©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Covered Deep

The Covered Deep is one of the most unusual books I've ever read. As I was reading the book, the word machiavellian came to mind when I read about Sir Hartwith (and I am not sure I am remembering his name right) and his machinations to test the members of a group of people he has sponsored on a trip to the Holy Land. The other players in his little game include:

Bianca--a single woman whose approaching birthday cuts her chances of finding her groom down to 18%. She has high ideals for the perfect man for her, one who is a believer in Christ, intelligent, a bit wild, humorous, and a better than average kisser.

Paul--a man who fits every requirement Bianca has but he's battling some demons from his past.

Madeleine--one of Paul's demons and a pawn in Sir Hartwith's game.

Mr Tabor--his role in Sir Hartwith's game isn't obvious until the very end of the book, but he does have a very significant role in the game at hand.

The game is this: Sir Hartwith wants to know that God is real, that he can change a man from the inside out, and that men who have been changed by God stay that way. The test subjects are Bianca and Paul who truly do fall in love.

I absolutely loved reading Brandy Vallance's debut novel, but I wonder about someone whose imagination can come up with the Machiavelli who played people like chess pieces. ;-) She does a masterful job in bringing the characters together, in meshing the storylines of the characters, and in telling a sweet love story that resonates in my heart. This is an incredible first novel and I look forward to seeing what else she will bring out.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip to the Holy Land.

This novel was provided to me by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my honest review. No other remuneration was given or accepted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin

I read World War II lit because....
My Dad served
His two brothers served
The husbands of three of Mama's sisters served--one of them was one of the first Americans to see a concentration camp
Mama's only brother was in a supportive industry
There are things that happened in World War II that are not only horrific, but they should never be forgotten.

On Facebook there is a group called Avid Readers of Christian Fiction and someone read The Butterfly and the Violin and recommended very highly. When I looked at my list, it was on my "read and review" list and I was thrilled.

This is one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a long time. It has its horrors and its brutality of the Third Reich, but it has the beauty of classical orchestra music in the most varied of settings. It has the heart of the musicians in some of the worst situations this world has ever known and it has the pathos of sacrifices the musicians made.

This is a parallel story: Adele and Vladimir during World War II and Sera and William in the present day. Kristy Cambron has woven the stories together so seamlessly that they meld together in a tapestry so beautiful it won't be forgotten soon. Sera is an art gallery owner in New York who has seen the painting of Adele and wants to know more. She wants to fill in all the gaps in her knowledge of Adele and Vladimir, to find the painting and see it one more time, and to find peace. William needs the painting because his grandfather's will leaves his whole estate to the owner of the painting. William hires Sera to help him find the original of the copy he has. Their research takes them farther and farther into Adele's and Vladimir's stories.

I can't in good conscience give any more details of the story because that would require me to spoil the story. I just can't do that. Here's what I will say:

Kristy Cambron has done her research well--the descriptions of the concentration/labor camps leave the reader wondering at the depths of human depravity.
Kristy has also developed her characters into full-fledged, three dimensional people. They have flaws, they have trust issues with others and with God, and they have strengths that are on human terms unfathomable.

Even though her story line bounces back and forth between the 1940's and present day, it is easily followable, and it sucks the reader in and doesn't let go until the very last line.

The butterfly from the title comes from Vladimir's nickname for Adele and from the hairclip he gave her to remind her of his love for her.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a painting that will move your soul.

This novel was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honet review. The opinions are mine, and no remuneration was given for any part of this.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Make a Wish

I took a detour from my usual reading genres to take a trip through the baseball field. One of the main activities in my house when my children were growing up was watching baseball, playing baseball, reading about baseball, studying baseball,. . . well, you get the picture. My son grew up eating and breathing baseball. From the time he could hold a ball, he was always throwing. My son had incredible control and aim. One of our favorite family lore stories is when my son was barely walking, we visited a friend. The friend had a son four months younger than mine, and the son had a duck with a wooden egg that twirled on the wheels of the duck. My son picked up the egg and threw it to the other baby, hitting him square in the forehead, giving him a significant pump knot.

