©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Flower Brides

Grace Livingston Hill wrote a lot in the early 1900's and a lot of what she wrote is sugary sweet. When I watch a cooking show called Chopped, the judges on the show often use the word "cloying" to describe something that's too sweet. This could almost describe Grace's writings--ALMOST. Barbour Books is re-releasing three of Grace's novels in one book--all three have significant connections to flowers. That's why it's called The Flower Brides. One thing that Grace weaves into her stories is a solid commitment to Jesus Christ. At least one character in each of the books needs to find the salvation only Jesus provides.

Marigold, Mystery Flowers, and White Orchids all take place in the 1930's with varying amounts of economic distress included in the plots. Marigold, Dianna, and Camilla are in some sort of dire straits, and, of course, some generous man comes to the rescue. This is Grace's romantic writing formula. Today's readers may not like the excessively sweet leading ladies, or the knights in shining armour who constantly swoop in to rescue the damsel in distress.

In order to read these books, light and sweet has to be what you are wanting at the moment. I give this collection a solid four stars.

My thanks to Barbour books for allowing me to read and review this collection.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Catch and Release

I hate it when for whatever reason I just can't finish a book. The book I am reviewing tonight is just such a book, but the reason I could not finish it is that it just did not capture my imagination. I love romances and I should have loved this one, but the plot seemed to drag instead of flow. I read the first hundred or so pages and skipped to the end to find out which man Heather Flower marries. That was a sufficiency for me for this book. What I found were too many characters to keep track of, without a lot of development. Remember these are MY opinions and as that they are individual to me. Maybe if I had read the first book in the series, I would have been more patient with this book. Rebecca de Marino has done her historical research for the era about which she writes.

I know I am being harsh about this book, and I won't justify my harshness. I think in this case it is a matter of taste and To Capture Her Heart didn't fit my tastes. I think each reader needs to attempt to read this book and see if it is a good fit. That is one thing I like about Amazon, many of the books there have at least a first chapter or more to read when you click on the "Look Inside" banner. I recommend that you click that and read to see if it will fit your tastes.

Three Stars

I thank Revell for allowing me to read and review this book. I am sorry I do not have wonderful things to say about it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Amish Promises

First, there's Eve. She lives with her brother and takes care of his children, including the baby, Trudy.

Then there's Tim, Eve's brother, a bit of a tyrant within his family, except where Simon is concerned--he plays favorites with Simon to the exclusion of his older son, Daniel.

Shani moves into the neighborhood and instantly becomes Eve's friend.

Joel is Shani's husband suffering from PTSD after returning injured from Iraq.

Zane is Shani's son who loves to play with Tim's children.

Charlie is Joel's friend who comes to Lancaster from Philly on weekends to help Joel, Shani, and Zane settle into their new home. When Charlie meets Eve, both are instantly smitten, but Eve is torn between her Amish faith and Charlie's other faith. Tim also makes things more difficult by his authoritarianism.

Throw into the mix a bishop, Gideon, who is looking for a wife, and Monika, the deacon's wife.

These are the primary characters who populate Leslie Gould's new novel, Amish Promises. Throughout the novel, the concept of loving your neighbor is woven through the plot of the novel. Some of the characters learn it rather quickly while others have to have it nearly beaten into them. When Shani and Joel's house catches fire the night Shani goes into labor with her second child, the Amish community comes together to help put the house back to rights. When Monika's husband dies suddenly, again the Amish come together to hold her up.

I like this novel, but a couple of times near the end, the language started into "Epilogue" language, but then something else happened and then again there was another "epilogue." It seemed that the voice changed perspective in the reading. That is the worst criticism I have for the book. The characters were well developed with clearly unique personalities. The pacing of the novel keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end.

Four Solid Stars.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brides of the Old West

I love reading collections of novellas and getting multiple stories about the same subject, or during the same time period, or about multiple members of a family. So, when I chose to read Brides of the Old West, that's what I thought I was getting: five stories that would take me back to frontier days in United States history. I got better than I was expecting--I got five full-length novels with fully developed plot lines, complex characters, and incredible descriptions.

