©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.