©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Dream of Home

Madeleine has inherited her grandparents' home and moves into it for a change of scenery and for the quietness it promises. She has lost her fiance' in the worst way possible. Because of her training as a nurse and her military experiences, she has many nightmares about her fiance' and needs the changes her grandparents' home will bring her.

Saul and Emma live behind Madeleine, but Saul wants Emma to stay away from Madeleine. He doesn't want his daughter influenced by Madeleine's English ways. The only problem is that Emma wants to be Madeleine's friend, and Madeleine wants Saul to build her some new cabinets for her kitchen. Their paths can't help but entertwine, in spite of Saul's desire to keep his little family separate.

Amy Clipston has written a novel that will resonate with any romance reader. Madeleine's military experiences, especially seeing her fiance' with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, give rise to the PTSD that so many of our veterans suffer from. The conflicts that Saul and Madeleine go through are common for people who have been through traumatic events. This is what makes Amy's novel so readable and very un-put-down-able. Amy has not concentrated her descriptions on physical traits, but more on the souls of her characters. All Madeleine dreams of is a place to call home, to feel that peace home brings, and that safety of being "at home." Even the less important characters all mesh together with their own faults and foibles and bring a sense of community to the novel.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a home worth dreaming about.

This book was provided for my reading pleasure by Zondervan in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I was not compensated in any way for them.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Love Without End

I've long loved Robin Lee Hatcher's writing and will continue to read her new novels as they come out. While her romances are generally considered light reading, I found Love Without End quite insprirational, with a surprising depth to it. When I was nearing the end of the book, I decided to email Robin and send her a few interview questions. She was most gracious in answering them and I include her answers here. My questions are in italics and Robin's answers are Bold.

I am familiar with your books from working fifteen years in a used book store. I read some of your secular books before and after you edited them for the Christian market. What caused your change from writing for the secular market to the Christian market?

The short answer would be that God caused it. During much of my general market career, I wasn’t walking closely with God. But as He drew me back into right relationship with Him, I found I no longer wanted to tell stories where faith wasn’t a core part of the novel. And so I made the move to the Christian market.

Do you still write for the secular market?

No, my last book for the ABA (secular) market was published in 1999.

How did the idea of including Anna's backstory come to you?

This is an impossible question for me to answer. Much of the writing process is a mystery to me, even after 70+ books. Ideas come to me in dreams, out of character voices, out of nowhere. I believe that much of the writing of a novel happens in the subconscious. My job as a writer is to pay attention as those ideas bubble up into the conscious mind.

I enjoy writing dual story lines, one in the present and one in the past, but I’m not sure where Anna came from. She simply led her horse into my imagination.

Did you grow up around horses and did you have a favorite horse?

After riding all over the neighborhood on my neighbor’s horse as a young kid, I managed to save enough money to buy my first horse when I was 14. Had at least one horse most of the time until I was in my thirties when circumstances forced me to sell them. But I passed the love onto my daughters and oldest granddaughter who all have their own horses today.

My favorite horse was a sorrel mare named Tempest. She was part Arabian and part Quarter Horse.

What is your favorite wild flower?

Hmm. That is a hard question. I don’t always know the names of the wildflowers. I guess I’ll go with Bachelor Buttons.

Anna makes a promise to live her life abundantly. What does abundant life mean to you?

A life lived with God at the very center. Abundance isn’t about the things we acquire. It’s about the relationship we have with the Lord. Other things pale in comparison.

Usually when people interview Christian authors, the one question they most frequently ask is for your favorite Bible verse. Mine is different. If you could choose anyone from the Bible (exlcuding Jesus--who always lives to intercede for us) to be your prayer partner, who would you choose and why?

Peter, because he was passionate about Jesus and passionate about serving Him, but he was so very human and his passion sometimes led him astray. But his heartbreak over betraying his Lord was the starting point to becoming the man Jesus knew he could be. I relate to Peter.

