©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

One More Last Chance

How many Last Chances does a person need? Plenty, it seems, especially if you live in Last Chance, New Mexico. Chris Reed has just bought the Dip N Dine cafe in Last Chance and wants to make it something that will put Last Chance on the map (I should tell Chris right here to be careful what he wishes for . . . I drove through New Mexico a week after they changed all the state highway numbers. So even if Last Chance gets on the map, he wants to make sure the maps have the right highway numbers, or no one will be able to find the cafe). Sarah Cooley has returned to her home town to teach second grade. Sarah is totally unimpressed with Chris and resents what he's trying to do with the Dip N Dine.

Cathleen Armstrong has written a series of novels taking place in this quaint town in southern New Mexico, and this is the middle book in the series. I hadn't read the first one, but I found this one quite able to stand on its own without losing too much of the storyline. In the copy of the book I read, there is a chapter of the last book in the series and it will depend on this one to stand up, just sayin'.

Sarah and Chris started out with a rather antagonistic relationship, but after Chris's niece, Olivia, gets dropped off with Chris, Sarah begins to warm up to him. However, Sarah's ex-boyfriend,Brandon, shows up to try to reconcile with Sarah and creates havoc in his wake. Of course, seven-year-old Olivia is a dab hand at havoc, herself. Cathleen's characters have a realness about them that makes the book a decent read. Sarah is a bit wishy-washy with her relationships with Brandon and Chris, and jumps from love with one to love with the other--I didn't like her as much. Her antagonism to Chris in the beginning would be totally uncalled for, even if she doesn't like his business practices. Chris seems to know what he's doing, but has a hard time putting his foot down firmly enough at times, not that I don't understand that problem. I do. The book is a quick read and there is enough going on to captivate the reader's attention. I do wish Cathleen had included a couple of Dip N Dine's recipes--they sounded soooooooooooooo good.

Strong Four Stars

This galley copy was provided for me in exchange for my honest, yet opinionated, review by Revell Publishing, through NetGalley.com. I was not remunerated for my review.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Safe Haven

Anna Schmidt has hit a grand slam home run with her newest novel, Safe Haven. It continues the story begun with All God's Children and continued in Simple Faith. While this book could stand alone, it fares so much better as part of the series.

In All God's Children, Beth and Josef's history is begun, with participation in the resistance movement and then needing to escape Germany before they are taken to a prison camp.

In Simple Faith, Anja has lost her husband and her daughter, but still has her son. Together they help rescue an American pilot who has to run from a wrecked air plane and escape the Germans before he is captured.

Now we are up to Safe Haven, where Suzanna is a disgraced newspaper journalist because she listened to someone who was feeding her false information that torpedoes her career. She is given an opportunity to redeem herself by going to Oswego, NY, and telling the stories of the refugees encamped there. Among the refugees are Ilse, Franz, and Liesl--who are Beth's relatives. Suzanne met Theo Bridgewater at the Oswego boarding house where they were both staying. Through Theo, Suzanne is able to meet and develop a relationship with Ilse and Liesl, and through Ilse and Liesl, she meets Gisele. She is able to write their stories as "temporary" refugees in a camp that gives them little more freedom than they had in Europe.

Anna has woven history into her story so seamlessly, you feel you are reading an historical account of actual events, or maybe a biography. There is nothing formulaic in Anna's writing, her characters are believable and real, and her events match up with the history of the era. The friendship between Suzanne and Theo builds into love and becomes something very beautiful even with some ups and downs.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Pulitzer prize winning newspaper article.

This book was provided to me by Barbour Publishing through NetGalley.com. I have received no compensate for honest, yet opinionated review.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

While Love Stirs

Lorna Seilstad writes books that add the humor of every day life to her romances. With Charlotte Gregory's graduation from Fannie Farmer's culinary school, she begins a crusade for better cooking at home, in hospitals, and anywhere else food is prepared. When her sister has a baby, she finds reason to object to the food the hospital is providing for her sister, but the objections are ignored by the doctor, Joel. To prove her worth, she enters a cooking competition through the gas company, and to no one's surprise, she wins. After winning the competition, she is given a job with the gas company to do cooking demonstrations all over the state.

Joel is a doctor who likes order in all things, to the point of getting upset when his sister rearranges his books in his office. He often butts heads with Charlotte but still can't get her out of his mind. He does like it when his hobby of rowing competitively puts him in the same area where Charlotte is giving her demonstrations. He makes an effort to go see her lecture and then to ask her to come watch his race.

