©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Simple Faith

This is the fifth book by Anna Schmidt that I have read, and it equals the others in in compelling, riveting narrative. Taking place during World War II in Europe, this book continues the story of Josef and Beth, now known as Lisbeth, and Anja and her son, Daniel, who help an American flyer to escape Germany and get back to England after his plane crashes in Belgium. These four intrepid souls have known the hardships of Sobibor prison camp, and do everything they can to get Peter away from the hands of the Nazis. Woven seamlessly into the story is the strength of quiet faith that leads them through every step of their journey. Many obstacles have to be overcome in getting across Belgium, France, and Spain: illnesses, broken bones, double-crossing guides, death of a treasured guide, compromised hiding places, and even a capture or two. In the midst of all of the trials, friendship, love, and comradery grow among the group, and especially between the American, Peter, and Anja--who never really expected to love again after the death of her husband and daughter during the escape from Sobibor.

Because Anja, Lisbeth, and Josef are members of the Society of Friends, their faith is practiced in simple ways, and they teach this simplicity of faith to Peter who learns it with the gentleness of soul that he is. Simple Faith is at times heartbreaking, at times riveting, and at times consuming. Because I have such a legacy of family who were involved in World War II on the European front, I am fascinated by stories that expand my knowledge of this era of history in our world.

Most definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an escape from a terrible foe.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

I cannot imagine the life that Brenda Spahn has lived. She has more energy than I have ever had, more gumption, more drive, and a propensity to jump in with both feet and never mind the sharks. When her tax preparation business went down the tubes and she nearly went to prison, she decided a change in career was the appropriate thing to do. She became an ordained minister, and started a ministry at the Juliet Tutwiler prison for women in Birmingham, Alabama. From that came the idea for a transitional home for parolees coming out of Tutwiler. Brenda does not believe that addictions have so much control over us that we can never completely overcome them, she believes in a God who can and will heal completely the diseases that we face. In setting up her "whole-way" house, she accepted seven parolees initially, undertaking how to teach them to live. One of the first things she had to do was to take them shopping at Wal Mart for "hygienes," showing them that they had choices in life that had nothing to do with drugs or other things that would get them into trouble.

It took a while to get her family totally on board with this new idea, this new ministry, this whole new way of life. One of her sons had trouble with the fact that some of these women called his mother, "Mama." He wasn't quite willing to share his mother that way. Her husband wanted her to have a more hands-off role in the Loveladies Home. Even her neighbors were quite against her endeavors.

Through all of the opposition and road blocks, Brenda overcame, and with her overcoming, her Loveladies overcame. One of her ladies put it in proper perspective when she said that the ones who failed to succeed were just not ready to quit the drugs.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies recounts the trials and triumphs of a ministry that seems to be not very well thought out, and naive in its inception, but it turned out to be one of the most successful things Brenda has done. The lesson learned here is that God only wants someone who is willing to do the work at hand. Brenda, along with Irene Zutell, has the uncanny ability to pull the reader in and not let go until the story is fully told. It only took me one afternoon to completely read this book. To see what God is doing in the lives of these women who have fallen under the spell of their addictions is a treat, indeed. To see what God can do with willing hands is a challenge--when I read something like this, I want to say, "I can do this," without stopping to consider if this is what God wants me to do. However, I can pray for this ministry, and the more people who read this book, the more prayers are going up for the Loveladies and the ministry in which they are involved.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip to Wal Mart.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Match Made in Texas

Four ladies have put together a collection of novellas that will warm your heart and keep you giggling for a good, long while. All four stories make this a fun read, they are intertwined, and one is even part of another series that I absolutely adore.

Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox, Mary Connealy, and Regina Jennings are an All-Star group of writers that I'd have on my team any day of the week. They all know how to punch up their stories with a bit of humor, add adventure and excitement, throw in rugged and hardworking men, and include their faith in a way that doesn't overpower the story but still gets the point across. I loved each and every hero and heroine, I wish that some of the stories had been longer, and I was especially sad to see the Archer brothers saga come to an end. I know it has to be tough for these talented writers to let their characters go and make it on their own in the world now, but it's hard for us as readers to let them go on, as well.

Definitely a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a hard-working Texas man kind of book

The British Brides Collection

With a Hall of Fame cast of authors, the publishers have put together nine endearing romances taking place in the British Isles. Each story is independent of the others, so there's no story line to have to follow. You can read one a day like vitamins or read one a week or as your schedule allows.

Most of these stories I have read before, but it has been long enough, they were like new stories for me. That I liked, a lot! There was only one story in this collection that did not resonate with me, and that was A Treasure Worth Keeping by Kelly Eileen Hake. While the names she chose may be authentic names, they seemed a bit too contrived. That is the worst criticism I have for the whole collection. My favorites were Moonlight Masquerade by Pamela Marie Griffin, Fayre Rose by Tamela Hancock Murray, and English Tea and Bagpipes again by Pamela Marie Griffin. The others in this book are: A Duplicitous Facade by Tamela Murray, Love's Unmasking by Bonnie Blythe, Apple of His Eye by Gail Gaymer Martin, and Fresh Highland Heir by Jill Stengl.

Threats of duels, masquerade balls, poisonings, highway robberies, other attempted murders, gardeners, orchardists, gentry and commoners make up the plots and casts of characters in these novellas. While all are historical, some go back to the feudal system and others happen in the Victorian Era. Even though not every story was my cup of tea, any reader will find at least one or two that will entertain them for a while and that alone is worth buying the book. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cup of tea on a cold day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Taken for English

When I read this book, I felt like I'd been dropped inside the middle of a story and I wasn't going to get the punchline, no matter what I did. Come to find out, I was dropped inside the middle of a story, or exactly two thirds of the way through the story. Taken for English is the third book of a series by Olivia Newport. I wish I had taken the time to read the other books in the series, and I wouldn't have been so lost in this one. This is not a book that can stand on it's own two feet, it has to rest on the shoulders of the previous novels in the collection.

That aside, Olivia has taken a new approach to this book in that she integrates a book within the book, and uses it to explain how Annie came to yearn for the Amish lifestyle and for Rufus himself. It's in her history and it's in her blood. Not understanding this is what caused me my confusion. It took me a while to figure out the bouncing back and forth from Arkansas to Colorado, from the 1800's to the 2000's, from Joseph and Maura to Annie and Rufus and Ruth and Elijah, from Amish to English and English to Amish.

Would I recommend this book? Yeah, after the other two books have been read for foundation. Olivia writes a good story and the intricacies of her plots are what make her a good writer. Thumbs Up

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New England Romance Collection

I have four little girls I call my granddaughters (they aren't related to me, but that's a different story for a different post), and I have bought some dolls for them. One of the dolls came naked, so I am making doll clothes for the dolls for their Christmas gift. In the meantime, we are remodeling the house. I have no kitchen--I cook in a slow cooker on the floor of my living room because we are having some drywall work done. All this is to explain why I haven't had as many posts lately. I am reading as hard and as fast I can, but I am doing the clothing by hand at the moment. I can't reach my sewing machine.

The New England Romance Collection is an anthology of five novellas, each in a separate era of time--from 1720 to 1930's. These stories entertained me, kept me patient as I waited in line in the drive-thru, kept me engaged, and whiled away time as I was in the car with my husband running errands. These ladies are all class acts when it comes to writing decent love stories that are built on a godly foundation.

Jack can't prove he didn't kill his neighbor, but a young sneak-thief has the answer. Lucy always believed in him--to the point of marrying him while he was in jail possibly awaiting hanging for the murder.

Clara and Daniel have to solve the series of bank robberies in Maple Notch and St Albans, Vermont. Clara has an inkling who is involved and hates that she thinks it might be her brother.

Michaela wants to adopt a young girl named Anna, who lost her parents in the same fire that killed her husband and daughter. The committee decided that if Michaela were married, she could adopt Anna. Patrick offers to marry her right before she goes to help her brother and his wife. While there she meets Eric, who is also interested in her. Now she really has a decision to make.

Francesca and Alfred were really meant to be together, but her mother thinks he's beneath her darling Francesca. Her mother has forgotten her own humble beginnings, and refuses to back down. She wants Francesca to marry a French Count to increase the family coffers; in fact, she wants it so much, she forces Francesca to accept the Count's proposal. Francesca knows this isn't the answer, but she doesn't know what is.