I think it only fair to tell you mine and why--the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites with Joshua leading the charge. Moses was up on top of the hill overlooking the battle and as long as his hands were raised, the Israelites would prevail. If his arms grew tired, the Amalekites prevailed. Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill, rolled up a rock for Moses to sit on, then one stood on each side and held up Moses' arms until the Israelites prevailed. I want prayer partners like Aaron and Hur who will stand beside me until the spiritual battles I am fighting are won.

Thank you in advance.


Love Without End tells a story of second beginnings and and finding love in the most unexpected places. It tells the story of a young, orphaned Anna McKenna, now known as Nana Anna, coming to the ranch of Abe and Violet Leonard, leading her quarter horse, Shiloh's Star. It also relates the stories of Chet Leonard and Kimberly Welch, of Chet's sons Sam and Peter, and of Kimberly's daughter Tara, and it entertains the reader with a gentle love finding a true home in spite of what we think otherwise.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a quarterhorse to take you on any adventure you choose.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for my honest review. No compensation for my comments was given or received.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Huckleberry Christmas

Huckleberries are a wild bush that produce really nice, tasty berries that remind me of wild blueberries (my taste buds aren't all that discriminating). They are not normally cultivated, but grow in the woods and are fairly rare unless you know where to pick them. To have a private stash of huckleberries is to have a gold mine. Huckleberries make incredible syrups, jams, jellies, pies, and muffins.

Beth is a widowed mother living with her great-grandparents. Nothing means more to Beth than her son and her family and she will go to any lengths to protect them from her in-laws. Her late husband was verbally and emotionally abusive and Beth wanted nothing more to do with his family, simply as a way of protecting herself. Beth's great-grandmother, Anna, fancies herself a matchmaker, and while every bachelor in the community has come around to court Beth, Anna has only one man in mind for her--Tyler.

Jennifer Beckstrand has written a really cute novel with matchmakers, desperate men, independent women, and bitter people all mixed together to make an olio of great reading. I have never read one of her novels, but this introduction to her writing would induce me to read more. Jennifer has woven humor, angst, pathos, and love into the tapestry of an entrancing story. What has made this story so believable is that Beth has to work through the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, Amos, and his family, before she can make any room in her heart for love. Tyler has decided that he really isn't marriageable and truly doesn't have any desire for a wife. Anna has different ideas, if only her great-granddaughter and Tyler would listen to her.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book is the way Jennifer showed how Beth worked through her faith-crisis to realize that God had truly been with her throughout her trials. In coming to that realization, Beth knew she had strength to stand on her own two feet, with the strength of God.

Five Stars, two thumbs up, and a huckleberry pie.

This book was provided for me to read and review. I was not compensated in any way for expressing my opinions.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Love Gently Falling

Occasionally you need to read a "palate cleanser," something that is not very deep or thought provoking. Love Gently Falling fit this bill for me in very nicely. Melody Carlson writes sweet romances that are great to read when you just need something to while away a couple of hours. That is not to say that Melody's books are mere fluff. They aren't. She uses her words to paint a picture of a romance growing in a natural way from friendship to love.

Rita is living a charmed life in Beverly Hills with great roommates and a plum job in a hair salon that caters to rich and famous when she gets the call every woman dreads--her mother has had a stroke and it is very serious. With the help of her roommate, Margot, she gets a flight back to Chicago to be with her family. When she arrives in Chicago, she is surprised to see her old classmate, Johnny, at the airport to pick her up.

Rita finds out that her mother's salon needs a total makeover and she knows the person who can do it, Rita. Without meaning to, Rita enlists Johnny's help in returning her mom's salon to its former glory. In fact, Johnny volunteers his help, a couple of his employees, and quite a few of the supplies needed. The only kink in the whole plan is Zinnia, a former employee of Rita's mother, who seems to be a jealous and vindictive person who cannot let go of the past.

The friendship between Rita and Johnny continues to grow until, . . . . .