I haven't encountered Jake Smith's writing in my reading forays, but he does write a good story. He has done his research well, and he uses his research to enrich his novel. He has true talent in telling a tale.

James McConnell is the assistant high school baseball coach and is married with two children whom he loves more than life. When the news comes that his son's leukemia has returned, he is more than devastated. With Aaron in the hospital near Detroit, James and the rest of the family move into Aaron's hospital room for the duration of Aaron's treatments.

Curt Howard of the Detroit Tigers comes to visit Aaron and brings him several Tiger souvenirs. He tells Aaron if there is anything else he wants to let him know. Aaron asks Curt to lean down because he wants to ask something but he doesn't want to say it out loud. After whispering with Curt a few minutes, Aaron goes to sleep and Curt promises to get them tickets to a game. Aaron stays close mouthed about his wish, wanting to surprise his family.

For me to tell much more of the story would be to spoil it for anyone else who wants to read it. Jake makes the transitions between the elements of the story so smoothly, he keeps the reader engaged and makes the book very hard to put down. The emotions are real and palpable, the characters are believable and sympathetic, and I was thorougly enthralled with the book so much that I stayed up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past my bedtime two nights in a row to read it.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a signed baseball for your collection.

This book was provided to me for my honest review by Tyndale House Publishers. No remuneration was offered or taken for my opinions.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Story Keeper

Jennia Beth is an editor with a New York publishing house. There is a room at the Vida Publishing where the rejected manuscripts from the last twenty years have landed--called the "Slush Pile." Somehow one of the manuscripts lands from the Slush Pile lands on her desk and when she reads it, she feels compelled to find out who wrote it and find the author. After a bit of research she finds that the author is Evan Hall, a once-famous writer of the Time-Shifters series for young adults. He has since become reclusive because of all the hoopla his Time-Shifters novels and subsequent movies have created. Jen wants to push the manuscript for publication. In presenting the proposal to her boss, she finds she will be dispatched to North Carolina where Evan is and where Jen's family lives.

After she gets to North Carolina, she finds she is in the middle of one of the two Time-Shifters fairs held in the area. Jen meets Evan's Aunt Helen who tries to help Jen talk to Evan. When Evan finds out who she is and what she wants, he kicks her off his property. Jen and Evan can't help running into each other and every time they do, Jen wears him down a bit.

Within this novel is the novel of the Story Keeper--the story of Rand Champlain and Sarra, a Melungeon, and their travels in the Appalachian mountains.

Lisa Wingate has put together an engaging novel with all of the characteristics of a good story--compelling characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of family dynamics that speak of real life in a way that relates to every reader. While Jennia Beth is in North Carolina, she meets up with her sisters and her father for a bittersweet reunion.

I have read other Lisa Wingate novels but not with as much enjoyment. This book captivated me from the very beginning and it was easy to bounce between the story of Jen and Evan and the story of Rand and Sarra. If it weren't for the fact that my eyes were slamming shut on me last night, I would have finished the book yesterday in almost one sitting.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a story to pass down to your future generations.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Post Within a Post

This is supposed to be a post about Elizabeth Camden's book With Every Breath, and it will be. But first, I need to share some information about why this book affected me the way it did.

Nearly eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness--one of those rare conditions that no one has heard about and doctors don't know enough about. I've had two major surgeries in connection with my disease, five minor procedures, radiation treatments, and monthly injections just to keep this under control. As you would guess, there is no cure for this, no real remission, and untreated, it could destroy my heart. However, the treatments destroyed my gall bladder. You might think there is no upside to this, but you'd be wrong. I meet incredible people, I have around me a wonderful group of doctors who have dedicated themselves to researching my disease and to being my advocate, and most importantly, I have grown spiritually.

