©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Love Letters!

Kathleen Fuller writes incredible Amish Fiction that is not only easy to read, but it draws the reader in from the very first page until the very last words. Her latest offering: Written in Love is no different. Phoebe lives with her Aenti Bertha--a woman of such strict standards that they seem higher than God's standards. Quite by accident, a letter from Jalon Chubb ends up at Phoebe and Aunt Bertha's home, so Phoebe sends it back to Jalon with a quick note. Jalon writes back and then a pen pal relationship begins. Everything was flying along until Aenti Bertha got to the mail before Phoebe and found Jalon's latest letter. Aenti Bertha went off her deep end and prohibited Phoebe from writing to Jalon again.

From Aenti Bertha to Bishop Weaver, things just don't work out for Phoebe. During her rumschpringe, she ends up pregnant, but since then, she's tried to live by the Ordnung and raise her son right. Because of the bishop, she had to leave her community and Aenti Bertha is the one relative who would take her in.

Jalon had his own secrets he wasn't telling Phoebe that were eating his gut out. The problem is, Jalon's secrets weren't his fault in any way, and it kept him from friendship with his favorite cousin, Adam.

One of the reasons I loved this book is that Jalon's sister is named Leanna--my daughter's name, even down to the same spelling. Kathleen's characters are so personable that the reader wants to befriend them (except Bishop Weaver and Aenti Bertha). The place-settings seem like places I'd like to visit.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a love letter in your mail box.

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Newcomer

Suzanne Woods Fisher has a way of writing Amish fiction that is compelling at the very least. Her research is impeccable and her plots move along like water in a babbling brook--steady, but neither too fast nor too slow. In her newest novel, The Newcomer, she's branched out into historical Amish fiction. This historical fiction novel takes the reader back to mid-1700s. The Fancy Nancy has ported in Philadelphia and the immigrants are slowly being allowed to get off the ship. Bairn has found his parents and fallen in love with Anna. Now it's time for the group to find where they are going to settle. They have land warrants that are north of Lancaster, but those land warrants aren't going to do them any good.

Suzanne has included a con artist who fools most of the settlement, an imp full of mischief, and the odd assortment of busy-bodies that create any group of settlers. When Bairn decides to go back to sea (the lure of money took him there), Anna is not sure that she can wait for him, even as much as she loves him. News comes to the settlement that the ship Bairn is on caught fire and it is reported there are no survivors, so Anna marries the newcomer to fill a need within the settlement.

This is a great book that includes a couple of historical figures, a great deal of information about pioneering and settling the country, a cast of likable characters, and the hardships of creating a new settlement. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a new cabin in the woods.

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dime Novel Review

Susan Page Davis writes fun romances that entertain the reader. Her latest offering reads much like a dime novel. I haven't ever read a dime novel before, but My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains reads like what I imagine a dime novel might read. There are acts of derring do, an orphan damsel in distress, and a hero in a white hat, along with a villain disguised as the damsel's uncle.

Carmela's uncle got custody of her when she was twelve years old after her parents passed away while they were moving west from Boston. He decided that she needed to pay her own way and line his pockets by claiming that she was captured by Indians. He would line up speaking engagements for Carmela and expect her to thoroughly detail a life she never lived. On the way to her next engagement, the stage coach was overrun by bandits, and she ends up handcuffed to the Deputy Marshall.

I truly enjoyed the book and can't wait till Susan's next novel comes out. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a dime novel for your afternoon's enjoyment.

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Amish Weddings

Leslie Gould writes Amish fiction that captures the reader from the very first word and doesn't let go until the very last word, and there are a lot of words in between to read. All those words work together to make a wonderful story of love and forgiveness.

Lila is going to marry Zane, but before that can happen, a man hits her buggy from behind and she's ejected from her buggy. Now she's got a lot of healing to do because of the accident. Rose has been courting Reuben and she's waiting for him to ask her to marry him.

Unexpectedly, Zane's friend, Trevor comes to town and wants to have a little fling with Rose and because Reuben is dragging his feet, Rose thinks this flirtation could be a bit of rumschpringe, since she never had an opportunity to have one before. Rose uses the time she's spending helping Lila to meet with Trevor.

Leslie has taken a common situation and shown how one small decision can snowball into a huge situation that's hard to sort out. I really can't add any more details about the story because I would spoil the plot. But Amish Weddings is the second in a series, but it stands alone quite well. The characters are sympathetic, and easily likable. Many of the characters seem like they would be wonderful friends, that's how real Leslie develops them.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a dear Amish friend.

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

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Message in a Bottle Collection

Begin with a monk in a monastery trying to save the scripture from burning from invading marauders. Then throughout history the bottle turns up and acts as a catalyst to unite couples in a way that they never thought possible. This is the premise of this collection of romance stories that are great for whiling away a few afternoons or for relaxing before bed.