Lorna likes putting her heroines in situations where trouble seems to dog their steps, and Lorna's heroes are always around to rescue them. In While Love Stirs, Lorna unfortunately follows the romance writers formula--boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. This only detracts in a minor way--humor suffuses this story in unexpected ways and means. Four and a half stars.

Revell provided this book for me through NetGalley.com for my honest and opinionated review. I was in no way compensated for my review.

Sincerely Yours

This is a collection of novellas written by an A-list of authors. Unfortunately, the novellas were B-list at best.

Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes is the best of the bunch, in my opinion. I have never been disappointed by Laurie Alice's work and this novella doesn't disappoint either. Taking place at the opening of the Erie Canal, this story details the flight of Camilla Renfrew from false accusations and her desire to meet up with her friend to work as a housekeeper. The captain of the boat Camilla boards does NOT want her around, but has a grudging respect for her pluck and her plight.

Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey is a story that has been told before, though Ann does bring a fresh perspective to it. Merrie Bentley is writing a marriage advice column for a magazine, and has signed her articles M M Bentley. The editor has assumed she is a man and she does nothing to disabuse him of the notion. When he requests a meeting with Mr. Bentley, Merrie has to do something to keep the ruse alive and enlists her music teacher for the job.

One Little Word by Amanda Cabot again tells a story that has been told before. Louisa needs to marry quickly to keep her wastrel of a cousin from squandering her inheritance. When she finds that her brother is still alive, she journeys to see him and meets Jonah Mann, the architect of the new carosel for the resort where her brother is head chef. She does not realize that Jonah is Jonah Manderley, a titled Englishman who needs to go back to his family's estate to take his rightful place. Jonah doesn't realize that Louisa is a Manderley that will make her eligible to be his wife. All they both know is that they love each other but think their families will not accept the choice of spouse.

A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick wraps historical events into her novel and makes it a more compelling story. Grace responds to a plaintive plea from her dearest friend's daughter. She needs to rescue her friend from the clutches of unscrupulous "doctors" who are systematically starving their patients in order to inherit their estates. This part of the novella is based in fact, and lends credulity to the tale. Jane does a superior job of weaving history into her writings and making the history an integral part of the story.

I truly enjoyed all four novellas, but at the same time, I was a bit disappointed. There was something missing, some oomph, some spark, some intangible ingredient that grabs the reader and doesn't let go until the last page is turned and the book is closed. Four stars.

The galley for this book was provided to me by Baker Publishing House through NetGalley.com for my honest opinion. There was no compensation given for my review.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Book of Not So Common Prayer

I am a sucker for nearly any book on prayer. If prayer is in the title, I'll at least read the jacket to see if it is truly something I want to read. The Book of Not So Common Prayer was just the thing I was looking for and I read it eagerly. Linda McCullough Moore has a conversational writing style that makes me wish I could have her come sit in my kitchen with a tall glass of iced tea and talk about prayer, pray, talk about prayer, and pray some more. I feel like we'd be friends, just based on this one book.

What I like best about the book is her practicality. She doesn't leave anything out of her descriptions, and she sets out to give instructions for prayer. As she talked about Brother Lawrence and his eight specific times a day for prayer, I could see her studying him and how he managed that, men don't multi-task that well, or so my husband says. I could also see her setting down a schedule that allowed her to pray four times a day. She took on different prayer "practices" to make her prayer life new and alive, she engaged herself into prayer with other believers to keep herself accountable, and she studied her own relationship to God in order to bring herself closer to Him. Her opinions and teachings so closely mirrored my own, that at times, I seemed superfluous even to myself. She encourages, cajoles, prods, urges, and all but begs us to bring our relationship with God to the fulness God deserves from us. She wants us to know Him, to walk with Him, to see His presence with us, and to hear Him. She wants us to be so immersed in Him, that our lives become prayers in and of themselves. The question of why she wants that is because this is what God wants, and in finding her heart's home with Him, she wants to share that.

Some of the prayer methods she uses are Lectio Divina, Contemplative Prayer, writing to God, listening to what God has to say to us, and living out our prayers. I haven't moved to pray four times a day like she has, but I do have my phone set up to remind me to pray for three friends who all have the same first name. An alarm goes off daily so that I will pray for them--it just happens to be Bugs Bunny saying, "Ooh, this looks like fun!" Whatever the tool, if it reminds me to get in touch with God, it's worth it.