When I started reading With Every Breath, I was captivated from the very first page. When I got a little more into it, I found that one of the main characters, Dr Kendall, was fighting to cure a very contagious, debilitating, chronic disease. He hired a spitfire woman that he competed against all the way through school named Kate Livingstone to be his research assistant. Kate was taken completely by surprise when she showed up for her interview with Dr Kendall to find he was the horrible Trevor McDonough, the one who beat her out of the college scholarship when they were graduating high school. When she began working for Trevor, it was hard for her to look past the past and see what was before her. She was having a hard time trusting Trevor, getting over the scholarship test, and not falling in love with him. She was also having a hard time with fear, fear that he would catch the disease he was trying to cure, and fear that if she fell in love with him that he wouldn't be around for long. When things start happening to discredit his research, his practice, and his treatments, Kate's whole family gets involved--false evidence is planted in Kate's room at her parents' boarding house, Kate's brother becomes one of the guards trying to find out the culprit behind all the events.

One of my favorite parts in the book is when Kate is trying to get Trevor to understand her fear for him, she dares him to take on researching something else instead. Elizabeth has written a moving, elegant book with competition, romance, and a bit of mystery thrown in to boot. The characters are sympathetic and easily relatable. The plot lines completely involve the reader--it is so hard to put this book down.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a double dog dare!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Midwife

Occasionally a book will come along that pulls you in from the very first line and has shaken you by the shoulders before you close the back cover on the last page. Jolina Petersheim has pulled together a story of hope and redemption that tells two stories at the same time. One story is about Beth in the 1990's and the other story is about Rhoda in the current times. Side stories include Amelia, Lyddie, Thom and Meredith, Looper, and Sarah. The trick (not so much a trick, but it is intriguing until the reveal is made) in the two main stories is that Beth and Rhoda are the same person--and there is so much to tell of their stories.

Beth was hired by Thom and Meredith to be a surrogate for their child, a job she was happy to do until the possibility of genetic malformations occurred. Then Meredith especially wanted to terminate the pregnancy for a child she never wanted in the first place. Beth's first instinct is to run to Dry Hollow, Tennessee, to a home for unwed mothers run by Old Order Mennonites. She hides there and becomes the new midwife in the house.

Fast forward eighteen years to when Amelia ends up at the Hopen Haus and all the pieces of the story fall into place and all the parts make a whole. FOR ME, the story seemed disjointed until all the loose ends are tied up, but once everything is revealed, it all makes sense. Jolina has taken the reader on a real roller coaster ride with loops and turns and climbs and dives, and with each element, The Midwife picks up speed and keeps the reader enthralled.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a midwife to deliver your babies.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pursuit--The Chase Is On

I have several favorite authors depending on the genre of book I am reading. Lori Benton is quickly becoming one of my favorites in historical novels. I previously reviewed one of Lori's other novels, Burning Sky, and absolutely LOVED it. These two novels take place in the early years of our nation's history, but those are the only similarities.

Tamsen Littlejohn is of marriageable age and her step-father is trying to marry her off to the highest bidder, and he has no scruples on the choice of man. His choice at the moment is Ambrose Kincaid, the grandson of a plantation owner and a definite step up in the society circles. When Ambrose mistreats one of his slaves in her presence, Tamsen does what she has to do in such a case, she runs away--straight into the arms of Jesse Bird. Before she even gets out of the stable, she is found by her step-father and she has to rethink her plan. Her step-father's drinking and temper bring about a tragic disaster--the death of Tamsen's mother. With nothing but a box that her mother has given her, Tamsen leaves in the middle of the night--again, with Jesse Bird.

Jesse takes seriously the task of keeping Tamsen safe, because he truly believes this is the woman God has for him to be his wife. For Jesse it was love at first sight. To Jesse's credit and to his honor, he gave Tamsen the time to process her grief over her mother's death, to see that he would protect her, and to fall in love with him as well. Because Tamsen's step-father is pursuing her to force her marriage to Ambrose, Jesse and Tamsen have to keep on the move, living in a remote cabin, in a Native American village, in a cave, or wherever they can stay ahead of their pursuers.

This is a well-written, edge-of-your-seat type novel with a lot of action, suspense, humor, and God's grace shown throughout the storyline. Lori Benton's writing reminds me of one of my other favorites--Laura Frantz. Her historical narrative is well researched and well represented. The plot line is completely developed with several cliff hangers before the climax and denouement of the book. There is a twist in the plot I did not see coming and it is thoroughly satisfying when it is revealed. This is one of the best books I've read this year.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and "Tag, you're it!"