The bottle has a word in Latin engraved around the mouth of the bottle: Spero or hope. Each of the couples in the novellas derive hope from the words that are written inside the bottle, or from the bottle itself. Each novella gets better as the reader goes through the book. My favorite one was the last one and hope was so much an integral part of the story.

This is a five star collection, two thumbs up, and a bottle full of hope.

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Home at Last

Deborah Raney has written four previous Chicory Inn novels and is now releasing her fifth and last in this series. Home at Last is amazing! There is no other word for it. It is poignant, sweet, and funny all at the same time.

Link is the last of Audrey and Grant's children to still be unmarried and while his parents put no pressure on him, they do want him to be happy with his life. When his mother asks him to stop by the bakery to get some things she needs for the B&B they run, he almost hits a little girl who runs out in the street in front of him. The little girl is Shayla's niece of the bakery and meeting her lights a spark in Link. The problem is she's biracial and her father doesn't approve of Link's whiteness. Link has his work cut out for him to win over Shayla's father, but he feels he's up for the job.

Deborah has taken on a social issue and brought it to light in a novel of depth and incredible perception. Link and Shayla have to overcome prejudices of society, of family, and of themselves. Within the novel are some suspenseful moments where some of society's outcasts insert themselves into the situation and verbalize their ignorance and involves Shayla's niece.

This is no less than a five star book, with two thumbs up, and some bakery pastries to eat while you read.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

An Uncommon Protector

I like what Shelley Shepard Gray writes, her stories have a sweet tone to them all the way through. I was excited to read her latest offering: An Uncommon Protector, but I was a bit disappointed when I found that the story is one I've read many times before--not this particular story, but the theme of the story. In fact, the Coasters made a song out of it. It seems that a girl trying to hold onto her family's property, while an unscrupulous suitor wants her land, water rights, cattle, or something. The most unlikely person in the county comes to the rescue of the damsel in distress.

Shelley has a deft hand with her writing, her plots generally suck the reader in and don't let go. It's just that this theme has been done over and over again. Still it's an enjoyable book for a rainy/snowy afternoon. And Shelley, if you read this post, I'm not giving up on you.

Four Stars

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me

Alice-Ann has loved Boyd MacKay (Mack) since she can remember, and on the night of her birthday party, she's going to tell him she loves him. Except on the night of her birthday party, news flashes on the radio that Pearl Harbor has been bombed. All the young men of Bynum, Georgia, decide to go enlist--at least the ones who are fit do. Alice-Ann promises to write to Mack frequently and has him write to her in care of her best friend, Maeve. She is faithful to write until his letters stop coming. After about a year or so after the letters stop, Mack has been declared dead. As soon as school is out, she gets a job at the bank, which is right across the street from Maeve's family's five and dime store. Maeve comes busting into the bank one day to tell Alice-Ann that her brother has been injured in Europe, is home, and pretty despondent because he cannot see or walk. Then Maeve asks Alice-Ann to come over and read to Carlton, just to keep him company.

Eva Marie Everson tells captivating stories that lure the readers in, waggles them about, and doesn't let them go until they are good and ready. I loved This Fine Life, and the Pot-Luck Sisters series, but The One True Love of Alice-Ann is by far the most exquisite story she's told. She has told the narrative mostly through Alice-Ann's eyes, and I can relate so well to the struggles Alice-Ann has about herself, because they are the same struggles I have about me, down to the front tooth overlapping the other. The way Eva Marie built Alice-Ann and Carlton's friendship is so quietly superb that the love that grows between them seems organic rather than forced.

But, the book isn't just about Carlton's and Alice-Ann's relationship, it's about Alice-Ann coming of age during a war, it's about Alice-Ann coming to terms with her brother's wife and then actually becoming friends, it's about Alice-Ann growing up without a mother but feeling ignored by her father, and it's about her relationship with her father's sister, Aunt Bess. There is so much life that is lived day to day through-out the book, the reader feels at home reading it. This is a Five Star, Two Thumbs Up book, with time spent with a wounded soldier.

My Thanks to Tyndale House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stars in the Grass

I have never had a book have me in tears from the first chapters, but I was only half an hour into the book and already I was crying. In some respects I was angry with the author, but as I read on, I understood there was no other way to tell the story, but honestly, killing a three-year-old boy off in the first chapters was beyond the pale.

Now that my rant is out of the way, Stars in the Grass is one of the most masterfully told tales I've read in a while. Ann Marie Stewart takes a tragedy that could destroy a family and works little by little to bring the family closer together, but not without quite a few struggles. As the readers become more and more acquainted with the characters, they will be able to empathize with the feelings of hurt and anger the family feels in this drama, and they will see how a ten year old girl will be the catalyst for healing in the family.

Amazon's synopsis sums up the book quite well:
The idyllic world of nine-year-old Abby McAndrews is transformed when a tragedy tears her family apart. Before the accident, her dad, Reverend John McAndrews, had all the answers, but now his questions and guilt threaten to destroy his family. Abby’s fifteen-year-old brother, Matt, begins an angry descent as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads. Set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with—and ultimately celebrates—an authentic story of faith and life after loss.
It just doesn't tell how well Ann Marie Stewart told the story, how deeply her characters were developed and how the settings within the book made the story all the more real. I grew up in the South and like Abby, I caught fireflies almost every summer evening. I live in the Northwest now, and I miss what I called "lightning bugs" when I was growing up.

