©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Year of Amish Tales

Rosemary loves Saul, but she thinks he can't give her the one thing she wants, so she broke up with him after dating him for only three months.

Irma Rose thinks Jake is the man for her, but Jonas goes out of his way to prove that he's her man.

Eli is searching for a new mate since his wife died two years ago. Miriam thinks she's unworthy of marriage.

Katherine is experiencing her first Christmas without her beloved Elias. Someone has been following her and she's not sure who it is.

Beth Wiseman has written a delightful series of novellas that will hold her readers captive. My favorite is the last one with Katherine and her family. The man who has been following her is her father-in-law who left his family when her husband was quite young. He's been in witness protection, protective custody, and been on the FBI force. He had good reason to leave his family, but he couldn't tell them about it at the time. Mary Carol, Katherine's older daughter, meets her daadi (also known as grandfather) and develops a great friendship with him, but his moments of confusion also confuse her. When all is revealed, there are many reasons for Daadi's behavior and for his presence in the community.

These stories will take the reader through the four seasons of a year and delight the reader in each and every one of them. Each of these tales is worth five stars, two thumbs up, and a year of adventures.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

The Midwife's Choice

In the last episode, Martha's daughter has run away from home to join a theater group. Martha has gone after her daughter to try to find her to no avail. The tavern where Martha lives has burned down, and the Confectionary owners have offered a place for Martha to live.

As we pick up this next episode, Martha is called to deliver a pre-term baby because the mother "fell." When the baby is still-born, Martha sees that the cord was wrapped around that baby's neck twice and the baby would have died regardless of when he was born. Unfortunately, the father of this baby takes his anger about losing his son on his wife and beats the pulp out of her. Martha cannot abide a man who uses his fists to express his frustrations and takes the girl in. In the meantime, her daughter returns with ideas to go back to New York and work for the woman who took her in.

Martha has many choices to make during this novel and the naming of the book is so apropos. Thomas wants to marry Martha, Martha's patient has to choose whether to forgive her husband for his abusive ways, and Victoria (Martha's daughter) has to choose whether to stay and help her mother or go back to New York and work. Fern, one of the Confectioner sisters, has choices of her own to make.

Delia Parr has written another five star book, with two thumbs up, and a choice of a lifetime. The plot never lags, the characters have depth, and the whole book is hard to put down, ever.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Antagonizing Antagonists

Jerry Eicher writes Amish fiction with a deft hand. His characters are believable and most of them are lovable. His portrayal of the Amish Ordnung and its spirit is almost with an insider's knowledge. His newest offering shows his remarkable ability to describe the winsomeness of the Amish culture, as well as the misuses of the Amish life-rules.

So the protagonist is Miriam, a sweet girl who teaches the Amish scholars in Clarita, OK. Her mother writes that a surprise is coming her way and she is surprised when it shows up in the form of Mose Stoll, a minister from Wayne County, Ohio.

One of the antagonists is Mose Stoll, a rather rigid minister who lives by the letter of the rules and ignores the spirit of them. He feels that his life should be above all the other Amish in righteousness.

The other antagonist is Tyler, a journalist who is sent to do a human-interest piece on how the Amish recovered from the tornado that swept through their community a couple of years before. While he is there, he uncovers a bit of fraud in the handling of the relief fund that seeps back to the Senator from the state. Uncovering the the fraud endangers the community and creates problems for Miriam and her family as well as for the Deacon.

When Mose meets Miriam, it is with matrimony in mind. He is a minister and needs a frau for his home, especially since his district is choosing a new Bishop. Mose almost thinks he will be chosen Bishop and wants to make a good impression on his district more than one on his future wife. He begins by assuming Miriam will marry him, he sets the date, the length of her skirts, the color of her stockings, and her allowable activities. I am sure that in any culture, there will be those who abuse the power they have and try to rule with an iron fist, but Mose was NOT a likable character.

Tyler is almost in the picture at the same time Mose is. He sees in Miriam a sweet freshness he has never before encountered in his jaded, worldly life. The problem is that Miriam sees in Tyler the newness that her life needs, except that he is English and she will not leave the community to join up with Tyler. When a misunderstanding between Tyler and one of his journalist friends escalates out of control, Miriam is caught in the middle of a scandal she wanted no part of. It brings her untold grief and depresses her beyond belief.

The Amish are above all an hospitable group, always something to eat or drink in an Amish home, always something to offer the visitor--whether pie, cookies, or cake--and it's always good.

This is a five star, two thumbs up book with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie to go with it.

My thanks to Harvest House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book. Once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Knight's Bride

I don't know what happened. Normally I would like the genre of novellas, but somewhere along the line, there was a disconnect between the stories and me. Tracie Peterson wrote two of the stories that resembled a novel I read years ago, but the other author treated the plot line better. While the description of the novellas says that the stories take place during the middle ages, one does not take place then. It was in the 1800's and it was by far, the best book of the olio.

A Stranger's Kiss is the one that I liked best. Jenny has been promised to a man her cousin has her eye on and she'd rather marry almost anyone else than him. At their "engagement" party, Jenny's intended ends up dead from poisoning, and Jenny is accused of his murder. When a stranger/benefactor posts bail for her, hires an attorney, and moves her to his estate, Jenny does not know what to think. There are mysteries surrounding Jenny, her parentage, and her very being. She has been mistreated since her father passed away, lied to, and otherwise kept beholden to her relatives for taking her in. As she is questioned by the attorney, he gets more and more ideas of whom the real culprit is and using Perry Mason type techniques, he exposes the real criminal during Jenny's trial.

While this one story is a five star tale, the rest of the book doesn't fair as well. Three stars.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Brides (and Husbands) by Mail

The five ladies who contributed to the Mail-Order Marriage collection are top of the line authors in the Christian Romance and Christian Historical Romance genre of books. Every single novella is high quality, with complex characters, beautiful settings, and intriguing plot lines. I loved reading this book, because each successive story seemed even better than the one before it.

My favorite is the last one: Forever Yours by Tracie Peterson. Daughtry Lucas is the daughter of a very over-protective rancher who won't let a man look at her. She is getting tired of his routine and wants a life like that of her parents. When her family goes to the county fair, she meets an interesting man and escorts him around the town and the fair until her father meets them. Then it is all over but the shouting. Before the family goes home, Daughtry sees an ad for a mail order bride that ends up being a mail order bride by proxy. She writes to the man and is chosen to be his bride. After a dust-up with her father, she leaves in the middle of the night, takes the train out of town, finds a minister to perform the proxy marriage, and makes her way to the ranch of her new husband.

This is a five star, two thumbs up book, with a letter from your mail order mate.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Amazing Truths

Last year I tried to read a book of apologetics from a scientific point of view, but the science was so far over my head, I couldn't finish the book. I am here to tell you that this book will not be so difficult to understand. One of the chapters discusses the earth's place in the universe saying that if we were one one-trillionth of an inch in a different position either way, the gravity would either pull us in or throw us out in a way that the earth could no longer sustain life.

One of the most fascinating things I read in this book is about the speed of light. For a particle to travel at 99.9999% of the speed of light, the particle's journey would take a day and a half to go the same distance. That is so basic and yet so mind boggling. Michael Guillen takes the science and puts it in laymen's terms simple enough for this science-phobe to understand. His purpose seems to be to show the Average Joe what a detailed God we have.

Five Stars.

My thanks to Zondervan for allowing me to read and review this book.

Hot Bread!!!

Today's review is for a book you could really sink your teeth into. The Hot Bread Kitchen covers not only breads from around the world, but accoutrements to go with the bread. The recipes are fairly easy, completely explained, and sound sooooooooooooooooooo good, I cannot wait to try some of them. The only problem is that at my house we have a fairly set list of foods for the holidays, so my experiments will have to wait.

Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez
and Julia Turshen have collected these recipes and made them simple enough for the most basic baker. Since my childhood diet included homemade bread and homemade cornbread, I love experimenting with making tasty breads, but having access to recipes to complement the bread is such a bonus!

I love the way the book is put together, with similar types of breads grouped together and the complementary recipes in the grouping as well. One of the recipes I want to try SOON is carnitas. As a family, we are always on the prowl for super-delicious Mexican food recipes. This one looks to be a crowd pleaser in my house.

This is a five star, two thumbs up book, with a piece of freshly baked bread slathered with butter.