Melody Carlson writes engaging books with believable characters. She did her research on stroke recovery, and used it well to enhance her plot. She throws in a couple of skuzzy characters just to keep things interesting. The plot never lags, but keeps the reader engaged all the way through.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs, and a hair cut at the very best salon.

The publisher provided this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thief of Glory

I cannot remember if I have ever read anything by Sigmund Brouwer, but I may have to go back and see what else he has written of interest. His writing style is irresistable in that the reader is engaged from the very first word. His character development is completely believable and his settings are such that the reader feels he is right in the midst of the action. In other words, Sigmund Brouwer is a good writer.

I have read a portion of Thief of Glory and I have to put it down. I have a low nightmare threshold and this book crosses it. The realism is just too real. That's the worst I will say about this book. This is about a young boy who falls in love with a girl he sees in the market in the Dutch East Indies. This is about a young boy and a young girl whose childhoods are destroyed by the evils that exist in the world, by seeing how positively inhuman human beings can be. This is about a young boy and a young girl who live through a Japanese concentration camp and then manage to leave it all behind them to make a life in America.

In the foreword to the book, Sigmund Brouwer takes the time to explain that these characters are based on real people, that these experiences are based on real events, that these evils actually happened. It's more than I can bear. It does bring me to think of the evils that Jesus Christ suffered for me. The thoughts are more than I can bear. I am not necessarily a head-in-the-sand ostrich, but this time, I'm choosing not to continue the book. It's just too hard for me, it is just too real.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah for giving me the book for my review, and I am sorry I cannot give it a more complete review than this. I give it Five Stars, but it is not a book to be read by the faint of heart.

Waterbrook Multnomah supplied this book in exchange for my honest review. My thoughts and comments are my own.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Love, Music, and Basketball

I married a sports fan, raised two sporting children, and grew to love some sports. I didn't realize this book would include sports as a big player in the plot when I chose to read it for review. I've read several of Anne Mateer's books and loved every single one of them. I actually chose the book simply because Anne's name was on the cover.
This comic relates my opinion of this book in a nutshell.

Lula has won a prestigious mathematics award and fellowship to pursue her advanced degree, something that her father has desired for her since she was a child. Lula has a reputation of being "Fruity Lu" because she was a flighty flibbertigibbet who never finished anything while she was growing up. Her desire to finish her math degrees was based in overcoming her reputation and creating a new one. When Lula's brother-in-law passes away suddenly, Lula's plans get changed dramatically. She is needed to come and help her widowed sister, Jewel, with her four children and one on the way. The one thing that Jewel needed most was income and only Lula could possibly fill that need, or so her brothers and other sister thought. In seeking income that would help fill the need, the only job available for Lula was as a music teacher and girl's basketball coach.

Chet is the boy's basketball coach and is unusually drawn to Lula. Chet was baffled by his affection for Lula since he's been the one pursued instead of the one pursuing. There were several teachers at the high school who would have liked the attentions of Chet, but he just wasn't interested in them. Chet was also living with his mother and taking care of her, while his brother had enlisted to fight in World War I. His mother believed that Chet was being a coward by not enlisting and refused to see that it took more courage to stay home and care for her.

Since Lula had no knowledge of basketball, she had to depend on the advice of Chet and a booklet of the rules of basketball. Anne's research here has served her well. The game of basketball has evolved quite a bit from the one that she described in the early 1900's. Even when I was in junior high in the 1970's, the game of basketball was quite different from what Anne detailed. The time that Lula spent with Chet in learning how to coach basketball allowed a friendship to grow.

Lula had one other job during this time that she was helping her sister--pianist for the church. Through the trials Lula went through, she relied on one hymn to keep her focused and to keep her faith strong--The Solid Rock. It is one of my favorite hymns too. When Lula was Playing by Heart, she was allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to her heart. It made all the difference in the world.