I wish I could give this book more than five stars, but the other websites where I post only allow five. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a mason jar full of fireflies on a summer night.

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Memory of Love

Callie has been living in the Moravian settlement of Shoenbrunn in the O he yo territory west of Pennsylvania. Since the flood hit the orphanage where she was living four years ago, her memory of everything previous to that time has basically been erased. She is the county healer, but her skills and knowledge are sketchy, but she does the best she can. Joshua Johnston has come to the settlement looking for her but she has no memory of him at all. She does know that there was some connection, but her mind can't bring it back.

This is how Tammy Shuttlesworth introduces her novel, The Memory of Love. Callie has a sister living with her named Sarah, who does her best to aggravate Callie. What I don't understand and what I feel is never dealt with in the novel or the one that follows is if Callie's memory is gone, why doesn't Sarah help Callie try to remember. Sarah's memories are never spoken of in either novel, but I feel they could have added to the plot and given it more substance.

In Healing Sarah's Heart, Sarah is traveling with her friend, Bessie, and Sarah's son, Samuel. Sarah's husband, Levi, was killed in an Indian uprising. When they come to the fort where they are to stay for a while, Sarah meets Bessie's brother, Jeremiah. This novel takes place about five years after The Memory of Love and brings the reader through the trials that are the war for independence from Britain.

Tammy has done a good job with her novels, but the issues of Callie's memories, and Sarah's lack of concern for them are what brings it down to a four star book. Still a very good read.

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Home on the Range

Choosing what to read can sometimes be a conundrum. Most of the time I read the blurb on the back of the book, but sometimes I just pick it out based on the picture on the cover. This time I picked out the book based on the cover, and while the cover is intriguing, it can be just a bit misleading.

Nick's daughter, Cheyenne, is failing at school and her anger is getting in the way of her school progress, which at her young age, can hang her up in years to come. The principal of Cheyenne's school recommends a psychologist who deals with children and anger issues, but the only kink in the works is that the psychologist isn't currently practicing. Elsa has suffered hurts of her own and in her own healing feels she cannot work.

Ruth Logan Herne writes compelling novels set in an area that I know quite well, and while Gray's Glen is an imaginary town, the area is a place where I've lived. It was so much fun to read about places I know so well.

Home on the Range is such a wonderful description of ranch life, family life, and daily struggles common to many of us. Ruth's second novel in the Double S Ranch series is a great book that dives into some of the hard issues of today's society--absentee parents, anger that comes from misunderstandings and unsolved issues, and guilt over failures that are no one's fault. Add to the mix a bit of precociousness from a six-year-old child, a rude macaw, and a couple of whelping dogs, and you have a recipe for a great novel. Ruth's ability to develop her characters and settings make her books so readable. While I haven't read the first book in this series, this second book stands alone quite well, but I am waiting with 'bated breath to see the final book of the series come out.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a macaw who yells that you're a jerk

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

For the Record

Regina Jennings is an author with enough of a resume to tickle anyone's fancy. Her latest offering, For the Record, pits a young lady, Betsy, trying to earn her own author stripes against a deputy sheriff, Joel, trying to keep his badge.

Betsy knows she's a drain on her uncle's budget and she's in the way at his house, and since he married her friend, Sissy, he has no need for Betsy to continue helping him with his children. Betsy wants to be a writer, but all of her submissions to other newspapers have been rejected. So she decides to write a serial novel. She follows Joel around collecting things he says, ways he walks and talks, and breath-taking descriptions of him.

Joel has been called in to quell a vigilante group from riding through the town at night and scaring the residents. At first, he's a bit perturbed about Betsy's presence, but eventually, . . . well, let's just say they come to an understanding.

Regina has a way of writing that includes humor as well as pathos in her plots. She uses the setting only to further the movement of the plot and her characters stand well on their own. This is a solid four star book.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Secrets of Ruth

Elimelech and Naomi had a crop failure because of a drought in Israel, so they traveled a bit to the east to the land of Moab and settled there. While they were there, their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, both married Moabite women, and Elimelech died. Eventually Mahlon and Chilion also die. Embittered, Naomi decides to go back to Israel. Ruth and Orpah, the daughters-in-law, follow, but Orpah turns back after Naomi's urgings. Ruth commits to staying by Naomi's side, whatever the cost, whatever the outcome.

Patricia Mitchell has drawn out the life of Ruth and exposed the work God did in her life and how it applies to us. It is in a devotional format in easy-to-read, short daily snippets. Secrets of Ruth speaks to the heart of women who want to do what matters most to God and that is exactly what Patricia has done in this book. One thing that will stand out to the reader is that following God isn't always easy, nor is it without cost, just as Ruth found out herself.