My thanks to Random House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey

These nine novellas all take place during World War II. Four of them are a series in and of themselves where four of the romances also help get Jewish children out of Nazi controlled Europe. All four of these novels covered members of one family who worked in various stages of helping the children get out, but in the meantime, romance blooms in the harshest of environments.

Other novels have women taking care of siblings because they are orphaned, another smuggles a Gutenburg Bible to the US to keep it out of Nazi hands, one is a nurse in a remote station, another works at home taking pictures for magazines, and yet one more serves in the RAAF.

I think it is harder to write a shorter novel and make it a cohesive story with fully developed characters and plot lines. These nine ladies do this with aplomb and class. There are humor to be enjoyed, grief to be shared, letters to be written, and weddings to be planned.

This book will fill several afternoons with some sentimental reading--five stars, two thumbs up, and a sentimental journey home.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

In the Good Ol' Summertime

I have finished all four collections of the 12 Brides of Summer series. I think this fourth collection is one of the best.

In the County Fair Bride, Prudence has come home to take care of her father, but finds that he has been replaced by someone else. She is incensed because she feels he was pushed out of his job. When she finally takes the time to talk to her dad, she finds he's happier not being mayor of the town. She joins forces with the new mayor to plan and produce a county fair and to fall in love.

In the Honey Bride, Kate is deathly afraid of the bees her father ordered for the hives he got. He thought that she'd be able to make a bit of money selling the honey and beeswax that the bees produced. When her neighbor's cowhand comes to help, she is not sure if she can trust him or not, especially when a drunken man shows up on her front porch claiming that her father promised him a job.

In the Columbine Bride, Lucy is widowed with two children and fighting to hold body and soul together. Buck finds himself intrigued by the young widow and starts showing up to help out--even with her cattle round up. She hates being beholdin', but what else can she do?

Vickie McDonough, Diana Brandmeyer, and Davalynn Spencer have combined forces to produce a book of fun entertainment for a free afternoon. These authors know how to develop a character, set them in a plot, and keep the plot moving along to engage the reader till the very end.

This is a five star, two thumbs up book, with a blue ribbon at the county fair.

My thanks to Shiloh Run Studios for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Such an Agreeable Book

Five "novellas" in one cover telling stories about arranged marriages or marriages of convenience. Thing is, I don't think these were novellas, I think they were full length novels. I finished this last night, and I must say that it was a long haul to read this whole thing. One of the stories I'd read before--A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana.

The novellas were all pretty good stories, but I think my favorite was Love's Shining Hope by JoAnn A Grote. Pearl has decided to help her friend Jase with his responsibilities since his parents were killed in an accident. He has two younger brothers and two younger sisters to care for, a farm, the house; and he's in over his head. Pearl comes to teach the older girl about keeping a home and cooking while Jase and the boys take care of the outdoor chores. When Pearl's parents come home from a trip, they tell her she is endangering her reputation by being at Jase's house unchaperoned. After two weeks with no Pearl, Jase asks her to marry him, in name only. She agrees and he gives her forty-eight hours to get ready for the wedding. Pearl has loved Jase since they were children, but it takes a while for Jase to realize that he does love Pearl and wants her for his wife in all ways.

The olio has a wide variety of stories to please the reader: all of the authors are quite competent in their craft and they have done well with the stories in this anthology, the characters have depth, the settings are well-suited for the plots, and the plots move at a steady pace that keeps the reader involved.

This is a five star, two thumbs up book, and a cooking lesson for an adolescent girl.

Elaine Bonner--Thanks to a Lonely Heart
Ramona Cecil--A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana
Nancy J Farrier--Sonoran Secret
JoAnn A Grote--Love's Shining Hope
DiAnn Mills--Kiowa Husband

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Called to Pray

Linda Evans Shepherd knows prayer. She also knows the voice of the Holy Spirit, so that when He says, "Pray for . . . " she prays. This book is grouped into stories of people who have listened and prayed--grouped by topic, or calling, or whatever. But the stories are stories of miracles where God calls people to pray because of circumstances surrounding someone else. The most poignant of these stories (to me) is the phone call at 3:00 am, when Linda had been praying for and telling her friend about God's love for him. He was at a down point in his life and wondered if God cared for him at all. He prayed that if God was there, she'd answer her phone at 3:00 am. The series of events that brought this to fruition make this story one for the ages. There are hundreds of these stories in Linda's book and hundreds of people touched by someone else's prayers.

The point of the book is prayer works, and these are living, breathing testimonies to its power. The style of writing is easy to read, the stories are short and can be read in short bursts, like waiting rooms, or while you are filling your car with gasoline.

Five stars.

My thanks to Revell Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Heirloom Brides

Four great authors teamed up to put together a great olio of stories with the theme of Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. Tracey Bateman, Mona Hodgson, Joanne Bischoff, and Kim Vogel Sawyer are the A-team of writing historical romance with aplomb with a bit of humor injected to keep things moving along.

Something Old: Betsy's grandfather lost his watch in an auction of all his property because he couldn't pay the bank note on the farm. When Betsy finds out who has it, she demands its return because it is an Heirloom. Trouble is, the watch is an heirloom, just not one from her family. She has to get the truth out of her grandfather before she can accept that the new owner is the one who should have it anyway. She also has to realize that the one who has the watch also has her heart.

Something New: Tate comes back to see Wren after leaving for four years. When he left, he broke Wren's heart and now that he's back, his plan is to build a house for Wren and when it is finished, to ask her to marry him. Before that, though, he gives Wren a journal of her grandmother's along with some seeds that her grandmother sent her, then he asks her to wait before she plants the seeds.

Something Borrowed: Clara and her father have moved from Minneapolis to Wilhelmina, Minnesota, for her father to try farming after he retired from banking. She had broken up with two beaux and got quite a reputation that made her rather skittish around people. When her father got his leg broken from felling a tree, she had to borrow the labor of her neighbor, Titus, so that the field could be cleared for planting.

Something Blue: Darla has come back to Cripple Creek to begin a nursing job at the hospital. She is assigned as a home duty nurse to check on patients who have been released from the hospital but still need some care. She re-encounters Nicolas Zanzucchi after he'd been burned in a mine accident, and while she gets to know him and his daughters, Zach Pfeiffer wants to reignite what he thought was a strong romance between the two of them. Darla comes to realize that Zach is not the one to give her heart to, but now she has to plow through Nicolas' reservations.

Each of these stories has such an endearing quality to it and the writing is easy to read and follow. Something Old may be the least liked because Betsy is such a tartar, but concern for her grandfather is enough to excuse her poor behavior.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an heirloom for your wedding.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Highland Hall Excitement

World War I is in full swing, and various relatives of Highland Hall are being affected by the war. Kate is pregnant, and her husband is treating returning wounded. In the meantime, Kate, Jon, and Kate's sister Penny are the guardians for eight London orphans ranging in age from three to fourteen. After German Zeppelins come and bomb London, Jon decides that Kate, Penny, and the children are to go to Highland Hall. William and his wife, Julia, open the doors of their home and take in the whole group. Jon closes up the house in London and takes a flat near the hospital. He visits as he can, but not very often.

Before the bombing, a friend of Jon's from India, Alex, comes to visit and because he'd been injured in training, needs a place to stay until he goes back to his training. Alex and Penny make a connection and decide to keep in touch. Through their letters, even after Alex has been transferred to France, they begin to deepen their friendship.

Alex is assigned several risky and dangerous missions and through one of the missions is seriously injured. After finding out the extent of his injuries, Alex seems to give up, he gives up his hope, he gives up his desire, and he gives up on God. It is only through the prayers of his friends, the work of his friends, and the perseverance of Penny that Alex comes out of his self-imposed exile.

During the war, men in England of German descent were put into internment camps to work on farms and through the countryside. One of the maids who came to Highland Hall befriends one of the German prisoners. Another of the prisoners is intent on escaping the camp and provides a bit of mystery for the book, but the maid's friend stays in the camp.

Carrie Turansky has taken several subplots and put them together in a cohesive whole. Her characters have a depth that engages the reader. She creates tension with several of the characters and then allows them to work out their tensions--sometimes maturely, but often with childishness. She shows the full gamut of human emotions in the fictional residents of her novel.