There are a couple of subplots that add to the depth of the story that I have not detailed here, but Anne has done a masterful job of writing a compelling story taking place during a rather unsettled time in the world's history at large, and our country's history specifically. Her characters are full and the emotions she writes are realistic. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the Solid Rock of hope.

I was given the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review. The opinions are my own and no remuneration or compensation was given for this review.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Lady at Willowgrove Hall

Sarah Ladd writes compelling romances, and The Lady at Willowgrove Hall is one of her best! I groaned in despair in places, tears flowed freely in others, and an odd chuckle escaped once or twice.

Cecily Faire has been taken to the Rosemere Schoole for Girls by her father after trying to elope with Andrew Moreton, heir to Aradalle (and later Willowgrove). While serving as a teacher at Rosemere, she is offered a position of companion to Mrs Tryst, the lady of Willowgrove Hall. Mrs. Tryst is in poor health and not expected to live much longer, but she still requires a companion.

Cecily has one desire over all others--to find her twin sister, Leah, whom she's been separated from since her father took her to Rosemere. With only the loosest of leads to go on, she hopes to find her sister in Manchester.

As Cecily arrives at Willowgrove during a storm, she encounters Nathaniel Stanton, the steward. He takes her to his cottage where he lives with his mother and sisters. After enjoying their hospitality, Cecily makes her way to Willowgrove the next morning to take her position as Mrs. Tryst's companion. One of Mrs. Tryst's great enjoyments is the roses that grow in her garden.

In a lot of romance novels, the would-be suitor is pretty apparent from the very beginning. But because of Andrew's early involvement in the story and Nathaniel's later involvement, it takes a while for the reader to figure out which man is going to win. Andrew's showing up at Willowgrove definitely throws Cecily for a loop, especially since he comes in with a fiancee. She knows his chapter in her life is over, that it was a young infatuation.

Sarah has written a great story where love and trust grow slowly, where secrets from the past hamper the course of true love, and desires of overwhelming greatness control the characters. Her characters are fully developed with personalities that engage the readers and make the readers feel like they've met new friends. Her descriptions of place and conditions are thorough but do not make the story lag. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Rose from the Willowgrove Hall gardens.

This book was provided to me by HarperCollins for the express purpose of sharing my thoughts. No compensation or remuneration was offered or received. The opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Four Weddings and a Kiss

I love reading novella collections because they are generally light reading and just enough in them to keep the reader engaged. Four Weddings and a Kiss was all that, but more. I absolutely LOVED this novella collection and I love these authors.

First is the story of Maizy and Rylan. I really connected with Maizy because she reminds me so much of my own daughter. Maizy is a girl who lives by her own rules, works as hard (or harder) than any man, and lives with a "take no prisoner" attitude. AFter her mother died, her father took on raising her to do all kinds of work--from housework to ranchwork. When Maizy gets herself into a fix, and the situation creates a disaster for Rylan, Maizy has to make amends by helping Rylan--from housework to ranchwork. by Mary Connealy

Molly has no problem with expressing her opinions and does so quite frequently in her newspaper column. When her father hires a man to be the managing editor, Molly makes it her mission to help him leave town as soon as possible, but her plan doesn't seem to have quite the desired effect. by Robin Lee Hatcher

Katie has been traumatized by a tornado that destroyed her house and killed her father. She hires Treb to come and rebuild her home, but she won't go inside any structure for fear of being closed in again. Treb takes the time to help her out, he builds a shelter with heavy tarps so that it is still open but will keep her dry in the event of a storm. Such caring gets under Katie's skin in a way she never expected. by Debra Clopton

Grace is on trial for her life. She is accused of killing her husband after she dragged him out of the saloon to get money from him for her son's birthday present of a new pair of boots. Daniel Brock takes on her case even though he feels so inadequate to help her out. His last criminal case ended poorly and shook his confidence so much he decided to take on business law and real estate law instead of criminal law. Her trial brought more than just a little confusion, but when one of the town drunks declares her not guilty, no one sticks around to really find out the truth. Daniel vows to find the real killer and bring him to justice in an effort to win Grace's heart. by Margaret Brownley

All four of these stories were told by various preachers to a young preacher who thought the love of his life was quite unconventional and would detract from his ministry. These four stories were to show that an unconventional wife might be the woman God had designed just for this young preacher.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and something unconventional for your afternoon.