This is a five star book for women who matter to God.

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

Secrets and Sisters

I have participated in Secret Santa and secret sister type gift exchanges. They were lots of fun and yielded so many blessings--for me as the giver as well as the receiver.

Jessica and Liz have taken on a ministry started by Jessica's Aunt Rose, one that requires absolute secrecy so that the recipient is totally surprised. Lydia is their first project. She lost her husband, Henry, in the same fire that took Jessica's Aunt Rose. Liz and Jessica bought Henry's shirts at an auction of all his belongings, took them home and made a quilt from them. In the dead of night, they snuck the quilt back to Lydia's.

Lydia went into town to run a few errands and to look for a job. She stops in Rose's Knit One, Quilt Too Cottage during a rush and ends up helping Jessica with the rush. Jessica offers Lydia a job and now the sisters are a complete three-some.

The Sisters of Sugarcreek is a sweet story with just a touch of romance thrown in for good measure. Cathy Liggett has done a masterful job of creating this story and weaving some Amish customs and lore into the plot. That Lydia is the only Amish person among the sisters matters not to Jessica and Liz, she is accepted as she is and encircled into their friendship. The plot has more to do with friendship than romance and that made it a breath of fresh air for me. While Lydia is an accomplished Amish cook and Liz knows quite a bit about cooking, cooking isn't the mainstay of this book, knitting and quilting are.

This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a recipe for Amish peanut butter spread.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Matchmaker Brides

I met my husband on a blind date. I had been seeing one of his coworkers who told me that my husband was soon going to be moving and he wanted someone to go out with him before he moved. So I guess you could say that I was set up by a matchmaker. It wasn't any big deal, but we hit it off and six months later, we got married.

The book I just finished is a potpouri of novellas about matchmakers who meet their match. A couple of the authors are among my favorites and these novellas all meet the quality of writing I enjoy most. I think my favorite of the olio is the last one in the book (whose title I have forgotten--the story was more important)--Len Montgomery is the new pastor in town and someone from Des Moines writes him a letter asking him to find a wife to help him on the farm and mother his five children. Cora Thomas is the postmistress who handles the mail. Rusty is the newspaper editor who publishes the letter that creates a nationwide hubbub of people looking to be matched up. Cora and Len work together to answer the letters and to try to find matches for all these seekers. What they don't realize is that they are matches themselves.

These are cute stories with busy-body matchmakers who meet their own matches and find themselves heading toward nuptial bliss. Barbour Books publishes a lot of these collections--historical and contemporary, and each one is a gem in its own right. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a matchmaker to make a match for you.

I appreciate Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Innkeeper

I absolutely adore Julie Klassen and have since I read her first book, Lady of Milkweed Manor, and now she is releasing her first book of a series. This means that there are guaranteed books to come by a favorite author!!!!!!!!!!!!

I finished The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill this afternoon and it really struck me that Julie changed her writing style somewhat for this book. While there is quite a bit of narrative, the story moves along based on conversations. The characters are developed through conversations. The setting is furthered through conversations. The whole book revolves around conversations, moreso than other books I've read. I know that sometimes actions move the plot along, it was a bright discovery to find that conversations move the plot just as well.

Amazon summarizes the book with these words:
The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place.

This book is not a romance in the sense that Jane, the protagonist, becomes enamored of a suitor, but there are small bits of romance woven into the warp and woof of the novel, and help to move the plot forward. This is a five-star, two thumbs up book, with a night at a roadside inn for your rest.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The American Heiress Brides Collection

The American Heiress Brides Collection is such a great olio of novellas, I had a hard time putting it down. Some of the stories had me in tears, some had me laughing out loud, some had me reaching for wishes that I could befriend the protagonists. In each of the narratives, each girl was wealthy, or at least had been wealthy at one time, and she had the challenge of finding a man who would not be gold-digging money-grubber. In many cases, the men had wealth of their own and did not need his bride's money.

This was a perfect book for my Sunday this past weekend--I spent most of the day in one airport or another, or in one airplane or another, where I had almost unlimited time to read. I was thrilled to have such a good collection of narratives to read.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an unexpected inheritance.

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

My Heart Belongs

Once in a while, I find myself reading a book by a favorite author that just doesn't fulfill that author's usual quality of writing. My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas, is just one of those books. Erica Vetsch writes with a deft hand and I've read many of her novellas and enjoyed every single word. This one dragged from the very beginning and never let up.

Amazon's synopsis of the book states:
Introducing a new series of historical romances created for readers who love historical destinations. Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin’ eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family?

There are a few twists in the plot, but I didn't find them all that compelling. This is a matter of tasted, and I am in no way abandoning Erica as a favorite author. This book is just a miss--FOR ME.

Two Stars

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Valentine

Darlene and her father are Jewish people living in New York City, and she helps him in his tailoring shop. Pierce and his father frequent the shop and are friends with Darlene's father. Pierce and his father are also Christians and have been talking to Darlene's father about Jesus being the Messiah.