This book is very hard to put down, I started it last night and picked it up today after church, and I didn't put it down until after I finished it. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a letter from a dear friend.

My thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The 12 Brides of Summer #3

It's almost Christmas, but I am reading about summer brides. Kind of ironic, but, I like the thought of warmer days.

Margaret Brownley, Miralee Ferrell, and Pam Hillman have teamed together to bring this third collection to those of us who need a warm thought on a cold winter day.

Margaret Brownley's Dog Days of Summer centers around Marilee and Jed and the ownership of one dog who claims them both.

Miralee Ferrell's The Dogwood Blossom reminded me of the old movie, "Support Your Local Sheriff." Grace Addison is seen early in this novella up a tree.

Pam Hillman's The Lumberjack's Bride takes us to a lumber camp in Mississippi.

Each story has a winsomeness that draws the reader in and doesn't let go. They are easy reads for that rainy afternoon where the reader wants to cuddle up with a book, a cup of tea, and a blanket, and dream of warmer days.

I've read writings by these authors before and they never disappoint me. Characters are personable, situations are believable, and settings are indescribable.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a dog to claim you as its human.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Prayers and the Heart of God

I've never encountered Shane Stanford before I read What the Prayers of Jesus Tell Us About the Heart of God. I was intrigued by the book simply from its title. Since 2003, I have been learning prayer in a more intensive way than I thought about it before. So, when this came up in my reading list, I was thrilled.

I learned or relearned several things:

God wants an intimate relationship with us
God wants to instruct us
God wants us to be intentional about our relationship with Him
God wants us

Shane uses several prayers to show us how Jesus sees us, sees His temple, sees His relationship with the Father, and how He wants us to be in relationship with Him.

There were so many significant points brought out in this book, it is hard to mention them all, but each point will help each pray-er grow in his/her prayer life and in his/her relationship with God.

I read this book while I was walking on my treadmill (three seasons of the year, I walk outside, but right now, I am too chicken to walk outside because of the cold weather, so I use my treadmill) and I came upon one prayer by John Wesley that Shane included in the book. My husband came out to the garage to ask me a question and I showed him the prayer and told him the next time he gave the "Call to Worship" in church, I wanted him to use this prayer. It is that profound. I am quoting it here because I want to be able to see it often.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and bless├Ęd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Prayer by John Wesley

This is a Five Star book.

My thanks to Abingdon Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Christmas Cradle

Miriam has grown-up triplet daughters from her first marriage--Rhoda, Rebecca, and Rachel, but now she's pregnant with her new husband's child and she's running a restaurant. When her husband, Ben, hears a buggy outside, he goes outside to see who it is and if he can help. He finds a young couple--Josiah and Lena--in a heated discussion about being lost, and very tired from a long journey. Lena is also pregnant and she and Josiah are not married. Josiah's family has passed away except for his sister Savilla, and Lena's family has disowned her.

Charlotte Hubbard
has finished out the Seasons of the Heart series of Amish novels. Several issues that have been in previous books in the series are brought to completion in one way or another. In writing this series, Charlotte has described what happens when our egos get the best of us, when we open our hearts and act as Christ would, and when we truly place our faith in the only God who can aid us. She did kill off one of the characters in solving one of the issues she set up, but she did so in a way that makes a cautionary tale, and then she shows the grace of God through the reactions of the other characters.

One of the things Miriam is known for is her baking--especially her cookies. She teaches Lena to make and decorate the cookies to sell as a way to raise money for a place to live. Josiah wants to work in Miriam's restaurant cooking for a dinner shift, but he has a lot of growing up to do to take responsibility for Lena and her baby.

This is not a synopsis of the book, my thoughts are too disjointed right now, but it is a series of thoughts that struck me while I was reading the book. One thing I have appreciated about Charlotte's writing is that she explains a lot of Amish beliefs to an English person like me.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a decorated cookie from the bakery.

My thanks to Zebra Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

There Is a Balm in Gilead

I have read the books in this series a long time ago, so it took me a few pages to catch up to Sarah and her friends in Pennsylvania. Adina Senft has brought Sarah and Henry full circle in Balm of Gilead. Joe and Simon come home from Colorado and begin making their lives in the community. Joe has Priscilla waiting for him, but Simon is a bit at loose ends. Caleb has started working for a contractor and still wants to work for Henry in his spare time. Sarah is still taking lessons from Ruth on being a doktorfrau with herbal remedies. Henry and Ginny are engaged to be married. Everything seems to be going so well, but flies are infesting the ointment.

Adina ties up most of the loose ends in this final book in the Healing Grace series, and she does it with such a deft hand that makes the book hard to put down. I think every reader of Amish fiction wants Sarah as a friend, she a straight-shooter who doesn't hold back with her opinions, she tells the truth even when it hurts, but she's always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need especially with her herbal remedies.

I loved this book, staying up way too late to read it, simply because I got so involved in the story. It's definitely a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a salve for your soul type book.

My thanks to FaithWords for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

To Dream the American Dream

Nine authors submitted their novellas for this collection and put together quite a fun read. There are a couple of series included in this collection, and books I have read before, but I still enjoyed the stories. Beginning in the seventeenth century with a girl kidnapped and impressed into indentured servitude and running to the Civil War and the Westward Expansion with a midwife who wants to move west after a misunderstanding with a patient's brother, this collection shows how these women found love in most unexpected ways.

The characters have such beautiful personalities that are well developed in spite of the shortness of the novellas. The settings only add to the winsomeness of the stories, and the plots are well-paced. This is a perfect book to read when you just want to fill a few stolen minutes and still read a full story.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a dream to call your own.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Hitler's Cross

I heard Erwin Lutzer's sermons on this book a long time ago and what he said about this topic is as relevant now as it is today. In taking the first amendment of the Constitution of the US and interpreting it as the freedom FROM religion, we have allowed our religious freedoms to be gutted. When Hitler came into power in Germany, he gutted the religious freedoms in the same way. As long as people followed in lock-step with his ideals, they were left alone; but if they pushed back in any capacity, they were singled out for his particular brand of torture and punishment.

Our government has made it so that any religion EXCEPT Christianity is acceptable, and is actually preferable. With the ACLU hunting for any sign of Christianity in public places and the interpretations of the laws being skewed against the Christians, we are entering an age very similar to the one that brought Hitler into power. Our political parties are all about what will gain the most for themselves instead of what is best for the people.

Lutzer makes the point that we, as Christians, have to stand up, put God first--above all other considerations, and take back the rights that are being dealt away like so many cards in a deck. As I read this today, I prayed that I would be found worthy to God, that I would be able to stand up despite any repercussions in my own life.

This is a FIVE STAR book that needs to be read by every student of history, by every Christian who truly wants to live for God, and by anyone who values the freedom to worship.

My thanks to Moody Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Every Girl Gets Confused

I think the title is a misnomer for this book, because instead of being confused, Katie finds herself figuring things out and getting her mind straight. Of course, Aunt Alva spends more time confused than she does with it, but that's a tale for a different time. Some of the funniest parts of the book include Aunt Alva not understanding what's going on.

Even though this book is the middle book of a series, there isn't too much of the story depending on the first book of the series. I am sure I would have understood the plot a bit better after reading the first one, but I wasn't too lost on details of the plot by jumping into the middle of the story.

Katie has taken a job at the Cosmopolitan Bridal Store and is working with the hunky Brady James. He is managing the store in his mother's absence and Katie is the financial officer of the store. When a disgruntled bride bad-mouths the store to the press, Katie jumps on the offensive by hosting a Black Friday Extravaganza--having other vendors in the wedding industry show their wares, giving away some of last year's dresses (as well as veils, shoes, and other paraphernalia), and having a huge sale. It saves the reputation of the store and brings in a great deal of goodwill.

This is one funny novel with Katie's grandma getting married, her aunt Alva finding true love for the first time, Katie getting settled in her new romance with Brady, and Katie's parents taking off on cruises and then buying an RV to tour the states. Janice Thompson has infused humor rather seamlessly into the story and made it a delight to read. The only thing that might have confused Katie is that her ex-boyfriend shows up at her grandmother's wedding and makes noises about getting back together, but Katie has put him behind her. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and NO confusion for you.

My thanks to Revell publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Be My Valentino

Sandra Bricker was born with an incredible funny bone. Her sense of humor so closely resembles mine, we could be sisters. If you read my blog post about the first book in this series, you will know how enjoyable Sandra's books are.

