©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Midwife's Tale

I've not read a Delia Parr book, but I've had the best intentions--I have several of her books on my kindle. I was pleased to get The Midwife's Tale to read and review, and it was a good introduction to her work.

Martha Cade returns to Trinity after delivering a baby to find that her daughter has run away with a theatrical troop, but she is immediately called away for another birth. She arrives to find that the doctor has already arrived and bled the mother. She leaves it to the mother to choose who will help deliver her baby and the mother chooses Martha. After the baby is born, Martha tries to follow her daughter only to lose her after she boards a ship for parts unknown. Throughout the novel, Martha helps those around her who need it without a second thought, including the new town doctor. She gets some unusual rewards for her services--including a bird with a broken wing.

Delia has written a book that really intrigues the reader. She has researched her subject well, including the methods of midwives and doctors of the era. She has included terminology common to the times--especially regarding pregnancy--teeming (expecting), grinding pains (earlier stages of labor), and forcing pains (final stages of labor when the baby is actually being born). She has also written an honest book in that Martha talks with God argumentatively, angrily, and finally submissively--she even allows Martha to share her wisdom with other hurting friends.

There is no real romance in this book, but it is an accounting of a quiet midwife living her life the best way she knew how. This is a work of fiction, but the people and events are totally believable. Some of my favorite characters are Fern and Ivy Lynn, two older sisters who own a bakery and make treats that make the mouth water. They are open and giving, but just a bit silly as older spinster sisters can be (I think of the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace--without the elderberry wine--when I think about these sisters). There is also a man and his wife masquerading as a minister who has taken in troubled and homeless boys, only to teach them to steal and fight. The relationship that develops between Martha and one of these boys is remarkable in that she falls in love with this boy, but it has not been written in a cloyingly sweet way. Trust is slow for the boy and yet she finds him a safe haven with a man who is going blind.

I really loved the descriptions of Martha's birthing chair that she took with her whenever she was called to a birthing. The father would sit in the chair with his wife on his legs letting gravity help bring the baby into the world. There was a place for the thighs to rest and a cut-out in the seat allowing the baby to enter the world unhindered.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a bakery treat that makes your mouth water.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book. I was under no obligation to give a good review, only an honest one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Now and Forever

Mary Connealy writes almost with a slapstick in her hand as she writes. Her characters know their parts and play them well and it all adds up to a funny book with just enough suspense to keep the reader hanging on for dear life.

Shannon Wilde sees a man being attacked by a grizzly bear and cannot help herself but has to go to his rescue. By rescuing him, she throws him in the most dangerous river in the area and falls in after him. As they tumble through the rapids, she knows he's injured, and she has to find a place to get them both out of the water or drown. This is where Now and Forever starts.

I THINK this book takes place in Wyoming, I don't remember if the story actually said. I know it is in the west, in a mountainous region, and in an area that is almost lawless. Wyoming would fit all of those conditions along with having rivers in the mountains that would be class 5 rapids broken up by intermittent waterfalls. It's the kind of area both of my children would like to live (my son is close enough to that, but being in the midst of it all the time would be heaven on earth to him.)

To say I enjoyed the book would be an understatement. It's a rollicking good time. My only negative thoughts about the book are the way Matthew Tucker (now Shannon's husband) throws scripture around to suit his own fancy without considering Shannon's feelings at all. It seems that he would have been better served to convince her to come around to his way of thinking without brow-beating her with loose interpretations of the Bible. If it weren't for that, this would be a five star book.

Four Stars

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Mistress of Tall Acre

Laura Frantz has written quality work ever since she picked up a pen to write a novel. Her characters are not only deep, believable people, but they are also very likable (except for the ones she doesn't want her reader to like). After having read many of her novels and after having fallen in love with her writings since The Frontiersman's Daughter, I picked up The Mistress of Tall Acre with great anticipation. I was not disappointed.

First there is Sophie--her father was a Tory and fled the Colonies when the Revolution started. Her brother turned traitor with Benedict Arnold. She's trying to hold body and soul together at her family's plantation, Three Chimneys.

Then there is Lily Cate--she is a ray of sunshine throughout the novel--her father had to kidnap her to regain custody of her after the war was over, but she soon warms up to him, with Sophie's help. She falls in love with Sophie quite quickly too--especially when Sophie gives her a doll after she had to leave hers behind.

General Seamus Ogilvy is finally home from the war, and is trying to make Tall Acres a home again. His wife (as far as he knows) has passed away and he's got to make a home for his daughter and himself. With Sophie as his neighbor, he finds an easy companion, a wonderful role model for his daughter, and unexpectedly, a new love for himself.