Tracie Peterson has wrapped the ultimate love story into this story of love growing between two people. She does it in such a way that does not come across preachy, but comes across as genuine. She has told the story of coming to terms with who Jesus is to each one of us, and how His love is so complete that it allows us to love others as He loves us.

Sally Laity has written the bonus story in this book--Little Shoes and Mistletoe. Eliza has come to New York to stay with her elderly aunt after her fiancee jilted her and ran off with her best friend. Through her aunt, she meets Micah, whose mission in life is to minister to the poor and needy. He takes her along on some of his relief work and she meets two little girls whose mother has just passed away. Through these children, Eliza's heart is opened to love again. There's only one hitch. Micah is supposed to marry Anabelle, but the two just don't mesh well. All things work out as they must do in these kinds of books, but it is still a very sweet story about fulfilling needs and sharing of what's been given to us.

Definitely a five star book with two thumbs up and real men who rescue us from ourselves.

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

Where Two Hearts Meet

I read and reviewed the first book of the Red Door Inn Series and absolutely loved it. In this second installment, Marie and Seth are pretty much esconced in running the Red Door Inn, while Caden is running the kitchen. The only fly in the ointment is that the Inn needs some repairs and money is tight. The only saving grace is that a travel writer is coming to spend some time at the Inn and the publicity can make or break the Inn.

Adam Jacobs has been exiled to Prince Edward Island in order to get his mind back on straight and write his final story in his contract. His first sin is to invade Caden's kitchen and then Marie asks Caden to show him around the island, thinking he is the travel writer. Adam's story is supposed to be the story of Marie's family and her father's ruthlessness in his real estate dealings.

In the meantime, Caden has to come up with a lobster dish to compete in the island's festival, competing against her high school nemesis. One of the well-known Toronto restauranteurs is one of the judges who comes to the Inn and sees Caden in action--especially her program to teach some high school students basic cooking.

Liz Johnson creates mouth-watering descriptions of characters, places, and food. Her characters become friends who can make you cry, laugh, and help you pig out on some of the best pastries you've ever put into your mouth. The places become as familiar as your hometown, and the food is to die for.

This is a book worth five stars, two thumbs up, and a melt-in-your-mouth pastry

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

One of the Few

I hate doing posts like this, and I know I will be in the minority in my opinions, but this time I have to do what I have to do. Jason B Ladd has written a book about Marine Life and the Christian World View and what they need to have in common. He comes from a lineage of service and serves gladly on his own, but it is where his Marine life and his Christianity collided that make this book what it is.

I found his narratives about his life in the Marines--while growing up, and as an adult--fascinating. The discipline required to be a Marine is incomparable in any other setting. The discipline required to be a Christian is also incomparable in any setting. Here is where Jason tries to merge the two cultures.

Here are my criticisms:

1. The narrative of the story is disjointed--hopping back and forth in time and place. It makes the line of thought hard to follow.
2. The comparisons between Marine and Christianity becomes preachy. I found that to be rather off-putting. For someone who is already a Christian, it is rather like beating a dead horse. For someone who is not a Christian, it becomes a point of resistance. I am sure there are other readers who find this kind of material uplifting, but I read another book with the same kind of "preachiness" in it and also found it to be over the top.

I will not say there is not a place for this book, but I did not find my place with it. Two Stars.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An Amish Home

This collection of four novellas is different from most books of this sort. Yes, it's a bit of a romance collection, but it's more of a telling of couples who are already married and who are facing troubles that put their marriages in danger. It's a narrative of overcoming the trials that every couple faces from one time or another. These stories are written by four top drawer authors who have pretty much perfected their craft in writing full length novels but they do not lose any quality in writing these shorter novellas. Each of the couples learns so much about depending on God for guidance, for support, for protection; and they learn to lean on each other with love and prayer. One of the stories is about a Christian couple who are not Amish but he work for an Amish man and is influenced by the Amish man's faith and steadfastness. This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and an Amish friend who can point you in the right direction.

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Christmas at Forest Hill

Joel's wife, Florence, died shortly after giving birth to their baby girl, Grace, and leaving behind two very young boys. Joel needed help and fast. His father, the bishop, calls a bishop in another Amish settlement asking if there is someone who can come and help Joel with his children. The bishop immediately thinks of Rose and calls on her to see if she's willing to go and help. Her father answers for her and so the very next day, she is on her way to Forest Hill to assist in any way she could. She's not there long before Joel's father comes to tell Joel he needs to marry Rose for her to stay and take care of the children. Rose accepts the marriage of convenience with only a few conditions--being friends with the woman who coordinated getting breast milk for baby Grace, and that Joel will always be kind to her.

Rose's past is talked about early in the story--the fact that her mother verbally abused her and her father basically ignored her. It takes Joel a while to get past the grief of Florence's death and begin to live again, but when he's about to tell Rose that his love has grown for her, his late wife's mother sticks a wrench into the works and involves the bishop into their marriage.