The second book in the Jessie Stanton series is just as enjoyable as the first. Jessie is still working to remake her life after she finds that the husband she thought she had wasn't really divorced from his first wife. The only thing she had left of her life with her husband was the ostentatious ring he had given her. She sold the ring and used the proceeds to get a small apartment, open a store for rental designer duds.

Sandra throws a monkey wrench into the works when Jack, the faux husband comes back and wants Jessie to protect him from prosecution. He disrupts her life in ways that Jessie never imagined could happen. Danny, the private investigator Jessie has fallen in love with, steps in to help her with the restraining orders, the stalking, and the FBI closing her store to make sure she isn't funneling money to Jack.

Sandra takes Jessie through more of her spiritual and emotional journeys and brings her closer to finding the Lord, closer to Danny, and shores up her pinnings with wonderful friends. She just leaves the book at a rather delicate cliff, balanced on a pebble.

Another Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a Coco Chanel for your next party book.

My thanks to Abingdon Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Promise to Keep

Joe is on his way home from his stint the South Pacific theater of war in WWII. He plans to see his sister, his wife's best friend, and his daughter. He is not sure how he is going to be able to care for his daughter, who, according to Esther (his wife's best friend), is deaf. She has been teaching Daisy sign language so that she has a way to communicate with others.

Esther knows that when Joe comes home, she is going to have to relinquish Daisy to her father, even though she's grown quite attached to the little girl. To make matters worse, Esther's father (she was told he died when she was just a child) returns and stirs up many old memories and she just can't quite forgive him.

Daisy herself goes through a trauma or two, but her indomitable spirit wins out overall. There is a time when it was thought that Daisy was just simple minded and should have been institutionalized, but Esther reached beyond initial prejudices and figured out that Daisy was truly deaf. Because of her work with Daisy, she also spends a lot of time with Joe and falling in love with Joe--the only problem is that Joe is not Amish, and Esther knows the heartache left behind when someone leaves the church to live in the English world--particularly Joe's late wife, Leah.

I found this book to be a hard-to-put-down read. I relished the love Esther had for Daisy and the work she put into teaching Daisy to communicate. She was a terrific mother-figure for Daisy and a wonderful friend for Joe.

Elizabeth Byler Younts has created a thought-provoking story with some ideas that are worth pondering, especially in regard to rules artificially enforced on us.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a .

My thanks to Howard Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Promises Kept

I read a fair amount of "mail-order-bride" type romances, and generally they are a lot of fun. But at some point, they become trite. Promises Kept did hit that point. While it is not a "mail-order-bride" story specifically, it does use that device in setting up the story.

Scarlett Dunn has used several of the romance writers' tricks in putting this story together. There is a resident bad guy, an older guy who looks after the underdog, the rugged cowboy who doesn't want to get married, the kindly boarding house owner, and a dead man who had sent for the bride. Victoria, the bride is the one who ran the ad looking for a husband.

If the reader wants a light story without a lot of thinking to do while reading, this book fits the bill. Three stars.

My thanks to Kensington Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping Christmas

There has only been one book by Dan Walsh I have read that I have not absolutely adored, but that is not the case with Keeping Christmas. Judith and Stan are facing the possibility of celebrating Christmas without any of their children for the first time. Judith has hit such a fit of doldrums, Stan doesn't know what to do. Even their friends Barney and Betty are at a loss to bring Judith out of her depression. (Side Note: Dan--honestly, Barney and Betty? I am sure I am not the first reader whose mind jumped to the Flintstones in reading that.)

This is honestly the MOST romantic book I've read, the plot is not all ooey-gooey, yummy feelings and chemistry, but it shows the deep abiding love of a couple who have weathered life's storms and are facing another storm to weather through. When Stan sacrifices a dream to give Judith a Christmas she will never forget, it is one of the most heroic things I've read in a novel. Barney even comes through with solid friendship in spite of changing his dream as well.

In some ways, Judith's reaction is a bit over the top, but I understand her point of view. Her life had centered around raising her children and now that the grandchildren had come along, she wanted family around her. It was the noise of happy people around her, people who mattered to her, that gave her the spirit of Christmas. Judith makes small gains throughout the book--teaching other mothers and daughters to make Christmas ornaments, starting a new collection, and spending time with dear friends all help to life Judith's spirits to a degree, but ultimately, Stan has the only solution to the doldrums Judith finds herself in.

This book is one you don't want to start unless you have the time to read it in one sitting. It won't let you put it down. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a homemade ornament with a memory attached.

My thanks to Revell Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Promises to Keep

I've read a couple of Ann Tatlock's books and found them to be deeply thought provoking. It is the same with reading Promises to Keep. We have characters who are truly characters!

There is Tillie--the woman who built the house Roz is living in
Roz--an eleven year old girl whose parents have split up
Wally--Roz's older brother, who runs away to join the Army during the Viet Nam war
Mara--Roz's best friend--a biracial girl when racism is still alive and well
Johnny--Tillie's son who thinks she belongs in a nursing home instead of being in her own home
Lyle--Tillie's son who has been on the mission field in Bolivia but he's coming home
Alan--Roz's drunken father
Janis--Roz's mother

Promises to Keep reads like a memoir, told in Roz's voice and with the wisdom only an eleven-year-old can exhibit. It details a year in her family's life, from Tillie showing up on their doorstep, to her father showing up in town; from meeting Mara at an air raid drill, to seeing their prayers answered in a most unusual way.

Roz is the only one Alan allows to know he is in town, and he does so by leaving Sugar Daddy candy in her desk at first. Then he meets with her at a diner, telling her he wants the family back together. Mara is not very trusting of him, even though she never meets him. She seems to have a sense about Roz's father that Roz can't see because she is too close to the issue. When everything falls apart, Mara is there for Roz.

I give this Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a friend like Mara.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Sapphire Season

Lynn Morris is the daughter of Gilbert Morris, the prolific Christian author, and writes a quite informative book.

Mirabella is a flibbertigibbert who has decided this is the season she will get married. Her best friend Giles has always been around to help her get out of her escapades and stand up with her in whatever capacity she needs. In making plans for the London Season, Mirabella convinces her friend, Josephine to go with her, and Giles brings Josephine's brother, Lewin, to experience the life of aristocracy. The goal is to see and be seen, to meet with the approval of the patronesses of Almacks, and to find a mate of marriageable material.

The strengths of the book include a detailed analysis of the manners of the aristocracy, the rankings of the aristocratic titles, and the trials of the aristocracy. The weaknesses of the book include a decided lack of movement in the plot. FOR ME, Mirabella had no depth. If she is an example of Regency Aristocracy femininism, I am glad I live when and where I do.

I do appreciate being given the opportunity to read the book by the Hachette Group. It is a three star book.

Twelve Brides of Summer #2

In this grouping of novellas, we have such authors as Mary Connealy, Amanda Cabot, and Maureen Lang, and I have never read a story by any of these that I did not like. Let me put that in a more positive way: EVERY story I've read by these authors I've liked, extremely well.

Mary Connealy opens this grouping with A Bride Rides Herd. Betsy is babysitting her sister's rowdy, rambunctious girls when Matt comes riding up to the ranch. Matt watches Annie and Susie playing in a rather dangerous part of the river and hears Betsy yelling for the girls. Betsy doesn't quite know what to do with Matt, even though he is her sister's brother-in-law. Kissing him is such a good/bad idea, but eventually she gives in.

Amanda Cabot weighs in with Fourth of July Bride. Naomi is worried about her mother, especially her mother's eye sight. She needs an operation, but has no way to pay for the doctor's fees, much less the rest of the costs of the operation. Gideon finds out that his mother will soon be visiting and needs a "stand-in" bride, so he offers to pay for the operation if Naomi will pretend to be his fiancee. His offer includes all the new gowns and dresses she will need.

Maureen Lang completes this set with The Summer Harvest Bride. Sally is not looking for love, and she's certainly not looking for Willis Pollit, but when Lukas Daughton and his brothers come to town to build a new grist mill Lukas finds Sally is a sight for his sore eyes. There is a bit of sabotage to the mill and Sally believes the blame lands at Willis' feet. Maureen has woven a bit of mystery into her offering of this grouping that makes the story more interesting and more enjoyable.