Morning Mountain by Peggy Darty
A Bride's Rogue in Roma, Texas by Darlene Franklin
Valient Heart by Sally Laity
Lessons in Love by Nancy Lavo
To See His Way by Kathleen Paul

These five women have written from their hearts and put some important spiritual truths in the plots as well as an entertaining story.

With Lessons in Love, Deborah is raising her younger brother and has been given her Uncle Cyrus' cabin to live in. Luke shows up wanting them out of the cabin because he believes they are interlopers. When the misunderstanding is cleared up, Luke decides to stay on the ranch and keep an eye out for Deborah and her brother. As friendship grows between them, Deborah finds out that Luke can't read, and in an effort to spare his feelings, asks him to sit and take his lessons with her brother as an encouragement to her brother. As he learns to read, he finds spiritual help at the same time--and finds himself needing the Heavenly Father even more than he needs Deborah. When he falls in love with Deborah, he feels he can't offer her the most important thing a man can give: his name--he doesn't have a last name. It's fun to watch how Deborah overcomes Luke's reticence and they get their happily ever after.

To See His Way finds Tilde being sold into marriage by her aunt's husband--a cruel man who abuses those around him. On their way to Fort Reynauld, the wagon carrying Tilde's aunt and uncle falls over a cliff and both are killed in the accident. The Arapahoe come across the wagon wreck and find Tilde, Boister, Mari, and Evie alone and confused. Boister, Mari, and Evie are Tilde's cousins and the children of the aunt and uncle. Now they are, for all intents and purposes, Tilde's children. As the Arapahoe care for them, a couple of the men of the tribe go and find the big Swedish preacher because they believe that Tilde is his bride.

These are just two examples of the kinds of writing the reader will encounter in this collection.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and unexpected weddings all around.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cactus Creek Challenge

Erica Vetsch has done the unthinkable--she's written a romance including two romances but not by using the romance novel formula (boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back--or something similar). This breath of fresh air has humor, mystery, hi-jinks, and the touch of romance.

First: What is the Cactus Creek Challenge?

Cactus Creek, Texas, has a money raising challenge every year with the funds going to the winner's cause. The Challenge is that the contestants change jobs for a month every year--usually it's two men who change their jobs, but in this particular year, women have been allowed to enter the challenge as well. When Cassie--the town's teacher, and Jenny--the town's baker are chosen for the women; and Ben--the town's sheriff, and Carl--the town's livery stable owner are chosen for the men; the fun is only beginning. Instead of Ben and Carl exchanging jobs and Cassie and Jenny changing jobs, the town council throws a wrench into the works--Cassie trades jobs with Ben, and Jenny trades with Carl. At the beginning, no one wants to be told how to do the job they've been given--and it is to their detriment that they don't listen.

Ben encounters Quincy and Ulysses, twin terrors in the classroom--hiding birds in the desk, and blowing up the outhouse are just a couple of the tricks up their sleeves.

Cassie has to deal with Melvin and Alvin Sloop, the town's drunks and ne'er-do-wells. On their first drunken skirmish after Cassie takes office, she grabs the barber's shaving water and throws it on them to break up their fight.

Carl knows nothing about baking except for making sour dough biscuits and Jenny knows nothing about keeping a livery stable, so the challenge is more than demanding on all of its participants. Yet no one participant is willing to give up on the challenge.

When a shipment of gold comes into town, everyone on the council and the participants get up in arms, because of the lack of security for the gold. Here is where the excitement really begins.

Erica has done a masterful job of creating characters whom every reader will love, a plot that is hard to put down, and ultimately a book that provides the reader with a rollicking good time. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a sour dough biscuit.

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Huckleberry Harvest

Jennifer Beckstrand writes some funny, touching Amish fiction. Huckleberry Harvest is another one of those with Anna and Felty and Anna's matchmaking efforts. Granddaughter Mandy is coming to visit for four weeks and Anna is on the move to find the man she believes her granddaughter should marry.