Cindy Woodsmall has written a formulaic romance with an Amish twist, but the romance formula does not detract from the narrative at all. In fact, the romance formula* makes the story worth reading this time. It's not trite, it's not inane, it actually helps the story along. It does not take long to read the book and it is a good book to fill in an afternoon. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cup of hot cocoa to warm you up after an afternoon of sledding.

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

*Romance Formula
Boy meets Girl
Boy gets Girl
Boy loses Girl
Boy gets Girl back

The Pattern Artist

I chose this book without reading the synopsis simply because of the title. This book is about patterns and sewing and high fashion in 1911 and 1912. I read it in one day simply because it was too fascinating to put down.

Annie Wood is an upstairs maid for the Viscountess Newley and her daughter, Henriette. She assists the ladies' maids for these ladies and when sewing is needed, Annie does it--especially if there is bead work involved. While she believed that she would be promoted up through the ranks, the ladies' maids were taking credit for all of her work. Annie was included on a trip from England to America and spent her time rooming with a similar maid, Iris, in a similar position. Annie and Iris were accosted by one of the footmen and decided they weren't going to be treated that way, so they ran away. Annie got a job at Macy's in the fabric and sewing department, while Iris got a job with a baker's wife, caring for her children.

This is the basic set up Nancy Moser used in writing this novel. Annie understood much about sewing and fashion because of her handling of Newley ladies' dresses--especially the couture clothing. This understanding caught the attention of the salesman for Butterick patterns, a man named Sean. He talked to his superiors at Butterick and secured a place for her there, because he wanted to be near her on a daily basis. The world of making the patterns for the home sewist opened up to me and I was fascinated.

I have sewn with Butterick patterns and other brands as well. I do hand sewing (mostly for dolls) and machine sewing and absolutely love it. My mother began teaching me to sew when I was thirteen and told me that once I mastered sewing well, I'd get more clothes if I made them myself. For a young teen, that motivates well. I appreciate how Nancy has included different parts of sewing into the warp and woof of the novel. I love the characters that Nancy has included to fill out the depth of the story and her descriptions of parts of New York City are quite incredible--especially the Butterick Building. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a sewing machine to aid your sewing projects.

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

EVerybody Dance, Now

I'm struggling with a title for this post. "I could have danced all night and still have begged for more,..." or "Shall we dance? Shall we dance?" Either would fit the bill for this story of a family going through some of the most difficult times a family can face. I jumped into this series with book number three, and while I didn't get the nuances of the first two, this third one does fine on its own.

Jane and Leander are the happy parents of a number of children
and I may be forgetting one or two.

Leander has ALS and Jane denies that it is the death sentence it's known to be. Most of the book is about redefining Jane's faith and finding her peace with God regardless of circumstances.

Laura has a drinking problem, but she's so far from home, her family only knows that she has become distant.

Ivy had adopted three children who have been abandoned by their mother, and one of the children has a serious anger issue.

Amy has been friends with Mitch for a long time, but Mitch has had to deal with his issues and they have decided they will be nothing more than friends until he's been sober for a year

Sephy and her new husband, Justice, have moved to Namibia to work in a mission--Sephy as a nurse and Justice as a veterinarian.

With every step of deterioration in Leander, Jane becomes more militant in her stance that God will heal him. When he starts walking with a cane, she rails at him for not having strong enough faith. In the midst of Leander's troubles, Jane's sister Ellen asks Jane to come visit. Their relationship has not been a close one for a long time and Jane doesn't know what to expect. If she was hoping for a warm welcome, she was sorely mistaken. Ellen is just as prickly as she's ever been.

There is a lot of angst in the book, They Danced On, Jane's for Leander, Laura's for her addiction, Ivy's for her children, Jane's for the son she gave up for adoption, Jane's for her sister Ellen, but all of it seems necessary for the plot to move at its intended pace. With as many characters in the book as there are, Carre Armstrong Gardner has done an admirable job in giving them depth and personality. I truly enjoyed the book and give it five stars, two thumbs up, and faith to face anything that comes your way.

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016


A couple of years ago, I found a couple of books by David Gregory that turned my world upside down. They asked the question of "What if?"--What if Jesus invited you to dinner? What if you got to spend a day with Jesus? How would those events change your life? I was intrigued, I was pulled in, I was shaken a bit, and I was challenged. Tyndale House has now published another book by David that changes the reader's thinking, expectations, and gives the reader a feeling of having been with Emma in her adventures.

David's question in this book is what does it mean to grow spiritually. What is spiritual growth? At the beginning of the book, Emma is rather broken by her breakup with her boyfriend, she's feeling abandoned, alone, and spiritually dry. She comes home from work to find a card in her mail with a cryptic note inside: Go through the first open door. She writes down every open door she can think of on a mental level--get a different job, move in with her friend, change churches, but those don't seem to be what is meant. So she goes into her bedroom, but nothing there catches her eye. Then she sees that the pantry door is open just a bit. She opens it wider and finds herself on a boat in the middle of a storm in first century Israel. And she begins an adventure with Jesus that comes full circle to her finding what true spiritual growth is--Abide.