Clemmie has been in love with Joel since she was a girl of ten. For several years she hasn't heard from him, and wonders where he is. When she goes to visit her friend from the boy's refuge her parents own, she finds Joel, but not how she expected.

Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Lisa Harris, Lynette Sowell, and Pamela Griffin have exceeded expectations in this collection. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the era of your choice.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Amish Groom

So here we have a good Amish boy (young man) thrown into the Englisch world and feeling like he belongs in neither place or both places at once. Throw into the mix an angry younger brother; an Amish, almost fiancee; an Englisch photography tutor; a distant father; a deceased mother; and not just a few questions about who he really is. This is the conundrum Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner have set before the readers of their newest novel, The Amish Groom

I must say these two ladies have put together an engaging novel that brings the reader into Tyler's angst and his desire to know where he fits in the world. I appreciate that they have written a book that delves into the difficulty of hearing God's voice.

Most of the time, you will read romances that focus on the female character in the story, and this one is a refreshing change in that it makes Tyler the main element of the novel. Definitely a five-star, two thumbs up, and a specific word from God.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Jew Named Jesus

From a name like Rebekah Simon-Peter, you get the impression that this author knows what she's talking about in regard to the Jewish culture and Jewish life in general. So when you see the title, The Jew Named Jesus, you want to dive in and uncover the mysteries behind the Man, His message, and His ministry. You will not be disappointed. I wasn't. I recently finished reading Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg and had my appetite whetted for a greater understanding of the Jewish culture and the culture of the times of the life of Jesus.

There is one thing all of these authors have in common in their books: we American Christians have allowed too much culture to invade our religion instead of the other way around. As society goes downhill in a run-away train (much faster than a handcart), the church has begun to resemble society more and more. I could get rather soap boxish here and I better quit while I am ahead. The point is we can't read these books JUST for the information, we have to allow these books to work their way inside us, to change the way we think, to change the way we act, and we have to allow them to change us and our relationship with Christ.

Rebekah does one thing in her book that stands out, she pushes her readers to go back to what the authors of the New Testament really meant in the original language to get a fuller understanding of the Man, Jesus.

This is a ten out of five star book, four thumbs up, and a loaf of challah bread.

Emma of Aurora

What a treat to get to review three books at once, to have a whole series in your hands in one binding--all 1100+ pages of it. I've read several of Jane Kirkpatrick's books and enjoyed them for the most part. What I like is when she writes about real people in their true settings, but she adds life to them by filling in the blanks with her creative imagery and dialog. Her writing is impeccable and engaging. I found Emma herself to be hard to like, rather abrasive, and self-centered. But again, I found Wilhelm Keil to be hard to like, abrasive, and self-centered. Sometimes the people aren't very nice. I did not find Emma to be totally unsympathetic, though, as she came to realize that some of her troubles she brought upon herself, some were outside her ability to avoid, and some just happened, just because.

The three books narrate the story of Emma's life from Bethel, Missouri, to Aurora, Oregon; her marriages to Christian Giesy, to Big Jack Giesy; the births of her four children; Herr Kiel removing her sons from her care; her striving to adhere to Kiel's Diamond Rule (to make others lives better than your own); and her trailbreaking ideas that led to several improvements in the colony. Her acceptance by the other women in the colony came slowly, but once it happened they became friends for life. One thing that set Emma apart was her ability to collect strays, women who needed a hand up and time to heal from the blows that life had hurled at them. Almira and Christine were two of her strays, and definitely needed Emma's helpful hand.

Jane has done an excellent job of putting together a story that from where I sit was not an easy task. That I did not like Emma at first (she did grow on me) was not Jane's fault, I feel it was more a statement of who Emma was. Emma of Aurora is definitely a worthwhile read and with the three books in one cover the story moves seamlessly from beginning to end.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Diamond ruler.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God's Bucket List

My son and I watched the Morgan Freeman; Jack Nicholson movie, "The Bucket List," together. When we do watch movies together, we watch for quotable lines, and this one gave us more than a few that gave us a chuckle. But that isn't what drew me to read this book. I do have a bucket list--one that waxes and wanes as time goes by. But right now the top item on my list is going to see the Gulf of Mexico. I also have a "Pie in the Sky" list--one that is more pipe dream than actual to-do list that includes a Mediterranean Cruise.

While I am sort of on the topic of movies, one of my favorite lines from Gone with the Wind is when Rhett tells Scarlett to name her general store, "Caveat Emptor," Latin for "Let the Buyer Beware." I have one caveat here for this review. I am Baptist as they come. When I was born, my parents went to a Missionary Baptist Church, then moved to a Southern Baptist Church, and now I am a member of a Baptist General Conference Church. I give this caveat because Teresa Tomeo is a Catholic and this book uses a lot of Catholic references, quotes many Catholic publications and authors, BUT this is not a Catholic-Only book! I am a maverick Baptist in that I believe that many protestants have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in denying that any Catholic practice has any value. I am finding that many spiritual disciplines that were birthed out of Catholicism have eternal value. So it's not that big of a stretch that I was interested in this book.

After I finished the book this morning, I wrote down THE Bucket List:

Live with stillness--there are times our lives are so cluttered with doing that we can't hear our own spirits talking to us, much less the Spirit of God. Being still forces us to slow down and really listen to what God is telling us. Being still includes taking the time to read His Word, and letting that seep into us and do a work of restoration.

Live with your passion--find out what makes you hum, what really satisfies your soul, and do that.

Live with instruction--the worst student in the world is the one who thinks they know it all. As Christians, we can't begin to scratch the surface of knowing anything. Something God loves is a teachable disciple, and we all need to be teachable.

Live in the mess. Life is messy at the very best of times, and despite the desire to clean it up, sometimes we just have to close our eyes to the clutter and just live in the messiness of life. There are times we cannot just walk away from the mess, it won't be hidden, and it can't be cleaned up. Cancer (a topic I know intimately) is no respecter of persons, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and lives just get messy. It's better to live through it, with it, around it, than it is to try to clean it up under our own steam or sweep it under the rug.

Live with understanding. I have a friend (actually my former boss) that I love to see for lunch at least once a week. We have a mutual admiration society, she says I understand her. But we also have to gain understanding for what God wants for our lives.

Live by confession. Something I learned later than I should have learned is to keep short accounts with God, to keep my relationship on good terms with Him. But confession means more than just listing our sins and saying "Oops, I'm sorry, Lord." Confession as a word is from the Latin meaning, "to say with," or in a more modern rendering, "I agree." There are many confessions that our Christian lives demand, including the fact that Jesus Christ is the source of our salvation.

Live the good life. In a worldly context, the good life means a nice house, nice cars, a country club membership, a successful business, and I could go on and on. Here in Teresa's book, the good life means living a life with purpose, with communion with God, in a learning obedience to God, and reaching out to share what we have to those who need what we can supply.

The ultimate item on this list is to fall in love with God and put Him first above all! Falling in love with God means we have to get to know Him in a way we have never known anyone else in our lives. We do that through Bible study, through interactions with other believers--including our pastors, theology teachers, etc.

There is one quote from the book that really sums up the whole theme: "Once we tap into God's calling for our life, it should feel like home."

Teresa gets five stars, two thumbs up, and a check-mark on her bucket list.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Prime of Life

I don't know what I was thinking when I chose to read this book to review, it is so far off from my normal reading style, but it still caught my attention, and so choose it, I did. I have absolutely no regrets from this choice.

Ben is the janitor for a retirement/assisted living complex, but he has a secret and tries his best to keep that hidden. He enteracts daily with a random group of residents who keep his life interesting, to say the least. There's Sam, who sits in his wheelchair in the common room asking people if they speak Spanish; Jerry, the one Ben calls the Professor; Frank, mortal enemies with Marvin; Jane, who is in love with Frank; Betty, the newbie with whom Marvin falls in love; Lex Kentucky, the podiatrist who treats the residents; and Junior, the owner of the facility.