This collection was provided for my honest review. No compensation was offered or received for my opinions.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Smitten Book Club

A book about a book club reading books--what every book reader wants to read!

Heather, Abby, Elliana, and Molly work through life and book club meetings while musing on the book The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship, a book that legend says contains the secret to a treasure of gold in Molly's house. Each girl uncovers one of the clues while finding the loves of their lives.

Heather had been in love with Paul when he left town and didn't come back for several years. When he drops back into her life and creates a situation in which she has to work with him, she's not entirely thrilled. The more they work together, the more drawn she is to him, but there is the issue of her son, Charlie.

Abby, the town's librarian, is noticed by Wyatt, especially after her friends give her a makeover. He sees what no one else has taken the time to look.

Lia (Elliana) has a dental emergency that puts her in the path of her bestie from her school years, Joey. Joey has come back to town to practice dentistry with his brother, and to raise his daughter, Grace, after her mother was shot in a mall by a random shooter. As things happen in stories like this, Grace ends up in Lia's class and under Lia's tutelage blooms into a precocious young lady. Now, Lia and Joey have to see if their friendship will grow to more.

Molly's husband, Curtis, was a firefighter who died in the line of duty. She is scraping tooth and nail to hold onto his outdoor adventure business. Gage, her direct competition, tries to help her out and salvage the business. Through this process, Molly finds what her true calling is, and it's not to run her own business, but to teach music.

These four authors: Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Kristen Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter have collaborated to bring four novellas that will while away a lazy afternoon with some pretty good entertainment. These are not GREAT stories, but they are good. There is humor, a bit of mystery, and a happy ending for all four of the ladies featured in these novellas.

Four stars.

This book was provided for my honest review. No compensation or remuneration was offered or received.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carolina Gold

The war is over, the North has won, the slaves are free, and now the plantation owners have to do what they can to rebuild what they've lost. Charlotte is in a tougher spot than the rest because her father is gone and she has to do this without benefit of a male relative to help her. She tries to hire some of the former slaves to help her out, but they are reluctant to return to the work they did before they were freed. With all this stacked against against her, she knows she has a long road ahead of her, but she wants to bring back the Carolina Gold rice that her father grew and that the area was famous for.

A chance meeting of Anne-Louise and Marie-Claire brings Charlotte into the attention of their father, Nicholas Bettencourt. He begs her to take on the education of his daughters, even though she's not a trained teacher. He even pays her to teach his daughters. When he has to go to Louisiana for a bit to find the paperwork connected to his plantation, Wildwood, Charlotte ends up with the care of Anne-Louise and Marie-Claire. She even ends up taking them with her to her summer home on Pawley's Island, where the weather is not so hot. When weeks go by without hearing from Nicholas, Charlotte goes to Louisiana to find him.

I have enjoyed other Dorothy Love books and chose to read it based on what I've read before. If I'd read the synopsis before choosing the book to read, I think I wouldn't have chosen it. I am not as fond of Civil War era novels as I am later nineteenth century books. The Civil War is such a hard part of our nation's history and even today there are hard feelings to be found over it. I found that the story dragged in parts and had I purchased this book for reading, I would have walked away from it. I don't find this to be up to Dorothy's normal quality. It could be the subject matter, since this isn't my favorite era, as described above, but I felt that the plot was forced and the denouement was a bit too rushed. That's it for the harsh criticism. Dorothy did a great job of developing her characters and bringing them to life.

Four stars.