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Honor is a young Quaker woman who stands to inherit her grandfather's plantation. When she does, she plans to free the slaves and sell the tobacco farm. Her grandfather learns of her plans and puts a kink in them by disinheriting Honor and giving the plantation to her cousin Darah. Grandfather provides Honor with one slave, Royale, for a maid and one hundred dollars. Honor travels to Pittsburgh to stay with her cousin Miriam, and finds that Miriam is in poor health and dying. The one thing Miriam wants is for Honor to marry her son, Samuel, who is deaf. This begins Honor's lifelong adventure of living in Ohio with a deaf husband, his nephew, and a few assorted paid servants. Honor and Samuel go through the kidnapping of Royale and Samuel's nephew, Eli; the prejudices of the people who live in Ohio, the difficulty of setting up a new home and a new business--a glassworks, and some very unfriendly slave-catchers. Because of Honor's faith, she doesn't believe in keeping slaves and does everything she can to help any runaways that happen to get to the new farm where she and Samuel are living.

Lyn Cote writes books that describe strong women with strong faith. They are independently minded, and yet, want the same love and nurture of their friends. They need the strength of the men in their lives to lean on at times. Her books are compelling and engaging, if not inspiring. Her main characters have strength of faith and strength of convictions. Honor is no different. She can't stand to see someone in pain if she can alleviate it, she takes in a deaf child because she has learned the sign language her husband communicates with, she helps him with his business of glass-blowing, and then she deals with the runaways and the slave catchers. I loved Honor and her strength.

Definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a hand-blown glass bottle.

I was provided this book to read and review in exchange for my honest opinion. No remuneration was given or accepted for my review.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tables in the Wilderness

I was quite fascinated by this book when I asked to read it and review it. And the fascination didn't end when I began reading it. Tables in the Wilderness is a memoir of the college years of Preston Yancey, a memoir of losing touch with God and trying to reclaim that connection. The details of the journey included his years at Baylor University, the friends he made there, the teachers who lit his way, and his own studies.

I have to give Preston his props because he wrestled with God's presence in his life like Jacob wrestled with the angel, and Preston came out on the other side. I went through the same kind of journey myself and came out on the other side with a stronger faith, and a trust in the presence of God in whatever circumstance I find myself. I can look at Preston's journey from the perspective of my own journey and the number of years I've walked it. There are times I am less than compassionate with myself and that may have leached over into my reading of his book. I know that Preston has detailed his journey with naked honesty and that makes this book an elegant read. The one thing I wish is that he had detailed more of the journey after he found that God was there all along. Maybe that will be in his next memoir.

Four Strong Stars.

Zondervan provided this book through NetGalley.com for my honest review. There has been no remuneration for my comments.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Merry Christmas--Let's Get Married

Jilly is all about family, and she can't wait until her daughters Felicia and Lauren, as well as Lauren's family, come home for the holidays. Felicia is bringing her fiancee' Archie and getting married to him on Christmas day. Lauren is bringing Felicia's wedding dress as well as the dresses for the rest of the bridal party. Things are not going according to Jilly's plans for Felicia--NOTHING is going according to Jilly's plans in spite of all she can do. Jilly thinks her next door neighbor Steven is a better match for Felicia and plots accordingly.

Christmas on Chestnut Street reads more like a journal than a novel--a journal of happenings that Jilly is having trouble processing. Nancy Thayer has written a book of very believable characters with everyday failings and foibles. She enhanced the plot with conflicts and adventures and injuries and near misses to round out the whole scenario. She also threw a monkey wrench into Jilly's plotting and planning so that Jilly would have to see that Archie was, in fact, just right for Felicia. A bit of mayhem was injected with the insertion of a rather skittish cat named Rex. All in all, it makes a seriously entertaining and quick read. A strong four stars.

I was provided a galley copy of this book by Random House in exchange for this review. No other remuneration was offered or given.