The book is easy to read, but deep enough that it should be taken in short segments and digested. Easily Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a postage-paid letter to God.

This book was provided by Abingdon Press through Netgalley.com for my honest, opinionated review. I was not compensated for my review.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Quit, . . . Well, Not Really

In a detour from my usual reading fare, I chose a book that I thought could help me with one of my struggles--my weight. I Quit Sugar is one quick read, with a lot of information to digest, along with 108 recipes that look very enticing. Sarah Wilson has put together a step by step guide to detoxifying your body of sugar, along with how to keep it from being a controlling factor of your life.

From the get-go, this program will be very hard for me simply because there is a time where I will have to give up my fruit to completely cleanse myself of sugar. From the time I was tiny, sugar and I have been very good friends. Chocolate has always been a favorite, but a little over ten years ago, I had to give it up, along with a lot of other sugary things. The main sweet I have now is fruit, although I have been known to bake my own sugar-free cookies or other desserts when my sweet tooth is getting the best of me.

Sarah lays out the steps necessary along with valuable information that makes you wonder what it is that you are putting into your mouth. Her website has even more recipes than the book and if they are all like the one I made tonight, they are to die for. On page 96, she has a recipe for a Zucchini "Cheesecake." My husband had picked up the book and was flipping through it. He came upon this recipe and I asked him to read ingredients to me and I fell in love. I knew we were having company so I trotted myself to my local grocery store and bought the ingredients. I made it today and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! I never really thought about a savory cheesecake, but this is something to die for! I used it for a light dinner dish along with some biscuits, and then a strawberry cheesecake for dessert. All of this meal was sugar free as far as added sugars go and I got rave reviews for it. So Sarah, thank you for quitting sugar, and then showing us all how it's done.

My only criticism is that nutritional values are left off of the recipes.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a slice of heavenly cheesecake.

This book was provided for me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for my review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's Almost Summer, but . . .

This book is a Breath of Spring. This is book four of the Seasons of the Heart series and while there are some parts of the plot that are more fully described in the previous books, this one is easily readable and the plot can be caught readily.

This is my first Charlotte Hubbard book, and I find her writing style quite light-hearted and fun. And every now and again a person just has to have light-hearted and fun.

Annie Mae is taking care of her sister Nellie after her father disgraced himself in the Amish colony where they lived. She has taken a job at the local cafe where Adam and his brother Matthias habituate. Because of the respect the members of the colony have for Annie Mae, they all take her in under their wings and they all treat her like a favored daughter. In return, Annie Mae learns their likes and dislikes, and will often box up to-go orders of sticky buns in anticipation of their orders.

Adam has secrets he's not willing to let go, but they are tearing him up inside. Working through them while occasionally rescuing Annie Mae from her various adventures has almost become his full time job, outside of his remodeling work.

Charlotte has taken these characters and given them real world problems in an "Old World" situation living in an Old Order Amish society. The actions and reactions of the people populating this book are believable and sympathetic. She has done a masterful job in telling this story. I wish I had read the other two books in the series first, but that doesn't in any way detract from this story on its own.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Sticky Bun To Go

Sunday, June 8, 2014

One Perfect Spring

On this blog, I rarely insert anything to do with my life outside the cybersphere, but this has NOT been One Perfect Spring at my house. My husband has been seriously injured twice this spring, but that's all that I have that remotely connects to this book. So those injuries will be other stories for other days.

Haley is a young girl of eleven years who cares deeply for the people in her life. In fact, she cares so much for her next door neighbor, Maureen Chandler, that she writes a letter to a corporation known for its philanthropic pursuits. Her letter lands on the desk of David McMillan who hands it off to Keith Watson. Maureen, an art history professor, has had a son and given him up for adoption. She wants to find her son and become acquainted with him. Keith is reluctanct to pursue this investigation because he was abandoned by his mother and adopted as a young child.

However, Keith's forays into finding Maureen's son puts him in the path of Claire and Haley Summers, who live next door to Maureen, AND David McMillan himself decides to insert himself into the investigation. All those meetings add up to more than just a simple investigation into an adoption that happened twenty-two years ago.

I only have a couple of objections to Irene Hannon's novel:
1. Throughout the book she calls Haley a little girl. Haley is eleven years old and I feel that is way past a little girl--she may be a young girl, she may be small for her age, but she's not a little girl. Okay, that's my rant. I really should find a gentler way to voice my objection, but this truly is my opinion, nothing more.
2. I had a hard time understanding Keith's emphatic dislike of mothers who give up children for adoption. For me, adoption is a beautiful story of how much God loves us. With Keith's upbringing as described in the book, he would have seen this for himself. All right, now I am being picky.