As soon as Betty moves in, she creates a stir among the male population of the facility, including increasing the competition between Frank and Marvin. But what she doesn't intend to do is bankrupt the facility by recommending an investment that is actually a scam. Junior has mortgaged the facility to cover his gambling debt, and invested the money in a real estate scam in Costa Rica. The residents start brainstorming to save their facility with ideas including calendars, gifts to sell, and playing the lottery. When the lottery idea comes up, Ben remembers that he had bought a lottery ticket and he hotfoots it to his home to find that ticket and to see if it won. When he finds out his numbers were the winning numbers, he tears his apartment apart trying to find his ticket, with no luck. He remembers that he had eaten dinner with Lex the evening before and goes back to the restaurant to see if the ticket is there. The twenty-three million dollar jackpot was going to be the answer to the facility's problems.

Ben's idiosyncracies add to the plot in a way that makes him fit right in with the residents, his love of prime numbers especially adds to his character. P D Bekendam has written an edge-of-the-seat book that will captivate any and all readers. Prime of Life is a MUST read. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a winning lottery ticket.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mississippi Brides

Beginning in 1815 and moving through to 1864, three generations of women grow up and find their true loves in Mississippi. Alexandra Lewis has to move in with her grandmother in Natchez after her father dies in disgraced in Nashville, Tennessee. She is shunned by "Society" and considered unworthy of the young bachelors available. Her grandmother insists that she marry Lowell Sheffield, but Alexandra doesn't want to marry for anything but love.

Jeremiah LeGrand has been taking care of his friend Judah Talbot who was wounded in the Battle of New Orleans and lost his leg. When Jeremiah's uncle decides to open in a branch of his shipping business in Natchez, Jeremiah escorts his friend home and helps him bring in his crops so that he doesn't lose his plantation.

Those are the seeds planted for love in Across the Cotton Fields.

Abigail LeGrand has decided that she doesn't need marriage to have a fulfilled life until she meets the circuit riding preacher, Nathan Pierce. He has come to the area to take over the circuit, and has been given lodgings on the Magnolia Plantation. Abigail has been raised to use her own mind and believes that marriage will hold her back from her goals for her own life. But after going to the pastor's meetings in Jackson and going to the Summer Camp meetings, she finds that maybe Nathan won't hold her back but will enrich her life.

That's how love grows in Among the Magnolias.

Caroline Pierce has traveled with her family from Jackson to Natchez for her father's evangelical meetings and meets Captain Luke Talbot who has brought his grandmother to the meetings. During the week, the two become acquainted and find an attraction they cannot deny or overcome. They persuade her father, Nathan, to marry them and then the fun begins. Luke's grandmother has her way of doing things and nothing Caroline can do is right. Luke is too preoccupied by the War between the States to help Caroline settle in with his grandmother. As a way to keep her sanity, Caroline begins teaching her maid, a slave, how to read and Luke finds out. Caroline has a long family history of believing it is wrong to own another person and cannot come to terms with Luke's absolute disagreement. It's as though their love dies before it has a chance to grow. When Luke is injured in a battle and his own slave keeps him alive, Luke begins to see Caroline's point.

And love begins to bear fruit in As the River Drifts Away.

Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver are a great dynamic duo in writing historical romance. The history is accurate, the characters are believable, and the stories never drag. These two authors are worth the time to read. A very definite four stars.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Bead and a Prayer

Kristen Vincent has written a short study on prayer and beads, specifically the evangelical/ecumenical rosary. Many of the reasons she gives for using this form of prayer resonate with me because I pray so much better when I hold something in my hands--my attention stays more focused, and I feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do. I often pray while I am making something, especially when I am making something for someone specific. I pray for the recipient with each stitch I make or each part of the project.

This is why I was glad to read and review A Bead and a Prayer. She not only explores the reasons for using beads in prayer, but also how to make the rosary, and how to use the rosary in various methods of prayer. The goal and the outcome of this is a deeper prayer life, and a closer relationship with God.

Her studies are easy to understand and back up the author's desire to help the reader understand prayer better. Her directions for making the rosaries are complete and well diagrammed. This is an excellent book to use as a tool to further your understanding of prayer, to help you keep your prayers focused, and to bring you to an incredible relationship with God.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a beaded prayer.

The Vanishing Evangelical

I read fairly fast, but occasionally a book comes along that has to be read slowly, savored, pondered, and carefully considered. The Vanishing Evangelical is such a book and sadly it will be the last offering by Calvin Miller.

I first encountered Calvin's writings in The Legend of the Brotherstone, a book of enduring quality--especially at Christmas time. I have pondered many of Calvin's other books, but this one hit a note with me and it provided me with confirmation of thoughts I'd been feeling about the condition of the Christian Church in America, but it also provided me with solutions for the problems. I am not going to wax poetic about this book, but I am going to offer one quote:

Let us seek Him where He may be found. Put no expectation on any church. The splendor is not somewhere out there. The revolution is in you! Whatever others may do in the forefront of this great flame, do only as He bids you. Then Christianity will be born in vitality in at least one place: within your own small heart. Either there or nowhere.

Calvin calls this our only hope for the vanishing evangelical, and for the church itself. It's the only way we can remove the cultural infection from the church--by coming back to our first love.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a commitment to fall in love with Christ again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christmas in Apple Ridge

I love Christmas and Christmas stories and this book fits the bill on both counts, because you'll get recipes, ideas, and a bit of love thrown into the mix. I haven't read many of Cindy Woodsmall's books because I don't read that many Amish stories, but I've come to appreciate Cindy's ability to write a story that blends the Amish and Englisch worlds and how they work together. For that reason, I have several more of her books to read on my TBR* list. But I digress . . . .

Christmas in Apple Ridge tells three stories of people hiding secrets and hurts, getting past those hurts to find love, and heart healing.

In the Sound of Sleigh Bells, Beth helps her Aunt Lizzy in the dry goods store and goes to other stores in the area that sell Amish goods. She negotiates between Englisch and Amish business owners to make both businesses succeed. She also holds a hurt that keeps her from engaging in life or even making room for love. She mourns for what could have been but never truly was. When she finds a wood carving that intrigues her, she feels a need to find the carver and see if he will make more them for her to sell. Instead she finds someone who understands her hurts and points her toward healing.

The Christmas Singing introduces Mattie, a baker extraordinaire, who can make the most tantalizing cakes and decorate them into works of art. When her bakerie burns down, she has to move back to Apple Ridge and runs into her past. Gideon holds the keys to Mattie's past and if she knew it, the keys to her future.

The Dawn of Christmas brings Sadie back to Apple Ridge for the holidays, and at odds with her father because he wants her to reopen her heart to courting again. When her father forbids her from attending the Fourth of July celebration, Sadie goes for a ride on her grandmother's mare, Bay. While out on the ride, she finds a man lying on the ground with a horse standing not too far away. The man has obviously been thrown from the horse and could be injured. Sadie stays with the man and gets medical help for him, then proceeds to steal his heart.

I spent only three days reading these beautiful stories and enjoyed every single minute. Cindy has included some scrumptious recipes and craft ideas in this collection that will delight her readers.

This rates five stars, two thumbs up, and a cake your tongue will never forget.

You can read a chapter here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

London Dawn

London Dawn is the finale of The Danforths of Lancashire series by Murray Pura. Lord Preston Danforth and his family are all back in London and all together and more numerous than before. The story picks up in the mid-thirties as Hitler begins his rise to power and create havoc in Germany. The Danforth family has grown and has a plethora of grandchildren added to the mix. At times it is hard to keep up with who is who and who belongs to whom, but as Germany encroaches on Europe and begins to attack Britain, the Danforth sons and grandsons (and a couple of granddaughters) line up to get involved in protect their beloved country.

Pura has written a wonderful saga detailing the life and times of a family going through several hard eras of history in the last century. He is still able to write a story of the love of a family, of romantic love, and of the inevitable losses of war.

My only disappointment is that I felt the book ended too soon. I would have liked for the book to have carried through to the end of World War II, and reunited a few of the friendships that I felt were left hanging. I still give this book a solid four stars.

High Plains Hearts

Every now and again, I like to read something that doesn't take many of my braincells to enjoy. High Plains Hearts fits this bill and gives me a few hours of entertainment without me having to ponder the deep issues of life.

Janet Spaeth has put together three novellas all taking place in the North Dakota Badlands.

