The place? Facebook—Avid Readers of Christian Fiction.
The thread? Got no clue. I can’t remember what the thread was about anymore. But something about it caught my attention, and I began scrolling through the pictures posted by readers who wanted to share their suggestion. Or, maybe it was one of the semi-regular posts saying, “Show me what you’re reading.”
Whatever it was, as I zipped past picture after picture of books I’d read before, seen pictures of multiple times, or some combination of the above, something hit me. One after another, shiny, happy people, or brooding, solemn, melancholy people stared back at me. Or off into the distance. If I’d seen one, I’d seen them all. Including on the fronts of my own books, for that matter.
But then it appeared and I paused. The WPA-style cover art snagged my attention. It was fresh, different. And well, I’m a sucker for that style of art. It looked like a mystery—but not. The Road to Paradise.
I made a note of it in a “must read” list and moved on. Then I circled back and looked at it once more.
That time, I zipped over to Amazon and popped it in my wishlist and put it on my “Anticipated Summer Reads List.”
And promptly forgot about it.
How I Fail at Specials
A few months later, this thing happened. Somewhere on Facebook (it’s like the Mecca of book info for authors and readers alike), I saw a deal offered. If you preordered Karen Barnett’s new book, Where the Fire Falls, and sent your receipt, the publisher would send the first book, The Road to Paradise… FREE.
At that point, I did what any reasonable and levelheaded woman would do. I rushed off and bought that sucker. I zipped my email off to Multnomah and sat back. Satisfied. I mean, after all, I got the books at half cost then, right? SCORE!
The Road to Paradise arrived fast. I mean, I was impressed with how fast. I expected six to eight weeks of waiting—long past the release of book two.
Yeah, no. Got that sucker lickety split.
Right when I couldn’t read it.
I set it on my to be read shelf and worked hard on my current obligations. But I gazed. Longingly, I gazed.
Then it happened. Release day! I knew it because pictures started showing up all over… you guessed it. FACEBOOK.
I went to check the mail. It was a fabulous day for books. I think I had six or eight packages. SCORE!
The first one I opened was Where the Fire Falls. I admired the cover, reread the synopsis that tells you nothing about the book but whets your whistle. So cruel.
And then I put it on the shelf next to its cousin. I say cousin because these stories are only connected by the series topic—not by characters at all.
After two or three other books that were review copies, I opened the next. Out popped Where the Fire Falls.
And then I went to work. Type in amazon.com… Click on orders… scroll down to Where the Fire Falls… scroll a bit more to grab the order number so I can tell them which one when I report that I have two books when I paid for one… and… There’s another one!
I paid for two. Insert face-palm here. Don’t know how I did it. Don’t care.
I decided it was perfect for a giveaway.
Note: links are probably affiliate links that provide me with a small commission. Furthermore, I did get Road to Paradise FREE, but as part of a purchase promotion, and not as a review copy.
What I Loved about These Books
I have a new name on my “If he/she writes it, I buy it” list. Karen Barnett. Author of the “Vintage National Parks Novels,” Karen is a phenomenal writer. Seriously.
Look, the more I learn about the writing craft, the pickier I get about writing. I can love a book with “inferior writing” if the author does his or her job right. I can. And I have.
And I will again.
However, when I read an entire book without a single line making me go, “Ooof… sounds passive,” or “Ugh… stop explaining and telling me everything.,” or even worse, “Enough with the info dumping!” then I know I’ve found gold.
Karen Barnett has an easy style. Natural, engaging, and with enough twists and turns in plots to keep them from being predictable. Even when you know what’ll happen, you don’t.
Genius right there.
She does the obvious thing—with an unexpected result. And I LOVE it.
About the book:
An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
The Road to Paradise kicks off this series with more than frigid alpine air in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.
Ranger Ford isn’t impressed by his new naturalist from the get-go, and his reception shows it.
Undaunted, Margaret Lane sails into the world she loves so much—nature. As a naturalist, she knows all kinds of book facts and now has the opportunity to test them.
Either Ms. Barnett is a naturalist herself or she has done some serious homework. And here’s where her skills shine almost brightest—by dulling all that fascinating information. Seriously.
This woman looked up all kinds of facts and information about the flora and fauna and topography of the area. She knows of what she writes. And even still, as far as I can see, every single fact she added was necessary to the plot—either to show character development, help you feel like you are on the slopes of Mt. Ranier, or both.
Another thing I love is that her villain is a villain!
There seems to be a trend away from the definite bad guy. Not in this book. He’s a low-down snake. And I loved hating him.
I mean, isn’t that the glorious thing about fiction? It’s not a sin to hate these guys because they aren’t real??!!
She tied off every string with careful precision—some in knots, others in bows. But it’s all wrapped up—a mystery-slash-romance. And it’s my kind of romance, too. Not too sappy, not too caked with emotion and over-the-top kissing. I didn’t need a freezer or anything like that.
Just a really wonderful book that earned a permanent place on my shelf.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys the late twenties-early thirties in American history, anyone interested in mysteries, romance, or naturalism. And for those who felt a little concerned that it might be heavy handed on the conservation side… it’s not. I am particularly sensitive to the tendency of some authors to slip into worshiping the creation over the Creator. Karen Barnett didn’t do that.
About the book:
Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.
After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?
As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.
Yosemite has held a huge piece of my heart ever since I went when I was twelve.
There I saw squirrels stumbling around the park after getting a hold of some beer bottles with just a bit of beer left in them. I had tonsillitis, and my father religiously swabbed each one with Merthiolate every time we stopped. The pain… oh, the pain!
But those squirrels made me giggle, and after that, I could really see the wonder above me.
I saw it again in this book. Of course, the Fire Fall over Yosemite Falls had ceased a few years before I was born, but the wonder of that area is something that doesn’t need man’s additions.
And this story shows it. Once more, Karen Barnett takes the setting and uses it to weave a couple of mysteries, unravel people’s tangled pasts, and all with brilliant detail to the world of art in the Roaring 20s.
She used art terms in a way I’ve heard other artists use—little details that make me confident she did as much research on this book as her last. Either that, or she’s not only a naturalist but a watercolorist as well as a phenomenal writer and storyteller.
Because, oh, yes.
This book was possibly, if not definitely, better than the last. Again, the detail that didn’t weigh down, the respect for nature that didn’t worship, the full characterization of every person—it all culminates in a story that should not be missed.
If you enjoy a glimpse into the life of a flapper—and more than the superficial story at that—you’ll want to read this book. If you’ve ever found yourself defining yourself by your past, you’ll want to read this book. And if you love a mystery in a lesser used historical setting, grab it. I can’t imagine anyone not loving these books.
These two books have made it to my top ten for 2018.
And, I have hopes for the next being in the Black Hills National Park. There was a hint of Mt. Rushmore mentioned, so… fingers crossed!
CONGRATULATIONS Rebekah D. You won! I’ll be zipping that to you this week!