©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.