Tess owns a store called Angels Roost where all the merchandise has something to do with angels. When someone comes in and wants to buy her favorite angel, she feels a kinship, or a connection, with the new owner.

Lily is a songle mother who needs to find a place to live after she found out that her former boss was embezzling from the agency where she worked. She is offered a job right up her vocational alley when a town is flooded and her skills are needed to provide child care for those affected by the flood. When her former boss implicates her in the embezzlement, a friend she made while attending a Christian camp stands beside her through the whole ordeal of clearing her name.

Olivia finds an advertisement for a resort for sale in Sunshine, North Dakota. How the ad got to Boston or how it blew up next to her car puzzled her, but she took a chance and moved, lock, stock, and barrel to North Dakota to buy the resort. Meeting the owner and his grandson were just icing on the cake.

I've read several of Janet's novels and find them worth curling up under a nice blanket on a rainy afternoon. Definite get-away without leaving home.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Talent for Trouble

I reviewed A Most Peculiar Circumstance a while ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was excited when A Talent for Trouble was offered for review. There are some laugh-out-loud spots in this book, there are spots that make you shake your head, and a few places where you might tear up.

Felicia Murdock has always felt that she was supposed to marry the preacher, even up to the day he marries someone else. So after a time when she mopes for a bit, she turns that particular leaf over, gets a new wardrobe, and starts living life. Her mother insists on her going to a tea hostessed by Eliza Beckett with Grayson Sumner, Eliza's brother. Grayson is not sure what to think about Felicia, but as circumstances keep throwing them together, he becomes more and more intrigued with finding who the "real" Felicia is--she has a talent for assuming identities, trying his patience, exasperating her mother, and otherwise creating chaos in her wake. At first, she came off to me as a bit of a flibbertigibbet--or in more common words: a bit silly, but she grew on me. There was a depth to her that doesn't come across until later in the book. Her own nosiness gets her into trouble, but somehow Grayson is always there to bail her out. She finds in him the man who has the patience to tolerate her more eccentric ideas.

Definite four stars--a very likable book. Jen Turano has put together a great series that will give the reader much enjoyment.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tattered Quilt

Wanda Brunstetter is a known name among Amish fiction writers. Her newest offering, The Tattered Quilt, is one that takes the reader by surprise and gives the reader a patchwork of characters. The multiple viewpoints of the book give an interesting look into each character's life.

Emma Miller teaches quilting classes and each class teaches Emma as much about the students as Emma teaches them about quilting. In this particular class, Emma has Anna--a young lady with very strict parents, Cheryl--a woman who wants her grandmother's tattered quilt repaired, Carmen--a journalist trying to dig up dirt on the Amish, Terry--a roofer's helper who is enamored with Cheryl, Selma--a grouchy old biddy of a woman who is lonely more than anything, and Blaine--a man who lost a bet fishing with his boss. Emma's husband Lamar and her goat, Maggie, make up the rest of the characters. Each one has a need, and God uses Emma in various ways to reach out and bless each of her students.

I can't really tell what the surprise is in the book because that would spoil the whole thing, but it amazed me that Wanda was able to put together a full story with well developed characters, a little romance, a little softening of the characters, and a little friendly competition.

Definite four stars!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Bride for Keeps

Everett Cline has been jilted four times by his mail order brides. His best friend's wife has been writing to another candidate for Everett's wife without his knowledge. Julia Lockwood comes in on the train and surprises Everett with her beauty and her apparent wealth, but what Everett doesn't know is that she's hiding a couple of secrets and she doesn't know Everett's background either. They come to a marriage arrangement that sort of suits them, but really does neither of them any favors.

Melissa Jagears has written a story of redemption for Everett and Julia both. They both have to come to terms with God about their own pasts and Julia has to come to terms with her faith as well. Everett has to realize that God has indeed sent him a Bride for Keeps.

This is an entertaining story that is hard to put down and will spur you on to reading more of Melissa's books. Definite Keeper.

Friday, October 4, 2013


pil·grim·age (plgr-mj)
1. A journey to a sacred place or shrine.

2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

intr.v.pil·grim·aged, pil·grim·ag·ing, pil·grim·ag·es
To go on a pilgrimage.

I remember the first Lynn Austin book I read, "A Woman's Place," which caught my eye because it was about women during World War II. It began my love affair with WWII fiction, but it also introduced me to one talented lady who writes incredible books that not only entertain, thrill, and delight my reader's soul, but also encourage, teach, and enlarge my faith. So I jumped at the chance to read and review her newest offering, a non-fiction book detailing her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and how that affected her faith.

Lynn, I have to tell you, some of the things you learned in your pilgrimage will stick with me and take my faith back to First Century simplicity.

Her trip to Israel was more than a tourist expedition, but a trip to bring alive all the things she had learned about the Bible. Through her ability to put ideas into words and words onto paper, I was able to go along and see through her eyes the places where so much of my faith actually happened. I envy (in a good way) Lynn's trip where her faith was partially made sight, and her ability to be so gifted in putting her experiences to words.

One thing she said that made such an impact on me that it is my current Facebook status is this:

We're commanded to consider ourselves dead to sin, not to keep it on life support or make peace treaties with it.

After reading her description of Joshua making a treaty with the Gibeonites without consulting God about it, this thought has put that whole story into perspective. We can't be half-hearted about following God, or we get taken in by moldy bread and worn out shoes.

I wish I could give this book Ten Stars, but Five is the limit, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip to significance.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Matchmaker Weddings

Two books in one cover, the bargain of the year, and two very nice books at that. Matchmaker Weddings has two contemporary romances that will delight readers and fulfill a need for sweet romance.

First is A Wedding Blunder in the Black Hills, with Millie Hogan and her mother, Eva, owning a bakery/cafe called Dosie Doughs. Millie's mom is quite a meddler and sets Millie up with the new dentist in town--David Denvers. David has his own problems with a childhood friend stalking him and wanting to start up a relationship with him. David is a widower with an eleven-year-old son, Bart. David and Millie strike a deal to create a "faux" relationship to rid David of his stalker and to get Millie's mom off her back, but before they know it, the relationship has taken on deeper dimensions than either of them ever anticipated. Kim O'Brien has put together a delightful story with a new twist on the typical romance formula.

The second book in this collection, I read and reviewed earlier this year here.

No less than four stars, two thumbs up, and a blind date.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Burning Sky

Willa has been away from home for twelve years, and now she is returning back to the only home she knew before she was taken by the Mohawks to live as one of them. As she is walking back, she happens upon a man who is wounded and without any means of transport. His only companion is a collie named Cap. She has no horse but she makes a travois to carry him back to the cabin where she will be able to take care of him until he recovers. It was a lot of work, but she eventually got him to the cabin and got him in so she could help with his wounds. This was her introduction to Neil MacGregor, and her introduction to even more adventures than she bargained for.

Richard Waring grew up with her before she was taken, and he wants her land to add to what will be his own someday. He tries to get her marry him so that the land will be his by default, and when that doesn't work he does his best to intimidate her and run her off.

Willa has a "brother" from her Mohawk years named Joseph Tames-His-Horse who finds where she is and brings her two children who were left without a family because of the war. At first Owl and Little Pine want nothing to do with her but as they get to know her and Neil, they begin to become more comfortable with her and over time even come to love her. Joseph loves her too and goes to great lengths to aid her and to make sure she has all she needs for herself and the children.

One of the things Willa needs is proof that her parents were not Loyalists, but instead were Patriots. A friend from town remembers Willa's Oma, Dagna Fruehof Obenchain, and spurs Willa's memory of a cousin living in Albany. Willa writes to Tilda hoping that Tilda could remember where her parents' loyalties had lain. If she cannot find the proof of their patriotism, her land will be auctioned.

Burning Sky tells Willa's story in a way that keeps the reader involved past the very last word in the book. Lori Benton is a skillful storyteller with an ability to weave in the historical scene without making it a history lesson. The scenery of the book jumps to life just as much as the characters do through the ups and downs of the story and only adds to it.

Five Shining Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cabin no longer abandoned.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Small Town Girl

Up till now, my favorite Ann Gabhart book was Angel Sister. But just a few minutes ago, I finished Small Town Girl and it gives Angel Sister a run for its money.