These three ladies know their stuff when they are writing, and they execute it well. These are fairly short novellas which make them the perfect reading length for a lazy afternoon. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a bouquet of summer wildflowers.

My thanks to Shiloh Run Studios for allowing me to read and review this book.

The Girl From the Train

Gretl has been forced off the train by her grandmother along with her sister, but as the train goes over the bridge it explodes. The train has been sabotaged by a group of Polish Resisters. Gretl is found by a man who takes her to a safe place where her sister dies, presumably because of tuberculosis. Because she cannot stay where she is, Jakob takes her to his home where she lives for four years. As Poland is taken over by the Russians, Jakob takes Gretl to the orphanage with the hope that she can be adopted by a family in South Africa. Even though she is too old for the program, she is adopted by what she terms the best family she could have ever had. Because of Jakob's political leanings, he has to leave Poland as well. He ends up in South Africa by way of England and meets up with Gretl again.

This is a satellite view of the book. Gretl makes several name changes depending on where she is, but her name basically remains the same-ish. She is an incredibly bright young lady who has an ear for languages and majors in four languages at school. She is hired to be a translator for the newspaper in Johannesburg.

This is my first book by Irma Joubert and I couldn't put it down--I read until I could not keep my eyes open any more. This reads more as a life story than as a novel. The events follow a logical progression and make so much sense for the reader. The settings add so much richness to the plot-lines and create incredible pictures for the imagination to understand the story. It is more than a romance between Gretl and Jakob; in fact, their romance takes less than one-quarter of the book.

One of the key components of the book is Gretl's nightmares--things she remembers subconsciously but not consciously. When the Primus stove blows up while she's fixing pancakes, Jakob comes and helps Gretl's memories come to fore. By talking about the events in Poland and Germany, she is able to find freedom from her nightmares, but her father learns that things he didn't want to believe were actually true.

Five Stars, two thumbs up, and a dream come true.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Signs of Life

I have never subscribed to the "What Sign were you born under?" Although I used to have a miniature sign that said "Soft Shoulders" and thought that was a good enough. Deanna Nowadnick has provided several God-given signs that should guide our lives. She uses episodes from her own life and her own detours to bring us closer to the God she loves. Signs of Life is not a long book to read, nor does it contain much hard theology (You'll have to read the Easter story to see what I mean), but it does follow the adage of "Learn from my mistakes, you don't have nearly enough time to make them all." There are times you'll laugh while you read it, and times you'll say, "When did she get into my life? I never told anyone about THAT!" Deanna only writes about things that are common to all of us and she doesn't have to be a mind reader to do it--she has lived it too.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Road Sign to help you through your journey.

My thanks to Deanna for allowing me to read and review her book. There is only one sign I didn't see in her book that I've seen in parts of the south.
My wonder is how we can make our churches people need to be warned about!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

All We Need Is a Reason

I'm not sure if I have read a book by Kellie Coates Gilbert or not. No matter. After today, I can definitively say that I have read one of her books and thoroughly enjoyed it.

A Reason to Stay details the life of Faith Marin, a young woman whose rising career in broadcast journalism is just taking off. It helps to understand that Faith's upbringing was not conventional, normal, or even remotely functional. Her father was killed in a car wreck with his mistress, her mother committed suicide, her brother was an addict, and she's joined herself to a man whose family doesn't recognize boundaries. Faith sees the need to justify her very existence through her work--in fact, her work is her identity--and there lies the conflict in her marriage.

My worst criticism for this book is Faith's spiritual life, it never truly gets settled to my satisfaction. I realize this is fiction and as such, the author has the final say about how things are worked out. My thing is the beginnings of Faith's faith-life are in the book, but bringing her to a full-faith in Christ condition wouldn't have been that hard.

My favorite aspect of the book is how Faith changes after the gunshot. Her evolution from a self-centered, self-absorbed woman to a loving, giving, and generous person is incredible. Dr Viv is great at getting into Faith's head and helping her to see her drive is counter-productive to her recovery and that she should be more accepting of herself. It is almost as if Dr Viv is a Christian, but the politically correct thing does not allow for her to say so.

This is more than a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a breaking news story book. That's just all I am allowed to give it.

My thanks to Revell for allowing me to read and review this book.

A Texas Christmas

I have experienced a couple of Texas Christmases, but mine were nothing like the ones in this book. There are six novellas by some of my favorite authors bringing romance to the wilds of Texas.

Here's my criticism of the book: some of the novellas seem to be part of another series of novellas. I wish I had had the whole series of a couple of the stories to read in this collection.

All six of the tales are written with humor and a couple of them have a bit of angst, but that only adds to their charm. While the stories take place in fictitious towns in Texas, the description of the areas is pretty accurate for the west Texas landscape. Most of the stories involve living on a ranch, and all of them take place around Christmas.

Here Cooks the Bride by Cathy Marie Hake
A Christmas Chronicle by Pamela Griffin
To Hear the Angels Sing by Ramona Cecil
The Face of Mary by Darlene Franklin
Charlsey's Accountant by Lena Nelson Dooley
Plain Trouble by Kathleen Y'Barbo

None of these stories will disappoint the readers. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Texas Star for Christmas.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Made with Love

Includes recipes--I've already tried out a couple.

Tricia Goyer and Sherry Gore have collaborated to bring a sweet Amish novel with lots of recipes, lots of trials, lots of growth in the characters, and lots of pie--we can't forget the pie.

Lovina is the oldest of five girls and she has always had a dream of opening a pie shop. Her mother has always had a dream of having her girls married off. Sometimes dreams collide and sometimes dreams intertwine. It takes overcoming a prejudice, forgiving a past, forging a future, generously giving, and working tirelessly to make everyone's dreams happen.

Noah is a young contractor who has an eye for treasure in people's trash--his specialty is salvage reclamation. He is also mentor for his nephew, Mose, and Mose's friends Gerald and Atlee--young men on rumspringa who have gotten themselves in a bit of trouble.

When Lovina finds the perfect place for her pie shop, Noah offers to do the construction work in exchange for salvaging through the warehouse Lovina buys.

One of the most exciting scenes in the book is where Lovina is asking her parents to co-sign a loan for the warehouse and her father refuses to co-sign. He has other things in mind, and he hates being in debt to anyone!

A tender scene is when Lovina asks her sister, Hope, to fix two urns with flowers to go on either side of the front door. Hope has felt left out of the process of getting the warehouse ready. Lovina assumed Hope didn't want to participate and Hope assumed Lovina didn't want her help.

A rewarding scene is when a builder asks Mose to do some construction work on a house he is remodeling. Mose is recognized for his own talent and his own abilities. It's a culmination of a lot of work on Noah's part.

Here are some of the concepts woven into the warp and woof of the fabric of the book:
a. The past is past. God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, we do no one any favors by rehearsing and rehashing those sins.
b. Communities need connections.
c. We cannot impose our own dreams onto someone else. We do not know for sure who the author of those dreams is, and going against God will do no favors.
d. We might be the answer to someone else's prayers.
e. It may take a long time for prayers to be answered, but we are doubly blessed if we live to see those answers, and triply blessed to become part of the answer.

Made with Love meets all my criteria for five stars, two thumbs up, and a slice of pie.

My thanks to Harvest House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book. Can't wait to try more of the recipes.

*To all my favorite Amish authors: so many recipes require a fair dab of sugar in them and I can't always adjust the recipe to work without sugar. This makes me sad since I am diabetic and I have to be very careful about my sugar intake to the point I have eliminated it from my diet as much as possible.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Basket Brigade Christmas

Three novellas by three top-shelf authors about the darkest hour in American History. Taking place in Decatur, Illinois, three women who each have a different role to play in the Basket Brigade bring comfort to the wounded soldiers of the Union Army as they travel to Chicago for medical care.

Lucy has gotten a group of ladies together to sew blankets and knit socks for the soldiers in A Stitch in Time by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Lucy is almost taken in by a deserting gambler who sweet talks her when Silas is standing by as steady as a rock. It takes a scene in her own home for Lucy to understand who is really true.

Sarah McHenry organizes and serves food to the soldiers on the train in A Pinch of Love by Judith Miller. She meets and falls in love with Corporal Jacob Curtis who escorts the soldiers on their way to Chicago. He has to overcome his hurt and jealousy because of being jilted by a former love, especially when a young man vying for Sarah's hand makes his relationship with Sarah more than it truly is. God has to do a work in both their hearts for them to really come together.