Noah Mischler is the supposed boyfriend of Mandy's best friend, Kristina. Kristina recruits Mandy to help her spy on Noah, to try to win Noah's heart. Only thing is Noah is more interested in Mandy than he ever was in Kristina. Anna doesn't believe that a match could be made between Mandy and Noah, so she parades a constant stream of potential suitors in front of Mandy. Felty, on the other hand, is working to get Noah and Mandy together.

There is only one MAJOR issue in Noah's life: his dad is an alcoholic and Noah bears his father's shame like an impenetrable cloak. Mandy only wants to help and Noah sees Mandy's help as interference. When Kristina tells Noah things that he thinks only Mandy knows, he jumps to the conclusion that Mandy has been telling the whole community his business.

Anna is still the kitchen disaster she's always been, yet busy as ever knitting potholders to hand out whenever the whim strikes her. Felty still sings his songs with his own twist on the lyrics. Their love for their grandchildren is still just as strong as ever and Anna especially cannot resist trying to make sure they are all matched up.

Jennifer writes compelling stories with well-developed characters. The only unfortunate thing in this novel is that she follows the romance novel formula. The novel still works and is still worth five stars, two thumbs up, and a knitted potholder to match your kitchen.

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

The Root of Righteousness

Sometimes I like to read something that has some maturity to it by age, but is just as new as today's paper. Today I finished reading The Root of Righteousness by A.W. Tozer. I can't really go into all the things in this book that really touched me, resonated with me, or intrigued me. There are just too many of them. The one thing that soaked in deep for me today is that we think we are loving God, but considering that God is love and is the source of all love, all we can really do is reflect His love back to Him. We truly have no love of our own except God gives it to us. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We are the moon to His Sun/Son set in orbit to reflect His love back to Him and to the rest of the world.

This book was originally published in 1955 and yet every precept is applicable and new today. Since God is timeless, His theology and doctrines are timeless and Tozer has reintroduced those doctrines so eloquently in this book. One point Tozer made is that we are so caught up in bearing fruit that we forget we must be attached to the root of the righteousness to even bear the fruit His righteousness produces. Then he goes on to show us what our attachment to the root should produce in us.

This book is important for every believer. Tozer brings so many precepts in easy-to-understand language, and yet it could be read fairly quickly. I didn't read this quickly because I was ruminating on the precepts presented. Definite Five Stars.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Creole Princess

This is my first June blog post, and I am always surprised at how fast time flies. I often don't know what I am getting into when I sign up to read a book, and The Creole Princess is just such an example. Lyse Lanier lives on the Gulf coast of West Florida, in what is now known as Mobile, Alabama. At the time, it was under Spain's rule and Spain was getting ready to enter into the Revolutionary War. This was not something I learned in school at all, but to be honest, I only learned history long enough to pass the tests, and then promptly forgot it--I wasn't the best student around.

In this book by Beth White, I learned some things. The British weren't always as nice as they seemed, Spain had a significant toe-hold in the North American continent, and love can be found in the unlikeliest places.

Lyse met Rafa on the docks while waiting for Simon to return from fishing. Rafa is enchanted with Lyse and does whatever he has to do to make her acquaintance, and then makes it a point to see Lyse every time he comes to Mobile. What Lyse doesn't know is that she is giving him valuable information that he takes back to New Orleans and helps the Spanish governor there. She finds herself more and more entranced with Rafa and missing him more than ever when he is gone.

The next time she sees Rafa after her father is arrested for treason against Britain, he takes her to New Orleans to live with his mother and sister--but she's not as welcome as it would seem. When Rafa is away, his mother finds a way to ask her to leave her home and Lyse has to find work washing the clothes of the army garrisoned in New Orleans.

There are many characters and subplots in this book that come together to create a rich tapestry. The main characters are well developed and incredibly likable. Some of the minor ones only add to the depth of the story. The historical facts interwoven into the novel are fascinating and shows that Beth has done her research well. Lyse's ancestry makes her an exotic looking woman with an undesirable background. Because of who her mother was, she could have been a slave, and in fact, her cousin was a slave to a vindictive bat of a woman. The portrayals were spot on for the times. It is to my own shame that I do not know more about the Spanish influence in this geographic area and in this historic era. I think now I will learn more.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a fish fry.

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