Evie marries Mike, the preacher in Rosey Corner, Victoria is in love with Sammy, Lorena is only ten years old and doesn't like boys yet, and Kate is not in any rush until she meets Jay at Evie's wedding.

Jay has been a drifter most of his life, but after meeting Kate he decides to stay around in Rosey Corner. Kate sees something in Jay she's never seen before in any of the men in Rosey Corner. Her family welcomes Jay in a way he's never experienced before, but it's Kate who has captured his heart and he does all he can to capture hers, including giving Lorena a puppy named Trouble.

As I finished reading this book, I was struck by some similarities to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The four sisters, the setting during war time, the giving nature of the March and Merritt families. Ann has written a series that will endure.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a new puppy.

I'm Jo!!!!!!!!!!!

Which Little Woman Are you?
Your Result: Jo(sephine)
You're Jo! The feistiest of all the March sisters, Jo is a spunky tomboy who dreams only of getting her writing published. She doesn't care about money or marriage. In the end, the only man who can tame her is a man who truly understands and respects, even shares, her dreams. Jo's main fault is her temper--she loses her patience easily and can't always hold her tongue. But her wonderful creative talents make up for all that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

For Love or Loyalty

I have never read a book by Jennifer Hudson Taylor before, but this book was a great introduction to her writing. Malcolm MacGregor comes home to find that Duncan Campbell has come demanding the rents payment, beaten his brother Graham, killed his brother William, and kidnapped his mother Iona and his sister Carleen. Malcolm doesn't take things lying down and goes to exact revenge on Duncan by taking his daughter Lauren, and after finding out that Glenn has sold his mother and sister into indentured servitude in the colonies, takes Lauren with him on a voyage to the colonies in order to sell her into indenture so he could redeem his mother and his sister.

There are a couple of things that bug me about the book. One is that the ship taking Malcolm's mother and sister left only a day before Malcolm's ship, yet when he goes to redeem his mother, she's been in indenture for at least a month. I am not familiar with how long voyages took sailing across the Atlantic, but I am not convinced that it would have taken a month's difference in the length of the voyage with departures so close together. The other issue I have is that in a couple of places the story seems to drag, but it's not worth walking away from the story.

I say this because as the story goes on, the pace picks up. I read while riding my stationary bicycle. As the pace picked up in =)the story, I pedaled faster, and I got in quite a workout. =)

Four and a half stars, very definitely.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unveil Your True Beauty

This afternoon I finished reading one of the most compelling books I've read in a while. Paula K Parker has written a story that catches the reader's attention with the first word and doesn't let go until after the "Author's Notes." She has brought a new perspective to a Biblical family and what their possible story could have been. Paula seems to have done her research on the customs and culture of the times. Sisters of Lazarus: Beauty Unveiled tells a story of two fairly famous Bible sisters--Martha and Mary--and their lives with their brother Lazarus. Of course, this story is incomplete without the inclusion of Jesus and His impact on this family's life.

I am also reading an Ann Spangler/Lois Tverberg book: Sitting at the Feet of Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. So while I am reading one book that explains the spiritual life of Jesus, and the spiritual customs of His time, I also read a book that through the vehicle of a novel also delves into some of the same things. The perspectives of the two authors give me a greater vision of the life lived two thousand years ago.

At the opening of this book, Lazarus is betrothed to marry Abigail bat Nicodemus; Martha's betrothed is for all intents and purposes, dead; and Mary is a young girl with stars in her eyes. I have really appreciated how the definition of the courting customs of the day were woven seamlessly into the story and added to the delight it brings the reader. From Mary learning to bake Martha's honey date cakes to Martha changing her heavy veils to lighter ones, from page one to the glossary at the end, this book does not fail to satisfy the reader.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a honey date cake.

Lighthouse Brides

Lighthouse Brides is a collection of novellas that disappointed me; most of the novellas ended abruptly as if the author said, "Okay, I've made it from point a to point b and that's as far as I need to go." The only novella that truly satisfied me as a complete story was the one by Andrea Boeshaar: "A Beacon in the Storm." Amanda took care of the North Point Lighthouse and her dying mother. Because of Amanda's diligence, Cade's ship "Kismet" made it through the storm with little damage but all repairable and no loss of life. Cade was planning to sell his ship after this voyage anyway because he needed to set down roots for his daughter, Jenny. Amanda has another issue facing her in that someone else wants her job and her brother wants her to move in with him. Andrea Boeshaar wrote an entertaining story bringing these two characters together and still left the reader feeling the story was complete.

I can't recommend this book based on this one story, since there are six in the book.

Two Stars

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rebellious Heart

Since I began reading this book, I couldn't wait to finish it so that I could review it. When I was in high school, I loved reading Irving Stone novelized biographies and Jody Hedlund writes in a very similar style. I absolutely LOVED her two previous novel-biographies--The Preacher's Bride and The Doctor's Lady.

When I first read The Preacher's Bride, I didn't find out until I finished it that it was a biographical novel of John Bunyan. I have a horrible (well, it's horrible to other readers) habit of reading the end of a book before I finish it. So this time I knew whom I was reading about--but, for the sake of those who like to be kept in suspense, I won't tell.

Susanna Smith first saw Benjamin Ross during a murder trial where he was defending a local man accused of murdering a young woman found dead in front of his shack. Ben knew without a doubt that the man was innocent but had no evidence to prove it. Ben pleads for mercy for the man after he is found guilty, stating that he will be under the constant care of the clergy and therefore capable of being reformed.

Susanna again runs into Ben at a party at her Grandmother Eve Quincy's home. His friend, Richard Cranch, meets Susanna's sister, Mary, and falls in love with her, and Ben is taken with Susanna. While at the party, Susanna and Ben both remember the first time she met: she was a child of five--stuck in a tree, and he was a strapping lad in his early teens who helped her out of the tree. This time Susanna has given away her shoes to a young woman who has been robbed her shoes and chased to the limits of her endurance.

Because of Susanna's generosity to the young woman, an escaped indentured servant, Susanna and Ben find themselves in each other's company often, writing letters to each other frequently, but denied the opportunity to court. Susanna's mother doesn't feel that Ben is suitable for a woman of Susanna's stature.

It takes the young indentured servant's capture by the English officer who murdered the one the local man was convicted of killing to finally bring Ben and Susanna together in a way that even her own mother approves of.

Now I am wondering whose love story will Jody tell next? I can't wait.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a letter to your best friend.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings

Sarah grew up in St Andrews Orphanage, then went to work in the Banning household--first as kitchen help and then as a maid. She has her sights set on bigger and better things. Her opportunity to begin her dream comes when she meets Lillie Wagner in a millinery shop where both women are admiring the same hat. Instead of giving her real name, she introduces herself as Serena Cuthbert, she invents a whole past based on whom she wants this new persona to be--someone on an equal with the high society of Chicago. Through Lillie's ability to introduce her into society she meets Brad Townsend and pins her hopes on marrying him.

Sarah is not the most likable main character, but in Simon Tewell, director of the orphanage, Olivia Newport has given us a glimpse into what's truly needed in Sarah's life as well as our own lives--the love of God, the eyes to see ourselves as God sees us. Sarah spent so much time inventing someone she thought she wanted to be, she lost sight of the reality that truly mattered. She was looking on outward appearances and seeing someone largely ignored in society. Her eyes were fixed on the wrong goal, as ours often can be. Sarah learns, slowly, what is truly of value, and in the meantime loses a very important friendship, loses her self-respect, and finds herself and finds what true love is all about.

The Invention of Sarah Cummings is not as entertaining as the other two books in this series, but there is a lot to be learned through Sarah's foibles. I give this book a solid four stars. It's still worth the time to read.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mistletoe Memories

It is never too early to think about Christmas, and I am like a kid in a candy shop when I have a great gift picked out for one of my recipients. I will read Christmas themed stories year-round, so on this 90+ degree day, I read four Mistletoe Memories and enjoyed each one!

Tis the Season takes place in the early 1800's at the resort on Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey. Annaliese meets Stephan when someone whistles and startles her horses. She finds that the someone is Rory, a young boy whose uncle is ill and needs the services of Annaliese's father, the doctor at the resort. Annaliese and Stephan get caught in town during a snowstorm and find the love they both have been longing for.