Zona Evans is the leader of the Christmas Musicale in the Endless Melody by Nancy Moser. She was once engaged to Cardiff Kensington when he goes off to fight in the Mexican War. She never heard from him in the fifteen years since the war, and now there is a new war tearing the country apart. Cardiff has become a doctor and has been asked to come to Chicago to help in the hospital where the soldiers are treated. Between the people at his boarding house and the doctor and the volunteer at the hospital, he is encouraged to find Zona. Zona has to overcome her mother's perfidy in hiding Cardiff's letters, her pride, her desire to have her own way in her musicale. After making many amends in town, she writes a letter to a soldier in the hospital that ends up in Cardiff's hands. Now it is a beautiful Christmas Carol that brings them back together.

All three novellas are quite enjoyable and will make wonderful Christmas reading, especially with a cup of hot cocoa by your side.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a blanket, a sandwich, and a song.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Irish Meadows

Irish Meadows is a horse breeding farm--one that's about to go under. Part of the problem is that horse racing has been abolished on Long Island.

Gilbert Whelan is coming back to Irish Meadows after finishing his business degree. Brianna O'Leary can't wait for his return, he's her best friend and riding partner. Colleen O'Leary only is excited as long as it benefits her. While Colleen and Brianna are only a year apart, they have had an adversarial relationship and Colleen is not opposed to using whatever or whomever she must to get her way. Brianna wants to further her education and expand her mind, while her father wants her to marry well and get an infusion of cash for the farm. It takes a serious health episode for James O'Leary for everyone to get their priorities straight and to overcome the obstacles that will lead to true love for Brianna and contentment for Colleen.

This is the setup Susan Anne Mason has used to get her novel set up for the reader's enjoyment. I grew up in a town where horse racing is a big thing. From January to April, people flock to my home town to watch horses run around a mud track. There were several jockeys who lived across the street from me and I played with one of their daughters for a long time in elementary school. I lived two blocks from the race track, and Daddy used to take me to the back side of the track to watch the horses run. This book was a perfect pick for me to read.

Susan Anne has pulled together quite a colorful lot of characters to make this novel a shining success. I read it much faster than I anticipated and loved every word of it. This is a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up, and a ride on a beautiful horse.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.

Love Everlasting

This is the third of Tracie Peterson's Brides of Seattle series and brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. While each book says it is about a different couple or couples, the whole series is about Abrianna Cunningham and Wade Ackerman. The other characters are just extras to move the plot along.

In this book, Priam Welby is still trying to court Abrianna, while she realizes that she truly loves Wade. Priam uses his desire to bring down his own father to push, prod, and blackmail his way to getting what he wants--including Abrianna.

By the time I got to the third book of the series, I was bored with Abrianna. Her soup kitchen brought her father back to her after he'd been falsely imprisoned for twenty years.

There were some sweet moments and some really bad moments but it all culminates in a way that satisfies the reader. The outcome was truly never in doubt, as the whole series really centered around Abrianna and Wade.

Four Stars

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Bride At Last

Lucinda is dying rather quickly and she wants his teacher, Kate, to take on raising him. The fly in the ointment is that two men have shown up claiming to be the boy's father. It takes moving heaven and earth to get the truth about which man is the father. Silas was married to Lucinda until she passed away, and wanted to take the boy back to his farm and raise him. Silas knew the hardships of growing up in an orphanage and wanted better for his son. The other man wanting to claim the boy was a man who wanted him only for his abilities to pick pockets. Anthony, the contested son, has a propensity for running away, especially when he is needed most. Kate, who is Lucinda's friend and Anthony's teacher, feels that Silas will be the better father for Anthony and does everything she can to prove that Silas is truly Anthony's father. When Kate is seen at the train station being kissed by Silas, she loses her teaching job and has to go to Silas and take him up on his offer of marriage.

Melissa Jagears writes a good story, even though she used the "romance novel formula" in this one. Kate has never imagined herself married, much less a mother, but she becomes A Bride At Last once Silas works through his reluctance to marry again.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a runaway boy to keep you occupied.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

In Good Company

Jen Turano has a way with her characters that make them so enjoyable. While Millie Longfellow in unconventional, her methods have a certain success even if her employers don't see it that way. She gets fired time after time for allowing children to be children. Everett Mulberry has been given custody of his godchildren who are hooligans at the very best. After several nannies have quit working for Everett, the agency only has Millie to offer him. He really didn't want her but he needed someone FAST! What he finds out is that Millie is exactly what the children need and exactly what he needs as well.

Millie has a definite prejudice against the society castes and trying to live up to high society rules and regulations. She felt that these rules separated people unnecessarily and was unfair to people who didn't know what their lineage was. Everett was dating a woman who wanted nothing more than to marry Everett and take her place among the elite in society. Everett comes to want nothing more than to spend time with the children and love them like a father. That is what Millie wanted more than anything.

In Good Company is one of the cutest books I've read in a while. I am not sure that Jen was wanting her book classified as cute, but that is the best descriptive I can come up with. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a most unconventional nanny.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Refining Fire

Tracie Peterson is writing her way through the late 1800's in Seattle. I reviewed the first book in the series here and truly enjoyed the book. Now I am reviewing book two and I'm not sure if I liked this one as much. The romance in the book is between Militine and Thane, but the story is still about Abrianna. Tracie has thrown in a mentally ill pastor, some Chinese girls who were stolen from their homes, Abrianna's father, and the Great Seattle Fire to round out her story. Next up on my list is the final story in this trilogy. As I said in a previous post, I like books with happy endings and this one just left me hanging. Reflecting on the two books of the series that I have read in this series, the other characters take a backseat role to Abrianna--all three of the books are about her. Abrianna tries to be a woman who listens to God and obeys, but she is the center of her own world--often jumping into situations and circumstances without thought of the outcome or inconvenience to anyone else.

Tracie writes entertaining books that are great for readers of romance. I truly enjoy reading what she writes and I enjoyed this book as well, just not as much as I had expected. I am looking forward to the third book in the series and will be starting it tonight.

Four strong stars

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Lorie's Heart

Lorie works at her father's Bent and Dent store in her Amish community. She is planning to marry Jonah as soon as she is baptized and joins the church. BUT, her father is killed in a car accident, and the things she finds out initially throw her into a major quest for information. When she views her father's body at the morgue, she sees a tattoo with her mother's name on his chest. Her step-mother won't answer her questions and she has plenty of them.

Her friends become reluctant aides in her determination to find out what her father's real life was about--they call a former Amish friend who takes Lorie from Wells Landing to Tulsa to investigate the things the police gave her after her father's accident. She re-meets an English boy named Zach who is truly in love with her and wants to be her boyfriend.

This is the setup Amy Lillard has delivered in Lorie's Heart, a Wells Landing Romance. This is a frustrating novel to read, Lorie seems to have no support for her queries, her step-mother gives her no answers, and Jonah decides to give her up with an ultimatum instead of fighting for her heart. Amy has done a masterful job of creating tension to keep the reader engaged, and leaves the denouement until almost the last few pages. Her characters are complicated people, like we all are, and make hard choices throughout the book. Every page has something that will keep the reader involved in the story. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a mystery to solve.

My thanks to Zebra publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Summer Lovin'

Okay, So I'm not Olivia Newton John, and I can't sing, but I read three novellas about summer love and they were all terrific stories.

The first is called Blue Moon Bride by Susan Page Davis. Ava meets Joe on the train while she's on her way to see her best friend, Polly. The train ride is interrupted by some train robbers who take a packet that Joe is supposed to deliver in San Francisco. Joe's ability to sketch the robbers helps catch them. Joe is intrigued by Ava and truly enjoys talking with her, and explains to her that the month they are meeting will have a blue moon--a full moon that occurs twice a month. Joe comes by often to see Ava at Polly's house and they intrigue grows to love.

The second is The Sunbonnet Bride by Michelle Ule. Sally works for the milliner and Malcolm is a teamster who loves Sally but has never had the guts to tell her. When a tornado strikes Sally's father's farm, Sally sees how Malcolm gets his hands dirty helping those who lost so much in the storm. On the other hand, Sally sees how Josiah, the local banker, seeks to profit from other's tragedy. Sally decides to make sunbonnets to sell for the disaster relief fund and her sister Lena embroiders a tornado on the brim of the bonnets. It is at the relief auction that Malcolm finds his gumption to tell Sally how he feels.

