don Juan. Though she is convinced it is some kind of joke or a mistake, Katy follows agrees to fly to Hollywood to do a reading. The electricity she feels with Dayne Matthews is immediate. And soon, Katy feels the struggle of wanting to reach for her dream, and the fear of being drawn into a lifestyle diametrically opposed to her conservative values.

I could not wait to read FAME. I’ve had it since its original release in 2005 but never found the time to read it. When the series, starting with the Redemption series from Karen Kingsbury continued to expand, I fell further behind. So, it was with much anticipation I began to read. Sometimes that kind of anticipation leaves you wanting. I would not say I was disappointed, but I did find myself breezing over some of the longer sections written from the authorial view, and would speed through the sections that did not center on Katy and Dayne. Ms. Kingsbury took her time in developing the story between Katy and Dayne, but all too soon, it came to an abrupt end. I was a little disappointed with the ending, feeling as if too many frayed ends were left exposed. I can only hope that FORGIVEN, the second book in the series, ties up some of those ends without it becoming more drawn out. I am all for suspense, and leaving the reader dangling, but not so much when the filler used to extend the story is not as intriguing.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reunion (Redemption Series, Baxters 1, Book #5)Reunion by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

REUNION, the last in the Redemption series, was a great end to a wonderful series. I purchased the Redemption series as it was being released. But, as my 800+ book collection grew over the years, and I got busier with life, I never got past book four. I was determined this year to re-read the Redemption series so I could move on to the Firstborn series and the three subsequent series that follow. I am so glad I did.

REUNION is a reflection on all the lives of the Baxter children, and the love John and Elizabeth have shared and modeled for so many years. It is bittersweet as the Baxter children watch their mother battle cancer, but it is what pulls them together and strengthens them as a family. There is closure to some of the issues that have plagued the Baxter’s and there are other situations I would’ve preferred to see tied up a little better than they were.

Overall, the Redemption series touched on a spectrum of emotions. The struggles of marriage, infidelity, addiction, loss, and tragedy. But, it also expounds on the truth that Christians are not immune to difficult times or suffering, but how their faith can be their strength and stronghold through difficult times.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Rejoice (Redemption Series: Baxters 1 - Book #4)Rejoice by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

REJOICE, the fourth installment in the Reunion series had some definite highs, but also some lulls.

Centering on yet another Baxter child, Brooke Baxter West’s once fairytale life is now nothing more than routine and lackluster. Her marriage to Peter has fallen into a dysfunctional pattern. Distance and aloofness seems to be all they have in common. But when every parent’s nightmare strikes, and their daughter, Hayley is fighting for her life, Brooke no longer focuses on her marriage. And for Peter, escapism through a drug addiction is the only way he can cope.

I love serial books because characters and plots from previous books continue to play out. And since the Redemption series is based on the Baxter family, we always know what’s going on in the lives of those we’ve already gotten attached to. Ashley Baxter continues to struggle with her condition and her relationship with Landon Blake. Luke Baxter and Reagan Decker take the next step in their relationship. And as always, central to all their lives is John and Elizabeth Baxter, the strongholds of the family.

REJOICE is definitely an emotion-filled read. A spectrum of circumstances color the stories surrounding the Baxters. As dramatic as most the book is, there were definite lulls. I found myself breezing through some sections, just so I could get back to the meat of the story. Overall, I am still hooked and moving on to REUNION, the last book in the series.

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Return (Redemption Series: Baxters 1 - Book #3)Return by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke, the golden boy of the Baxter clan has drifted far from his family in the wake of the devastation of 9/11. But his family doesn’t know the personal toll Luke is dealing with and Luke has no intentions of telling them. Turning his back on everything he’s ever believed, his new beliefs have him living and experiencing things he never would’ve approved of just a few short months previous. But, his new life is shaken by the choices made by the woman he lives with, and by the secrets of the woman he truly loves. Knowing he has some big decisions to make, he finds himself struggling with what it is he truly believes, and where those beliefs will take him.

Ashley Baxter’s future has nowhere to go but up. She’s finally beginning to understand who she is, and what that means for her future. With her art career taking off, her love for her child growing deeper, and her teetering relationship with Landon becoming steadier, she really feels as if God has finally forgiven her for her past rebellions. When she receives devastating news, she questions once again if she will ever be finished paying for the sins in her past.

Each book in the Redemption Series, helps us understand more about the Baxter’s and what their everyday struggles are. While this book did spotlight Luke and Ashley, we learned of the struggles in Brooke and Peter’s marriage, and the joy coming full circle in Kari’s life.

I felt RETURN wasn’t as riveting as REDEMPTION and REMEMBER, but that might be because it showcased doubts, burdens, and heaviness, making the book harder to read. But none the less, I enjoyed it and finished it in just a few short days. I am off to read REJOICE, and after a peek into the first chapter, I find myself bracing for even deeper pain for the Baxter’s.

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