Since finishing the book, I've been thinking about what abiding means for me. How do I abide in Jesus? First I have to remember that Jesus is fully man with the emotions and feelings that make Him most empathetic to me, but He is also fully God and by virtue of the fact that He is fully God, He is fully Love. It took several episodes with Jesus for Emma to figure all of this out, and I can relate. It often takes me a while for these kinds of things to soak into my spirit, but once it's there, it's there indefinitely.

One thing about David Gregory's books is that it doesn't take a lot of time to read them, but it takes quite a bit of time to digest the information he presents. I found not only his story, but also his precepts compelling. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and Jesus to calm your storm.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This Road

For the most part, I do not like Jane Kirkpatrick, but for some reason I keep picking up her books and reading them. I even have three of her books that are sitting in my TBR pile. I will say this: Jane writes fascinating prose that engages the reader from the very first page. Her depth of character development makes the reader feel intimately acquainted with the characters, and the plot movement gives the reader the feeling of actually being in the moment of the narrative.

Jane's books are based on historical figures and are basically novelizations of real events. Some of the extraneous characters may be products of her imagination, but they give depth and color to the story.

I chose This Road We Traveled simply because it gives a firsthand look at traveling the Oregon Trail. Last year, my husband and I took a road trip to follow the Oregon Trail and saw many of the same things that Tabby and her family saw. While ours was a car trip, the landscape and scenery was pretty much the same.
Throughout the book Tabatha Moffatt Brown is writing her memoirs as a way to appease her granddaughter and as a way to remember how far she'd come in her life. Her son, Orus, decided to move to the Oregon Territory, but he wants Tabby to stay behind. Tabby is a strong woman with strong opinions, strong words, and strong actions, but she uses a lot of her strength to lean on God. Without knowing just how old Tabby was at the time of the trip, I would have placed her age in her mid-seventies, but at the age of sixty-five, she begins campaigning for education for the children of Oregon. Tabby's group suffered the hardships of lack of food, wagon accidents, families being broken up, lack of water, and general fatigue on the way.

This is indeed a five star book with two thumbs up and a trip down the Oregon Trail with a memoir.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

And, no, this is not about the movie/play of the same name. This is about Seven Brides for Seven Texans published by Barbour Publishing.

Seven critically acclaimed authors collaborated to bring together seven Hart brothers and their brides. George Washington Hart has written his will and added a codicil that would shake even the mightiest of men. He has declared that each son will receive a part of the 7 Heart Ranch (which by the descriptions in the various novellas is HUGE) as soon as they are married. The kicker is that each son must be married before the year is out. The youngest son, Hays, decided that he would take the plunge first by posting advertisements around town. Travis, the doctor of the family, was the next to fall into the hands of love, and then one by one, each domino fell. Along the way, each man had to overcome reluctance of his bride, possibly solve a mystery, fall in love, and then present his bride to his family. Each son found a bride who was a perfect fit in personality and grace.

I absolutely loved this collection of short novels. There's just enough intrigue in each one to keep the reader engaged and there's enough romance to satisfy my heart. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a HUGE family reunion.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

I just finished this book a few minutes ago and there is one thing I absolutely HATE about it. It ended. No loose ends were tied up neatly in a bow. Now I HAVE to wait until the next book in the series comes out to find out what happened. In Connilyn Cossette's first book, Counted with the Stars (reviewed here) begins with the story of Kiya and secondarily the story of Shira. While Kiya plays an important part in Shadow of the Storm, the story is Shira's, how she becomes a midwife, how she finds herself involved in difficult births without feeling that she has the training, how a couple of the women in the camp have come to hate her without cause, and how she turns that hate upside down just by finding her strength.

The Israelites have escaped Pharaoh and are now living in the wilderness while Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments. They collect manna every morning, and work on the Tent of Meeting. Shira believes that she's called to be a midwife, even though her mother wants her to continue with weaving and dying wool. The very first time Shira assists Reva with a birth, Reva recognizes Shira's talent for calming mothers and her strength in assisting mothers give birth. When she is called to Leisha's tent to assist in her delivery, she finds that Leisha is married to the man she has admired for a long time. When Leisha dies in birth, Shira wants to give up midwifing, but Yahweh has other plans.

There are several biblical concepts that Connilyn includes in her book: forgiving is freeing, appearances are not as important as what is on the inside of a person, and God is not a being to be messed with--He requires ultimate devotion. I love books that help me grow and this one does just that.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a calm delivery for your next baby.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Devoted

Suzanne Woods Fisher is among my favorite Amish fiction authors, and with her newest offering, she does not disappoint. One of my favorite characteristics of Suzanne's books is that she shares what the characters are learning from the Bible and about living as Christ desires. The biblical concepts put forth in the book really shone into my life for my own Christian walk. That's a rare thing to find in a novel and I love finding it here.