Anne Ogilvy is Lily Cate's mother, and a more dislikable character I haven't encountered in a while. She's addicted to drugs and absinthe (very high alcohol content), she faked her death and went to England, and she hasn't been faithful to Seamus.

Laura has created an exceptionally readable novel with all the things readers like, sweet romance, a bit of mystery, some history, and a social conscience.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a plantation to keep you busy.

My thanks to Revell for allowing me to read and review this book. There was no obligation for a good review, only an honest one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Someday Home

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

― Vicki Harrison

When I read this quote today, it fit so well with the book I am reviewing tonight, I had to share it.

Lauraine Snelling has been a quality writer for a number of years and I tell you right now, she hasn't lost her touch. Someday Home is one of those books that just makes the reader feel good all the way through.

Lynn is a widow with a house on the lake bigger than she needs, but she doesn't want to give it up, so she decides to share her home with two other women. Judith is a middle-aged woman whose father has just passed away and left her house to the county for an historical site. Angela is a woman whose husband tells her on their 25th anniversary he wants a divorce.

These three women have to work through anger, grief, and disillusionment and find their place in God's hands. To read the narrative as the women grow into the women God has meant for them to be is a tremendous pleasure. Lauraine will pull the readers' heart strings, bring tears to their eyes, and fill them with love.

Judith finds herself learning to cook, Angela rediscovers her love of cooking, Lynn finds herself learning to share and not to "over-mother" the others in her home. The three become sisters in every sense of the word--except for genetics.

Someday Home is not a romance, but it does fit into the women's fiction category. A definite five stars, two thumbs up, and a canoe ride on a quiet lake.

My thanks to FaithWords for allowing me to read and review this book. My only requirement was to be honest in my feelings about the book.

Monday, September 7, 2015

95 Theses and more

When Jody Hedlund writes a novel about real people, I sit up and take notice. I've had her latest such offering on my TBR pile for a while and decided I needed to get to it. That was my best choice. Luther and Katharina is so good that I didn't turn on the tv today until I finished it.

Katharina has been living at the Marienthron Convent since she was five years old. Two of her aunts also live there, but after reading some of Martin Luther's tracts on salvation by grace alone, Katharina has become rather discontent with the living conditions at the convent, with the single life, and with the thought of never having children. In a daring move, she escapes from the convent with several other nuns who have come to the same conclusions. By escaping, she has placed herself in the protection of Martin Luther, the reformer himself. In the initial meeting, sparks fly between both of them and everyone around them notices. Luther has no desire to marry and enjoys his sparring with Katharina, calling her a hissing Katzen.

Luther made it his career to rescue nuns and monks from their cloisters and to show them that grace is the source of salvation at a time when the Pope and the Vatican officials held the world in their hands and controlled the governments from their lofty, ivory towers. Luther's proclamations served to anger the Catholic officials to the point they wanted his life.

Katharina was taught the healing arts of herbal medicines and used them quite often to help anyone around her who needed it. At least once her healing abilities were called on to help with Luther before their marriage. Luther had friends who didn't trust her but when they saw how gentle she was and how much she actually helped him, they began to see her in a different light altogether--not just as a healer but as Luther's wife.

The time period this book encompasses is one of social and political unrest, spiritual rebellion, and general chaos. Jody has done a masterful job of portraying the issues along with the interactions of Luther and Katharina. I wish I could give more than five stars, but that's all they allow. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a healing herbal remedy.

My thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book. I was not required to give a good review, only an honest one.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Love Is . . .

When you pick up a nine novella collection, you are looking for quick little reads that will occupy an hour or two and not engage too many brain cells, or at least I do. So, when I read the Timeless Love Romance Collection, I knew I was in for some not too deep entertainment. And I got exactly what I was looking for, which was a great thing.

These novellas range from turn of the twentieth century to post World War II, and there is at least one story that takes on each era of the time covered: post World War I, the Depression, and post WW II. The issues and difficulties of living through these eras are plainly portrayed and the authors have done a great job of pulling their stories together.

One of the stories was quite thought provoking for me--Finding Yesterday by Jennifer Rogers Spinola, because she included in her setting the Civilian Conservation Corps and the work projects that program sponsored. I was talking about this with a friend of mine yesterday, and I asked her why our welfare recipients are not involved in something like this. I feel that handing people money month after month without their needing to earn it has demolished the national work ethic. Our society has become one where we can hold our hand out and expect someone else to fill it. We are too entitled. (Oops, I just veered onto my soap box.) I think Jennifer did an excellent job of showing how working for something fills the need to be productive.

I liked every one of these stories and can honestly recommend the collection to any of my friends. Four Strong Stars.

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