Mercy Mild Ezekiel Norcross, the deputy sheriff, is delivering five orphans to families in the Schooley's Mountain area after the end of the Civil War. All of them have been spoken for except for the sagacious Polly. Zeke knows that Polly still has relatives alive and must go to see if they are willing to take her in. In the meantime, Polly is staying with Marianne Plum, a widow who is afraid she doesn't know how to be a mother. Zeke knows Marianne has all the knowledge she needs, and knows that she has all that he needs to be his wife.

Midnight Clear In the early 1900's, Olympia Paris runs the local orphanage on a ravelling shoestring. She finds she owes quite a bit in back taxes and that someone has decided to turn her home into a hotel to take advantage of the mineral springs in the area. When her old friend, Teddy Carstairs shows up at her house after years of being gone, she finds out who wants her house and that her friend has more on his mind than just building a hotel. He has her on his mind too.

Comfort and Joy Joy Buccini runs a transition house for foster children who have aged out of the system. When her primary benefactor and owner of the house where she lives and works dies, the new owner comes to evict her. Evan Lancaster, an attorney, meets up with Joy and finds a formidible foe with whom he would rather make peace.

Jennifer AlLee, Carla Olson Gade, Lisa Karon Richardson, and Gina Welborn have put together a delightfully entertaining book of four novellas to while away your time and get you in the Christmas spirit. Four stars at the very least.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Home for My Heart

Sadie is the assistant to the matron of the Raystown Home for Orphaned and Friendless Children. She loves the children under her care and moves heaven and earth to make a home for them, to see that they have the very best that can be provided for them. Blaine has loved Sadie since he met her when at the age of ten he came to this same home to live with his younger brother. When the matron, Hazel decides to leave the home and get married, she recommends that Sadie take her place as matron. At the same time Blaine has bought a farm asks Sadie to marry him.

A Home for My Heart is a book about hearing God's true voice. Both Sadie and Blaine thought they were following God's will for each of them but hadn't taken the time to hear God's true voice on the matter. They both miss God's voice on significant matters and it leads to heartache for them as a couple and for both of them individually. Sadie's miscues come in hiring her assistant, in trying to do a job she wasn't gifted to do, and in losing the best friend she had ever had. Blaine's major miscue is running ahead of what God wants for him.

Anne Mateer has written a great story that at time baffles me, at times entertains me, but most importantly teaches me. I haven't been silent about my love for fiction that has a moral to it, or that teaches spiritual truth while letting me get lost in a story, but I feel this is a valuable asset to any fiction I read. Sure, I read "fluff"--pure entertainment--from time to time, but most of the time, I want to come away from a story stronger in my faith. One of my favorite authors even got to me with conviction on an issue I had. That to me is the benchmark of a truly good read. I don't just read fiction, I read for my own edification and I love those non-fiction books that really build me up. Anne has truly touched my heart with A Home for My Heart. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the love of a "friendless" child.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Forever Friday

Hope has won wars, fed nations, conquered diseases. In the unquenchable human spirit, hope is the fire.

Timothy Lewis has taken sixty years of poems written by his great-uncle to his great-aunt and made them into an incredible love story called Forever Friday. The quote at the beginning of this post is directly from the book and had a great impact on me--in fact, the whole story had an incredible impact on me.

So here's the cast of characters:

Huck Huckabee--her mother named her Pearl Garnet because she wanted her daughters to have fancy names. When she was ten, she decided she'd answer only to Huck.

Gabe Alexander--Huck's soul-mate, the man she's been waiting for all her life.

Mister Jack--Huck's "angel"

Adam Colby--the Estate salesman who found Huck's postcards.

Yevette Galloway--the major heir to Huck's estate.

Huck and Gabe met when she went to the seafood store for some oysters. He knew she was someone special and she met her destiny. They met again when Gabe goes hunting for her on the trolley system. A week later, they are married. Beginning with their wedding night, Gabe sends her a postcard, typewritten with a poem just for her. Gabe has a theory of marriage called "the Long Division," where things keep coming up and dividing couples so that their love dies. He believes that love has to be fed and nurtured and wants to do that with Huck.

When Adam finds the albums with the post cards and wants to know the story of the poems, the story of their love, and what held them together through so many years. His marriage of twelve years died and his wife left him for someone else, not wanting to hear from him again. He can't understand how love can stay alive and hold onto hope. He contacts Yevette and gets put off a couple of times before Yevette decides to tell him the whole story over a series of meetings. Through learning Gabe and Huck's story, Adam learns to hope again, especially to hope in love.

This book is worth Ten Stars, Five Thumbs Up, and a postcard from someone who loves you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Brides of Chance

Oh. My. Goodness. These six stories are filled with humor and entertainment. I have loved Cathy Marie and Kelly Eileen Hake for YEARS and they do not disappoint with these stories, along with one by Tracey Bateman.

One Chance in a Million: Miriam is responding to her sister's letters asking for help and arrives at the Chance Ranch only to find her sister has passed away, leaving her husband, Daniel, and her daughters, Polly and Ginny Mae. Daniel's brother Gideon finds that having Miriam around is more helpful than not, and brings Miriam's staying up for a vote among the brothers (at least the ones over 21). Because Miriam can cook and takes care of things like laundry, the girls, and allowing the menfolk to do ranchwork instead of losing a day a week taking care of the girls, the men vote to keep her. Since Reliable, California, has few available women, men from all over the area come to court Miriam. But she caught Gideon's eye and he caught hers. Daniel just grouses.

Second Chance: Alisa Worthington is running away from San Francisco, where she believes she's wanted for murdering her newly found grandmother. She doesn't know that she's already been cleared, all she remembers is that her father accused her of murdering his mother. Titus is coming home from some time away from the ranch, and meets Alisa on the stagecoach. Titus offers Alisa a job helping Miriam, who is now expecting her first child. Again, the brothers vote to keep Alisa, the town of Reliable comes to court Alisa. Meanwhile, her father has put out a reward for her return, and two ne'er-do-wells have decided the reward he's offering is worth kidnapping her. Alisa had already decided to go back to San Francisco and try to clear her name. She leaves early in the morning and Titus decides to follow her.

Taking a Chance: Delilah ends up on Chance Ranch after her gambling father dies. The Chance men take another vote, they keep her, the men from Reliable show up to court her, and Daniel grouses. Delilah is an artist and loves the area around Chance Ranch for the landscapes it offers for her art. Paul becomes besotted with Delilah but realizes her lack of faith will not allow him to pursue a relationship with her. She moves to San Francisco to put her paintings in a gallery and to paint more pictures. Paul goes to San Fran to bring her back, especially since she's found her faith.

Last Chance: The Chance neighbors, the MacPhersons are from Hawk's Fall, Kentucky, and desperately want brides. Delilah has talked them into sending back to Salt Lick Holler, Kentucky for "mail-order brides." So, Temperance Linden, along with Eunice and Lois Trevor come to Reliable to become MacPherson brides. Lovejoy Spencer, Temperance's sister, comes along as chaperone for the girls. Lovejoy had been the healer in Salt Lick Holler and brings her yarbs and such with her just in case Temperance "Tempy" needs them. But Daniel's girls are sick and they need Lovejoy's healing ways. Daniel doesn't exactly know how to deal with Lovejoy, but he's not going to let her go back to Salt Lick Holler if he can help it.

Chance Adventure: Logan has a bit of wanderlust bothering him. He wants to go somewhere, have an adventure, and maybe even make his way in the world. His brother, Bryce, tells him that the place he truly wants to go is Salt Lick Holler. The other Chance men decide that Logan can go if Bryce goes with him. Lovejoy and the MacPhersons gather up the things they want to send back to their family and friends, then she sets it up for them to stay with Hattie Thales and the Widow Hendrick, the local healers. Logan and Bryce end up taking two riding horses and two pack horses to leave in the Holler with people who need them. What Logan doesn't expect to find was a helpmeet in Hattie.

Chance of a Lifetime: Bryce meets Daisy Thales after her house burns down. Daisy comes with a young son, Jamie, who has palsy and cannot walk, but he also has a big heart and accepts Bryce easily. Daisy wants Jamie to reach his full potential and most of all wants him to be seen as just another child. Bryce also wants Jamie to be all he can be and makes a way for him to be able to help around the place, to enjoy all the things "regular" children enjoy, to be able to hold his own in the world. All he has to do is prove it to Daisy.