The third is The Wildflower Bride by Amy Lillard. Grace is standing up for her sister, Maddie, at her wedding to Harlan. As Grace walks down the aisle, she sees Ian standing with Harlan in his full Scottish regalia, it seems as though Grace has been struck by lightning. Ian is just as elecrified by Grace's appearance, but he's called to pastor a church in New York, or is he?

These stories are quality reading for an afternoon of quiet. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a sweet summer day to read.

My thanks to Shiloh Run for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ties That Bind

I was talking with a friend once about the kinds of books that we like to read. My friend will read almost any genre, but I tend toward books that offer happy endings. This is why I did not care for Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall. I read her Vines and Orchards series and loved them because there was some kind of closure in each book. As I read Ties that Bind, there was a huge cliff hanger at the end with no satisfactory closure in the book. I realize that I would have to read the whole series to get the kind of happy ending I wanted, but I like some kind of conclusion to help me be able to go on to the next book, especially when I have to wait for the next books to come out. These are my OPINIONS and therefore I will not give this book a rating or recommendation.

My thanks to Waterbrook Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Ministries of Mercy

There was once a man who traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho and was set upon by robbers who beat him up to add insult to injury. A rabbi passed by and saw the man, and crossed the street to pretend he didn't see what he just saw. A Levite passed by and did the same thing. A (shudder) Samaritan passed by, saw the man, cleaned his wounds, put him on his donkey, and took him to an inn where this hated Samaritan paid for the man's stay and medical expenses and promised to pay more if needed. The Samaritan practiced mercy in the most pure way possible.

Tim Keller has taken this parable and shown the duties of today's church. He makes some very valid points that are as pertinent today as they were in Jesus' day. This book was written in the 1980's originally, but has been re-released to a world needing its message as badly now as it needed it two thousand years ago. Teddy Roosevelt has summed up Tim Keller's premise this way:
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
If we are to reach out to a hurting world, we have to meet the needs that are hurting them before we can share the light of Jesus Christ with them. Not only does Tim Keller show what needs to be done, but he concisely explains why, and then he goes into the hows of beginning a ministry of mercy, the hows of continuing a ministry of mercy, and what to do if the ministry comes to an end. Ministries of Mercy shows how to live personally, corporately, and ultimately as a Christian showing the mercy we have received. This book needs to be read by every pastor, elder, deacon, and church member. Suppose that the Christians and churches started ministering to those around us in need and began to help them up out of the mire they find themselves in, we could do away with so many governmental social programs.

Tim has a very readable style of writing that makes reading tough things easier to digest. I love reading his books and pondering his point of view. This is a five star, two thumbs up, and a pair of socks for a homeless person book.

My thanks to P & R Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book. Only my honest opinion was required.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Till We Meet Again

Ray Whipps is a young man in Ohio when Pearl Harbor is bombed. He tries to join the Navy pilot program, but the mathematics is too much of a challenge for him. He goes back home and is assured he can get into the Army flying program, but he is drafted first. He gets sent to Europe and is part of the landing on Utah Beach. As he makes his way across Europe he gets a thigh wound and gets sent to Cherbourg, France, to the hospital there where he meets Betty.

This memoir reads like a novel but it describes Ray's experiences in Europe during World War II. Some of the battle scenes are pretty graphic and the time that Ray spent in prison camp are recounted with careful detail. Interspersed in Ray's memories are some of Betty's letters that relate her growing love for Ray. Part of the mutual attraction is their individual faith in God. It is this faith that sustained Ray during some of his darkest days and gave Betty hope when she found out that Ray was missing.

Till We Meet Again is a quick read that holds the reader's interest quite well. After visiting my brother and hearing more of the stories my dad told of his time in the Coast Guard during World War II, this book held my attention. This is a five star book.

My thanks to Tyndale House for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to give my honest opinon.

Sea Keeper's Daughter

Usually Lisa Wingate writes novels with a bit of humor, but the Sea Keeper's Daughter was a more serious story, but still intriguing.

When Whitney Monroe's mother died, her step-father kicked her out of her mother's house and told her that she could not have any of her mother's possessions until he died. Her mother owned the Excelsior Hotel in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Whitney owns a restaurant in Michigan and Tagg Harper is trying to push her out of business. When her step-father falls and hurts himself, Whitney goes back to North Carolina to look after him, whether he wanted her to or not. While she was there, she finds some letters written to her grandmother by her grandmother's sister--a sister Whitney knew nothing about. By reading the letters Whitney also discovers a history that explains so much of her own past.

I've read a few of Lisa Wingate's novels with mixed reactions. With this book, I found a story that holds interest, engages imagination, and satisfies the reader's desire for a good story with great characters. There isn't much romance in this novel, but that is no detraction from the story. In fact, if romance were an element of the story, THAT would be a detraction.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a letter with a lot of history in it.

My thanks to Tyndale House for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to give my honest opinion of this book.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Five Brides

I did not know that when I began reading this book that I was going to need a score card to keep up with all of the characters.

Betty and Patrick
Joan and Robert
Inga and Axel
Magda and Barry
Evelyn and Edwin

The five girls begin as roommates and slowly settle in together into their jobs and into their combined friendships. On a rare day, they were all off work and all enjoying an afternoon together, and as they were walking downtown, they see a wedding dress in a store window. They all try it on, and decide to pitch in and buy it. It will be the dress for each of their weddings. Betty was going to be the keeper of the dress and each girl who wore it would have it cleaned after the wedding and returned to Betty. Whoever married last got to keep the dress and hand it down to her daughters or granddaughters. The story opens and closes with Evelyn's daughter telling HER daughter the story of the dress.

The only story that kept me a bit confused was Joan and Robert's story, but it cleared itself up for me in jig time. Eva Marie Everson has taken a post-war world and turned it on its side with five independent, modern women who are trying to take their world by storm. Through their work they all happen to meet the men who seem to be the men of their dreams, and except for Inga, those meetings turn into lifetime commitments. The way Eva Marie Everson has meshed all five of these couples' love stories together makes an entertaining read. In spite of the sheer number of characters, Eva Marie has been able to develop them into complex people who live real lives and have real problems that are universal to nearly all women, and yet they somehow seem to survive and thrive. Each of their episodes become a living testament to their integrity, their ingenuity, and their indomitable spirits.

I have to give this book five stars, two thumbs up, and a wedding dress to share with your four best friends.

Tyndale House is to be thanked for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to give my honest opinion.

There Shall Be Showers of Blessing

Lyn Cote writes deep books that challenge the readers' conceptions and misconceptions especially about history. Blessing is a widowed Quakeress who runs an underground railroad station and an orphanage, and she rescues the prostitutes who work the docks in Cincinnati. She is also a suffragette campaigning for women's rights. She goes to hear lectures by such incredible speakers as Sojourner Truth and Fredick Douglass. At one such meeting in Boston, she meets Gerard Ramsey who doesn't necessarily believe all that's being said at the meeting, but his encounter with Blessing leaves him intrigued, but Gerard doesn't know what to do about his intrigue.

Lyn has brought together the antebellum sentiments, the racial tensions, the women's rights movement, and the riots of the pre-war Cincinnati. She has pulled together a cohesive novel that takes family upheaval, overbearing characters, and untenable circumstances and meshes them together with a growing relationship of plain speaking and straightforward thinking. Blessing and Gerard come together in such a way that is so satisfying for the reader. Her major characters have such depth and personality that it is hard to dislike them. Her settings make the sights and sounds of pre-war Cincinnati more real and more believable. Her plot pacing is a bit slow, but if it moved faster, it would seem a bit rushed, so it is just right.

One of my favorite parts is when Blessing adopts a baby that was orphaned when his mother--a prostitute--died in childbirth. The prostitute's sister, also a prostitute, thanks Blessing for taking the baby and keeping him, giving him a better life than he would have otherwise had. Another good scene is Gerard coming to the orphanage and interacting with the children there.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a trip on the underground railroad.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was an honest review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Imposter

I think Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my favorite Amish storytellers. Her newest offering is a great example of her writing abilities. The Imposter is set in Lancaster County and uses a lot of the characters from her earlier novels.

