©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.