These ladies have written a series of books that are cohesive, endearing, faith-building, and spot on with their interpretations of the Bible with humor in large quantities, and bits of suspense here and there. I have read these novellas before and they got me hooked on reading anything Cathy Marie Hake has written and a large portion of Kelly Eileen's and Tracey Bateman's books.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs up, and a Chance to take.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Outcast

Rachel Stoltzfus has secrets and her secrets have cost her her standing in her Old Order Mennonite community--they have caused her to be ignored, to be displaced, to be all but shunned. She has a son, Eli, whom she loves more than her own life, but she refuses to tell anyone who Eli's father is.

Rachel was living with her twin sister, Leah, and her family--husband, Tobias, and their children--including Jonathan who was born a few months before Eli. Leah had a hard time with the pregnancy and needed Rachel's help. When Leah falls down the stairs and ends up in the hospital, Tobias forces Rachel to move out.

Never before has Rachel felt like the Outcast that she has become. She moves in with Ida Mae, the owner of a store that sells Amish and Mennonite goods, and offers foot massages to Ida Mae's customers. Ida Mae also gives rides to the community when they need to get somewhere farther than their buggies will take them.

When Eli gets sick, all the secrets have to come out--he has non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and he's only a baby. He needs a bone marrow transplant, preferrably from a sibling. This is when reckoning time comes for Rachel, Eli's father, and Leah.

Part of the story is told from Rachel's perspective--where the reader gets an inside perspective on Rachel's struggles to raise her son alone, to rise above the gossip that surrounds his birth, to make a way for an innocent little boy in a harsh world.

Part of the story is told from the perspective of Amos--Tobias' father--who is dead and looking down on events from a more neutral perspective. His understanding of everything that has happened fill the story in and make it fuller and richer.

Jolina Petersheim has made her debut as an author with a home run of a novel. It's hard to put down.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a wonderful foot massage.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

California Romance

Colleen L Reece has put together three interwoven novellas to make a complete book that not only entertains, but also does the one thing I love to find in my reading--it teaches.

Romance Rides the Range: Sarah Anderson has watched her step-father bury her mother and now he wants her to marry his "friend" to settle his gambling debts. Sarah can't stomach the thought of marrying Tice Edwards and makes her move to go to California where her brother is working for a rancher. Sarah's brother, Seth, has shown pictures of her to his boss, Matt, and pictures of Matt to Sarah in a clumsy attempt to bring them together. Sarah uses the scripture she has learned at her mother's knee to sustain her throughout the trials that come her way, from her abusive step-father to the man he owes money to the man they hire to kidnap Sarah.

Romance Rides the River: Matt has a sister, Dori, a girl who is hard to describe. She likes to ride horses full out, she rides bannisters, she refuses to conform to anyone's idea of normal, and because of this, she gets expelled from the finishing school where she is completing her education. When she returns to California and her brother's ranch for his wedding to Sarah, she meets Sarah's brother, Seth. Seth's loyalty to her brother makes an impression on her and while she initially denies her attraction to Seth, she eventually succumbs to his charms. Of course, there is an attempted kidnapping involved, a man who thinks he'll tame her and make her the perfect wife, and an assortment of adventures.

Romance at Rainbow's End: Ellie and Tim are Sarah's step-siblings, and their father has determined they are too much of a burden, so he puts them on a train and sends them to Sarah and Matt. Sarah and Matt go through all the legal hoops to adopt Ellie and Tim and raise them up in love and security. Now Ellie is grown and the town gets a new pastor--one who has found in Ellie the woman God has planned for him to spend his life with, a woman of faith and with a beautiful voice. Josh, the pastor, has come to Madera at the protest of his mother and twin brother. Letitia, his mother, has hired a private investigator to see what kind of people her son has become involved with. Edward, his twin, suggests that they go to Madera and see if Ellie is all she's cracked up to be and bring her to San Francisco to be professionally trained to sing. Ellie senses that God desires for her to go but doesn't know why. She's not altogether comfortable with being in San Francisco, but she's obedient to God's voice to trust Him. While she does let the fame go to her head for a while, she finally succumbs to God's pull and makes her way back to Josh as well.

There is more than entertainment value here, there is spiritual value here. And while there's joy in reading a fictional character's romance, the joy in finding something to learn to aid your spiritual walk.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Horse to Ride

Plantation Christmas Weddings

Sylvia Barnes, Lorraine Beatty, Cynthia Leavelle, and Virginia Vaughan have teamed up together to create a book of four novellas about romance in Natchez, Mississippi, mansion weddings. All four are very entertaining stories and, for the most part, don't follow the typical romance novel formula.

Christmas at Dunleith: Marilyn's daughter, Constance is getting married at Christmas at the Dunleith mansion, but Marilyn flies from Denver to Natchez the week of Thanksgiving to help with some of the details of the wedding. She meets Constance's fiance's father, Beau, when they have to stay in the same accommodations while planning. Between the chip on Marilyn's shoulder and Beau's desire to be in control, they have a lot to overcome to find their road to true romance.

Christmas at Longwood: Meredith needs to do some research in her hometown to figure out what her next series of novels--she needs to send her publisher a proposal for her next novels. She runs into her old high school crush, now a history teacher in that same high school, who offers to help her with her research. The only fly in the ointment is Bobbi Lee Cox, the woman who tries to keep the handsome teacher for herself.

Christmas at Brandon Hall: Devon and Sandra are separated, but their twins think there is something still worth building on in their marriage. Devon's sister is getting married and the twins connive to get both parents to the mansion to try to rekindle the spark of their marriage. While at first the twins' plan seems to backfire, eventually Devon and Sandra are able to put the strife behind them and make a new start.

Christmas at Monmouth: Wreath is a wedding planner whose former fiance left her at the altar. Micah is the new manager of Monmouth and once the best friend of the former fiance. Wreath has planned many weddings and is able to make them everything the brides and grooms ever dreamed of. Micah has loved Wreath for a long time and to a degree feels responsible for Wreath's heartache, but mostly, he just loves her. All he has to do is convince Wreath that his love comes from deep within and not from his feelings of responsibility.

This is a solid four star book, and maybe even edging upward.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shades of Mercy

Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira have joined together to write a compelling story of civil rights, racial equality, and coming of age in 1954 Maine. Mercy Millar lives on a farm where she helps with all the farm chores. In fact, her father calls her the "son he never had." Her father often hires Maliseets (the local Native-American tribe) to help with farm work and pays them well for their work. One of the Maliseets is Mick, who is in love with Mercy. This is their story as told by Mercy to her granddaughter Laurel.

An assortment of townspeople round out the story as it unfolds. Mercy's best friend Molly Carmichael has a sister who has run away with a Maliseet, and this makes Molly's father hate the Maliseets to the point that he seeks revenge by falsely accusing Mick of murder. Mercy's father calls his attorney-brother to come and help Mick out, but it takes two weeks for the whole episode to straighten itself out. In the meantime, Hurricane Edna hits the town, and Mick's brother pulls Molly's father out of his store when he becomes trapped.

There are so many intricate points to the plot of this book that they keep the reader involved LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG after bedtime. These two authors have collaborated to bring about a book that will not leave readers after they finish it. This book fits in a class with Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.

You can find an interview with the authors here.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and farm fresh produce. I cannot recommend this book enough. No reader will regret it.

Route 66 Reunions

This is a compilation of three novels that all meet together on Route 66, and each novel includes a reunion of former loves. First in the book is Facing Tessa's Past, where Tessa takes her three sons on a trip along Route 66 from Amarillo, Texas, to the route's beginning in Chicago. On the way, she stops in Oklahoma City and takes her sons to Pizza Playground where she runs into Blake, her youngest son's father. Of all the people to encounter, Blake is last on Tessa's list. Tessa is a different person than when Blake knew her, especially due to the fact that she has surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. When she returns to Amarillo, she finds that Blake is moving back to Amarillo to put in another Pizza Playground. He inserts himself into Tessa's family and makes her fall in love with him all over again. The only problem is that Blake doesn't have a relationship with Christ.