Here's the skinny you are looking for on the book: the story is well written and flows naturally. There are not any places where it seems to drag. It is a sweet little romantic story that will bring a smiling sigh to the reader once the book is finished. Strong Four Stars

An e-book galley was supplied to me through NetGalley by the publisher for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Heart of a Soiled Dove

So, what do you do with a book you are reading for fluff and you find that there are deep spiritual truths embedded in the plot? It's amazing to find such a book on my reading list and to spend time getting to know these characters for who they are. They are not plastic people, but very real, so let me introduce you.

Aurora--makes no bones about who she is and where she's been. She inherited an estate that allowed her to be independent and allowed her to try to rescue other women who also sold their bodies. She taught me much even in her young Christian life. She's the one who will teach you that God removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, that what's on the outside does not matter nearly as much as what's on the inside, and that judgment is unfair and unwarranted to get along in this life.

Donovan--has a rather menacing demeanor that hides his desire to have peace. His brother Roman was the son of his father and the housekeeper. Donovan's mother sold herself out just to embarrass his father, and Donovan can't get past the thought of being with a woman who has ever rented out her body.

John--the itinerant preacher who comes to town every six weeks or so and holds services. His gentle wisdom and earnest kindness are a balm to Aurora's battered soul.

Thatcher Poe--owns the Lady of the Evening Saloon and Brothel. He basically runs the town by telling the sheriff what he will and will not allow. He has no scruples, no morals, and the only thing he values is money.

Corbin--the sheriff who is corrupt, snakelike, and even though he's supposed to stand for the right, stands more for evil. He's not above taking bribes, or demanding payment for his "protection."

If you have ever read Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, you know that Angel eventually opens a home for soiled doves to escape their plight, to make choices that will give them respectable work and education. Aurora does much the same thing, and goes one step further--she pays their ransom, and befriends one of the madams. Sarah Jae Foster has done an admirable job in telling Aurora's story, and the story itself will keep the reader enthralled throughout the whole book.

The conflict between Aurora and Donovan happens because she is able to purchase a piece of land in Pine City, Montana, that Donovan wants. Donovan wanted the land to be able to give it to his brother to ranch on. Aurora hires Roman to be her ranch manager and that grates on Donovan's nerves something fierce. One of the girls that Aurora rescues marries Roman and learns to grow a garden, can the produce, and lay aside food for the winter. All in all, a pretty nice set up, but still not satisfactory to Donovan. The conflict between Aurora and Donovan create a palpable tension that will bring the reader much satisfaction when the book is at an end.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a boarding house for rescued soiled doves.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Healer's Touch

Lyric lives with her mom, Edwina, and her sister, Lark, back in the hills near Joplin, Missouri. There is a light that shows up from time to time that startles the residents around the area, and makes the others believe the area is haunted where Lyric and her family live. Lyric would like nothing more than to have a friend, to be able to love and marry like other girls her age, but because of her mother's mental illness she believes this will never happen. She's often treated as though her mother's illness is contagious.

Ian Cawley is a US Marshall chasing Jim Cummins through the area when the light shows up and frightens his horse. He ends up riding through Lyric's barn door and waking up with amnesia. Lyric would like nothing more than ignoring the stranger who broke her barn door, but she's a healer and can't ignore his injuries, even though she believes he will die from them. She nurses him back to health, albeit slowly, but during this time, . . . well, it is a romantic book

Lori Copeland has written many rather enjoyable books that hold the reader's attention from page one all the way through to the end of the book. This one dragged for me. I wish Lori had used more of Lyric's healing abilities in the book, or at least more of her healing knowledge. The history of the ghostlight from the area in Southwestern Missouri that Lori provides as the preface to her book is valuable to the plot of the story and I appreciate her including that information. She does develop MOST Of the characters well. Lark believes she is in love with a local widower and "bothers" him as often as she is able. I wish more of this story-line had been included, because there are only one or two encounters between the two of them. Maybe Lori is going to give them their own book and their own story. The only other plot element that could have made this better is if a bit more of Lyric's and Ian's faith were included. Overall, a strong 3.5 to 4 stars.

This book was provided by Harvest House through NetGalley.com for my honest, though opinionated, review. I was not compensated in any way for this review.