The book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson for my honest review. No remuneration was offered or received in exchange for my opinions.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Waiting for Morning

Molly--a sweet saloon girl who cares for her paraplegic younger brother
Donny--Molly's brother
Caleb--the doctor in Cactus Patch, Arizona.
Eleanor--owner of Last Chance Ranch, seeking an heiress
Aunt Bessie--the Matchmaker of Cactus Patch
LulaBelle--Aunt Bessie's sister, a bit quieter
Jimmy--a young school boy with a mysterious illness that keeps Caleb on edge
Bertha--Caleb's horseless carriage--she has a habit of backfiring at the most importune moments
Magic--the dog that adopted Caleb, companion for Orbit
Orbit--the blind colt that Donny has a special affinity for

In order to be Eleanor's heiress, the candidate must give up any thoughts of marriage. Molly applies for the position because she's lost her home and most of all her possessions. As she's heading toward Last Chance Ranch, she hears Bertha backfiring, but doesn't realize it is a horseless carriage. She draws out her rifle and fires back. The combination of gunfire and the backfiring carriage create a cattle stampede, and so Molly is introduced to Caleb.

I've read several of Margaret Brownley's books and I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. She writes with humor that is comically funny without being silly. One of the lines that had me laughing out loud is when Aunt Bessie is planning her nephew's wedding and the pianist dies after she got the saloons to close for the day. She wanted to be sure that the pianist and the singer would be sober for the wedding. LulaBelle reports that piano player died and Aunt Bessie replies that it can't be true, he was alive the day before. LulaBelle retorts that it doesn't take long for someone to die, it can be accomplished in an hour.

Margaret has done a great job creating a conflict that keeps Molly and Caleb apart, until Caleb can overcome all of Molly's objections. Waiting for Morning is a delightful book that engages, and entertains. Five Stars, Two Thumbs up, and dog to keep a blind horse company.

Thomas Nelson provided this book for me to read and and give my honest review. No compensation was offered or received.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Bride in Store

This book actually makes a difference. There are spiritual lessons to be learned in reading the book, but Melissa Jagears wanted something else to come to mind as well. She included in her story the birth of a child with a rare disease that would be fatal at the time the book takes place. Even though this is not an important part of the story, it still plays a part to the movement of the story line. In reading the afterword of the book, I found this link and a couple of others to highlight a disease most people have never heard of, but causes untold suffering.

Eliza has gone to Salt Flat, Kansas, as a mail order bride, but she's a week early. On the way, the last leg of the journey, she and the other passengers are robbed by a group of masked gunmen. In an effort to try to conceal her money, she sat on it, but the gunman taking things from people close to her found it, and to make an example of her by pistol whipping her and cutting her face. When the train gets to Salt Flat, Will Stanton is the one who stitches her face. Will is the one who co-owns the store that Eliza was hoping to come and help run with her soon to be husband, Axel. Will can't help but fall in love with Eliza and Eliza can't help but fall in love with Will, but to Eliza, she must follow through with her wedding to Axel because a promise is a promise. But the wedding is where Eliza's life falls apart, and the rest of the story goes on.

Melissa has used humor, pathos, angst, and feelings appropriately in this book, and she's told a thoroughly entertaining story. Will is a character who knows he's been called to be a doctor, his bedside manner is incredible in that he not only brings healing for the body, he brings healing for the soul. The only problem is that he has not been to medical school, nor does he have a license. The one thing standing in the way of him getting into medical school is money. Eliza has always wanted to open a store based on the Woolworth model of the five and dime, but no one ever had the belief in her ability to run a store.

Eliza had the ability to see people as more than their exterior looks, she can see them as individuals with wants and needs, but most of all, deserving compassion. What she had to learn was that sometimes (almost always) it's better to put others' needs first and put her selfish side away.

One of the most important things I got out of this book is how our self-talk impacts what we do in life, and how it can impact how we interact with others.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a dime's worth of candy from the five and dime store.

Bethany House provided the galley for me to read and provide an honest review. No remuneration was offered or received for my thoughts.