The second story in this book is Redeeming Sarah's Present. Sarah and Kevin have an eighteen year old son, Trey, whom they gave up for adoption. Trey's parents have made sure to send Sarah and Kevin a letter and picture every year around his birthday. For Trey's eighteenth birthday, they arrange for Trey to meet Sarah and Kevin, but Sarah hasn't seen Kevin for the last eighteen years and running into him after meeting Trey is not the cap to such an occasion. As Kevin and Sarah reacquaint themselves, Sarah is also being pursued by one of the doctors she works with. She likes the doctor, but she doesn't love him, not like she loves Kevin. Still there are roadblocks in the course of true love.

Building Amanda's Future sees Amanda returning to Litchfield, Illinois, after her husband and her daughter were killed in a car accident. She has finished school and is set to begin teaching kindergarten in the fall. Right before she arrives, a tornado had ripped through the area and taken one of her friends leaving behind her former boyfriend and his niece. Amanda and Chad had been in love since high school and into college until Susan set up a series of events that split them up. Amanda moved to California where she met Ken, married him, and had Charity. When Charity was ten months old, Ken and Charity were killed, pushing Amanda to finish her degree and then find a job. Because of the tornado that had taken Chad's sister, Jessica, and Jessica's husband, and leaving their daughter behind needing her Uncle Chad in a most serious way, and Chad needing Amanda.

Mildred Colvin has written three very entertaining stories with a typical romance novel formula--boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. While the formula fits this series of novellas, it doesn't detract from the entertainment value of the stories, and the way Mildred has tied all three of them together makes a cohesive book, great for afternoon reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Letters

Rose Shrock is living with her mother-in-law after her husband died mysteriously. Rose knows that her husband's business lost a lot of money for a lot of people, and she is determined to earn it and pay it back because these were brothers and sisters in Christ who hurt in the business folding.

She is raising her husband's two daughters and their two sons while trying to figure out how to restore the lost moneys. Bethany, the oldest daughter, is also working to help her step-mother. On a chance encounter at the "Bent and Dent" store, Rose finds a need within the Amish community that she could possibly fill--a bed and breakfast. With the help of her next door neighbor, she remodels her basement to hold two bedrooms, a sitting room with a kitchenette, and a bathroom. After the first the tourists wanting a place to stay go back home, they have a chance ecounter with a woman who needs to "get away" and have a place to rest and release. Through Rose's acquaintance with Delia Stoltz, she becomes more sure of herself and finds herself falling for her neighbor Galen.

While The Letters is the first book in a new series by Suzanne Woods Fisher, some characters carry over from the Stoney Ridge Seasons series. It is not necessary to have read this series in order to understand or know all the characters in this new Eagle Hill Series.

Suzanne writes a good romance with solid characters with real-world problems, she shows the good and bad in people--Amish and Englisch. Definitely a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a night at the Bed and Breakfast.

Stopping Words That Hurt

My daughter worked for seven years in a rather toxic environment where her supervisor tried time after time to cause her to fail, told her that she NEEDED to fail, and became extremely angry when she didn't fail. He took every opportunity to bring her down, to sabotage her work, and often talked about her behind her back. When I saw Michael Sedler's book, Stopping Words That Hurt, I knew I had to read it, because I wanted to help her cope with the fallout of the verbal and emotional abuse she suffered.

I was so wrong in so many ways in assuming what the book was about, but I learned so much in reading this book. I learned how I need to stop the words I speak that hurt. Dr Sedler has defined the effect our own words have on those around us--words that gossip, tear down, bear false reports, and in so many ways defile our world. When my husband was about mid-way through his career, he came home with the news that he'd flubbed something up at work. His comment about it was that one, "Oh Sh*&^*!" can cancel out ten "Atta Boys." Michael makes the same point in his book, but he also makes other points that are so basic but at the same time so overlooked in our society.

One of his examples was teachers in the teachers' lounge at school talking about the children with behavior problems, the affairs of other teachers, the parents who are pains in the neck; in other words, gossip. What makes this so despicable is that the people being talked about aren't there to defend themselves, and while you may not contribute to the conversation, you become polluted by the others' talk. When we don't speak up in these conversations, we allow ourselves to become complicit in them. Our words have such power to build up or tear down and we have the power to stop the words that hurt. One thing we have to realize is that we don't have to do this under our own power, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to curb our tongues. We also have the power to make reconciliation where our words have already caused pain.

This book is necessary for every Christian to read. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and words to build one another up.

Destiny Brides

When Destiny Brides is released, it will be a great value as it contains two complete novels in one cover, and the novels are indeed worth reading.

First is A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer. Travis Logan is a doctor but he just came out of the Civil War and wants nothing more to do with doctoring. He'd rather raise horses instead. While on a boat traveling down the Mississippi River, he meets a man who is ill and takes care of him until he dies. Before the man dies, he deeds his farm to Travis, telling him that he'll meet Heaven there, but never explaining that Heaven is his daughter. When Travis arrives at the farm, he not only finds the beautiful Heaven, but also her little sister, Angel. Once Travis meets Heaven and Angel, he finally understands what their father was telling him, that he wanted Travis to marry Heaven and take care of both of his daughters. It's just that the road to the nuptials is not as smooth as it could be.

Second, Murray Pura has put together a post-Civil War novel that touches the heart in unexpected ways. In A Bride's Flight from Virginia City, Montana, Murray has told a story of love, faith, and absolute trust. Charlotte Spence now owns and runs her deceased brother's ranch near Virginia City, Montana. Zephaniah Parker is one of her neighbors who would like more than friendship with Charlotte. After rescuing two children from a burned out settlement, Zephaniah finds himself on a cross-country train trip with Charlotte and the children. The problem comes in having to outwit, outrun, and outmaneuver an outlaw called the Angel of Death, or Seraphim Rader. Charlotte is having to keep her own secrets from Zephaniah in order to protect him. The question is whether true love will win over kept and revealed secrets.

Definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the trip of your choice.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Prairie Christmas Collection

For times when I need just a bit of fluff to read, I love to have books like A Prairie Christmas Collection, because the novellas are short enough to fill a bit of time and complete in one sitting. This collection is no different. My favorite was the Buckskin Bride by Vickie McDonough. Mattie, Millie, and their sister, Jess, were living in a teepee on Donall's land and waiting for their father to return from hunting. He's been gone a while and the girls miss him, but they know what to do to protect themselves. In hiding from someone approaching their campsite, Jess gets hurt and Donall and his family offer their hospitality while Jess recovers from her broken ankle. This story takes twists and turns to finally get Mattie and Donall together.

The stories are:

Defending Truth by Shannon McNear
The Calling by Kathleen Fuller
A Silent Night by Anna Urquhart
A Pony Express Christmas by Margaret Brownley
The Cowboy's Angel by Lauraine Snelling
A Badlands Christmas by Marcia Gruver
Buckskin Bride by Vickie McDonough
The Gold Rush Christmas by Michelle Ule

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a favorite Christmas ornament.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Heartland Weddings

This book contains two complete novels, both novels' main characters are named Megan. Both Megans are not necessarily looking for love, but find it anyway.

A Wedding Song in Lexington, KY, by Jennifer Johnson, chronicles the love story of Megan McKinney and Justin Frasure--definitely an unlikely couple because Justin is Megan's boss, his best friend is marrying Megan's twin sister, Marianna. Marianna doesn't like Justin and tries everything in her power to prevent him from dating her sister. Megan has to tell Marianna to allow her to make her own dating decisions. Megan also has an estranged relationship with her mother. One thing that Megan does accomplish is learning to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions.

A Wedding Homerun in Loveland, OH, by Cathy Liggett details the romance between Megan O'Donnell and MacNeill Hattaway that occurs while setting up a sports day for special needs children. The issue is near and dear to Megan's heart because of her own son, Sam, a little boy with Cerebral Palsy. Megan has to learn that not all men face their responsibilities by running away and that some men make the hard choices to fulfill their duties or even accept someone else's duties.

I truly enjoyed both novels in this book, but I found Sam's abilities a bit beyond what I know of Cerebral Palsy, especially his speech. I know great strides are made everyday in therapies to allow CP children to reach their full potentials and maybe I just haven't been around enough CP children to truly know, but a seven year old child wouldn't have the sophistication of speech this author gave him.

Still a solid four star book.