Katrina Stoltzfus is in a pickle. She has been left in the lurch by her boyfriend, John, who is now affianced to someone else. Her heart is broken and she's having a hard time coming to terms with the situation. When Thelma, the bishop's aunt, falls, Katrina goes to live with her and take care of her. Thelma has a moss farm that is just getting off the ground and a farm hand who knows his moss. The last thing Katrina needs is another man in her life.

David Stoltzfus, Katrina's father, has been deemed in need of a wife by Hank. He wrote an ad for the Amish newspaper asking single women to apply. Because there are still four children at home, he needs help with his family--especially since Katrina moved out. What David hasn't noticed is that there is a single lady in his community who would love to be courted by him. He is also one of the ministers in the congregation whose life is not his own.

Suzanne has given the reader a bigger peek into the life of the Amish in Lancaster County. Each character has flaws and foibles, but also has strengths beyond their imaginings. This book continues with the Rose Hill and Eagle Hill characters and only adds more color to what Suzanne has already written.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a bit of moss for your next project.

My thanks to Revell for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to give my honest opinion about the book.

The Reluctant Bride

Kathleen Fuller writes Amish fiction that perplexes me. I read A Reluctant Bride and got totally wrapped up in the story, but the "villain" in the book was the bishop of the community.

Sadie Schrock was never going to get married. She wanted to be the one in charge of her life. When her parents died in a hit and run accident that seriously injured Sadie's sister, Joanna. Sadie went to the bishop to see if the community funds could help pay some of Joanna's hospital bills. Instead, the bishop wanted Sadie to marry his older son so that he could get the gas rights to Sadie's land. Instead of marrying the older son, the younger one volunteers to marry Sadie.

I understand that greed affects people in all walks of life, but for most of the Amish fiction I've read, the bishop tries to live above reproach, and takes very seriously the mandates for overseers in Timothy and Titus.

I enjoyed the book, but I felt there could have been more depth to the characters and more substance to the plot. However, the book is a good read for a quiet afternoon. Four Stars.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book. I was only obligated to share my honest opinion.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Memory Weaver

It isn't often I give up on a book, but I did this time. I really don't like not reading all the way through and finishing the story, but I felt lost in everything I read in this book.

Jane Kirkpatrick writes historical fiction that encompasses real events, and generally she makes dry history incredibly interesting. Some of my favorites of Jane's books are: A Flickering Light, An Absence So Great, and The Daughter's Walk. I think Jane has a compelling writing style, but this time her writing left me more confused than able to follow the plot of her book.

I saw a friend reading A Flickering Light and she told me she had read The Memory Weaver and she had a hard time getting through it as well. I respect her opinion. She reads as much as I do, and she knows her stuff. We both agreed The Memory Weaver is not Jane's best offering.

Eliza Spaulding is a young lady who was a captive of the Cayuse who massacred the Whitmans in their mission. Her father is a hard/harsh man who insists that Eliza testify against those who held her captive. He is unwilling to allow her court or marry, because she needs to take care of him and her younger siblings. She has found a young man whom she would like to marry, especially since her father has remarried. The only problem is that the new wife has no homemaking skills at all.

About every other chapter is a piece of Eliza's mother's diary, so the story is being told from two different perspectives. This is where my confusion comes in. I can follow the diary, but Eliza's narrative jumps from past to present without a lot of continuity.

Someone else may truly enjoy this book, but I did not. Two Stars.

My thanks to Revell Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Worthy Pursuit

Ever since I read Karen Witemeyer's first book, I have loved her writing. She has a way with injecting humor into her writing that makes reading her work much more enjoyable. A lot of her humor is understated, but it shines throughout the novel.

A Worthy Pursuit is Karen's latest offering and is absolutely un-put-down-able. One thing I like about my kindle is that it tells me how much time it will take me to finish the book. Usually a book of this length will take me a couple of sittings to read, but I finished this one off in one sitting.

Charlotte is the headmistress of a school for exceptional children. A few of the children are orphans, and others are placed because of the wealth of their families. Stephen, John, and Lily are three of the students who have captured Charlotte's attention and affections. Stephen's parents left him at the school so they could travel, John is a Chinese orphan, and Lily is Charlotte's ward as directed by Rebekah's (Lily's mother) will. Each of the children is gifted in different ways--John is a piano prodigy, Stephen is very mechanically minded, and Lily has a photographic memory. The only problem is that Lily's grandfather, Mr. Dorchester, wants her back to use her in his nefarious business dealings. So he convinces the owner of the school to close it down. Charlotte takes Lily, Stephen, and John with her to the cabin her parents bought for her in Madisonville, Texas. In order to get Lily back, Mr. Dorchester has hired Stone Hammond to find Lily and return her to him. Stone Hammond has the reputation for never coming in empty-handed, and when he finds Charlotte and the children, he gets bonked on the head by a rifle butt in the hands of her property's caretaker. Because Charlotte is a tender-hearted woman, she takes care of Stone's injuries and then explains why she has the charge of the three children, with papers to prove her stance.

This is the premise for the whole book that includes surprises at every turn--kidnappings and attempts of kidnappings; bounty hunters, former Texas Rangers, scofflaws, and general nuisances populate the book's plot and keep the reader involved until the very last page. Karen has done a masterful job of weaving all of these elements into a most enjoyable Sunday afternoon read.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a special talent to help you through the day.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book in exchange only for my honest review.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hearts Made Whole

Jody Hedlund writes the most compelling historical novels I've ever read. Hearts Made Whole is another taking place in a Michigan Lighthouse. Caroline has been taking care of the lighthouse for a while, especially since she watched her father drown taking the doctor back to his home. Mr Finnick comes to tell Caroline she must move her family out of the keeper's cottage by the end of the week to make room for a new lightkeeper. Ryan Chambers arrives unexpectedly and mistakenly gets into bed with Caroline--not knowing that she's already in the bed. She starts whapping him with her pillow and he wonders if she is trying to kill him, and thus begins their acquaintance that grows into friendship and even more.

Jody has wrapped this love story in a blanket of mystery along with the repercussions of addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder in post Civil War veterans. In building her characters, Jody has included strong faiths, impish shenanigans, and sibling rivalry. Thrown into that mix are a developmentally delayed man with unrequited love, a lighthouse superintendent taking bribes, a smuggler who is bribing the superintendent, and a woman who is mounting a campaign to allow Caroline to keep her job as lightkeeper. These characters only add interest to the plot lines that move with a steady gait toward a most satisfying conclusion.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Lighthouse to keep you safe from rocky shores.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to give an honest review.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Noble Masquerade

I don't know if this is Kristi Ann Hunter's first book, but it's the first one of hers I've read and it was delightful.

Lady Miranda Hawthorne is almost an on the shelf spinster, and her younger sister, Georgina, is coming out this season. There are no interesting prospects for Lady Miranda and she is trying to decide to be content with her situation. Her mother has not given up hope yet and keeps drilling Miranda on what a true lady is. When Miranda has a particularly trying day, she writes a letter to Lord Marshington, pouring out her soul to him and then putting the letters in her trunk, never mailing them, until her brother's valet accidentally mails one of them. She is mortified and mystified as to how and why the letter got mixed up with the rest of her correspondence. The real mortification comes with Marshington answers her letter.

Ryland Marshington is an under cover spy for the British Crown and his persona at the time is as a valet to Miranda's brother, Griffith. He's trying to find out the identity of the traitor who is supplying information to Napoleon and the French. All of his evidence leads to someone in Griffith's employ. One of the perks of being Griffith's valet is the proximity to Miranda that Ryland finds himself.

Kristi Ann Hunter does follow the romantic formula but she does so with smoothness and logic that aid in telling the story she is trying to portray. I found quite a few things to love about this book. Miranda has a prayer life that suggests her spiritual life is not an afterthought, but an integral part of her whole life. Ryland is the kind of man who puts loyalty on a high priority and he protects those he loves with all he has. The other characters play their assigned parts quite well--Georgina as a flibberti-gibbet; Griffith as the head of the family; Lady Blackstone, their mother, as an overbearing meddler; and Amelia as the stalwart friend. Kristi Ann has wrapped her story with humor, suspense, and some derring-do.

A Noble Masquerade garners five stars, two thumbs up, and a valet who doubles as a spy.