Ruthie wants to do something important with her life, but she has no clue what that is. Luke Schrock wants to be her boyfriend, but his behavior has been degenerating and she wants to distance herself from him because of it. Ruthie has been helping Rose King with her Inn at Eagle Hill and prepares the cabin for a coming visitor who wishes to join the Amish church. After Ruthie has double-checked the cabin and is making her way home, she runs into a stranger who seems befuddled and possibly injured. He asks Ruthie for a place to stay and her only option was to allow the man to stay in the cabin. The next morning, the man was dead, and no one knew why.

Patrick Kelly shows up as the mystery around the dead man is uncovered. He has rented the cabin for a month but can't stay there until the investigation into the mystery man's death is resolved. Instead, he is offered Jesse Schrock's room across the road from the Inn, where he meets Ruthie and engages her as a tutor to teach him Pennsylvania Dutch.

David Schrock is the Bishop of the Amish church and is seeing things that stick in his gut as not being as right as they should be. Oil was found in the area and many of the parishioners have oil leases on their land, but they have become more self-centered, less willing to help out their neighbors, less giving, and generally compromising on their beliefs. It bothers David but he is unsure how to correct it. This is the part of the story I liked the best. It's a general conundrum to figure out where the sin is in the camp and how to address it.

This is the third story in The Bishop's Family series set in Stoney Ridge and brings many of the loose ends of the other two books into complete closure, while a couple of other issues could still be resolved in another book. I'm looking forward to what Suzanne has to come.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a some true insight into Biblical concepts.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

When Love Arrives

When I began reading this book, I knew for sure that I had already read it. I searched my blog, sure I had read and reviewed it before. I hadn't read this particular book before, but I had read the first book in the series. Johnnie Alexander writes with a deft hand with well developed characters who feel like they are old friends. With her style of writing it is no small thing that I felt like I'd read the book before.

Dani Prescott is in Columbus following a man who slandered her dead mother and suggested she should have been convicted of murder. Dani wanted to publicly humiliate Brett Somers the same way he humiliated her mother, and by extension, her. Dani had followed Brett from his office to the children's hospital and watched him as he stood outside and gazed at a certain window. While he was there, she took a couple of pictures of him, for an unknown purpose at the time. An ambulance went by and changed Brett's gaze so that he saw her. He walked to where she was and engaged her in conversation and then asked her out. Thus begins a change in Brett that is so out of character for him, his friends begin to think he's falling in love.

Johnnie Alexander has a folksy way about her writing that creates an instant empathy with her characters. She allows her reader to explore the feelings her characters have as they develop. She does, however, use the boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back formula. It works here and makes the most sense--there has to be the angst leading up to the climax and denouement. Her setting is charming and only adds to the vehicle of the story.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a new camera to record all of your adventures.

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

This Fine Life

Sometimes I read a book simply because it's there. Eva Marie Everson writes the kind of stories that allow me to do just that. I've had This Fine Life on my kindle for a while and needed a "palate cleanser" book--one that will allow me to escape for a while between two heavily-themed novels. This didn't exactly fit that bill, but it did give me a great escape for a while. One thing I truly enjoyed about the book is the way that Mariette grows as a person and then as a Christian.

Mariette has graduated from high school and her mother is pushing her to marry the "right" man and her father wants her to go to college. She is having a hard time choosing what to do with her life until she meets Thayne Scott in the stairwell of her father's factory. She not only falls in love, she falls hard--and so does Thayne. After her parents refuse to allow her to see Thayne anymore, the two of them elope. The rest of the book is about her growing relationship with Thayne and her new relationship with God. There is so much more to the story of their growth than what I have described here.

Mariette and Thayne make a couple that the reader wants to befriend. Her parents are easy to understand and yet somewhat misguided in their ideas. I understand a lot of Mariette's feelings of not fitting into her own life and it was a great privilege to see that an author understood the feeling herself.

I have loved Eva Marie Everson since I read the Potluck Club novels she co-wrote with Linda Evans Shepherd. This one is definitely a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a fine life.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Child of the River

I've read several of Irma Joubert's books and I find each one to be exquisite in plot, character, and depth. Her writing ability is unsurpassed and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She's not afraid to tackle hard subjects in her writing and her research bears out in all the historical details she includes in her novels.

I delayed reading Irma's newest book, Child of the River, because I knew it was going to be a heavy read full of depth and angst. I was right in that regard, but I was wrong to dread reading the book.

Persomi's story is one of coming of age in a time of strife and struggle. Beginning near the end of the Great Depression and moving through World War II and then into the turbulent fifties and sixties of South Africa's Apartheid days. Persomi is looked down on for being the daughter of illiterate sharecroppers, but she's the bright star of her class at school to the degree that she gets a scholarship to the high school and excels at sports as well as academics. Beyond high school, Persomi achieves her dreams in college and then in law school, finally ending up in the law firm of her choice working with one of her best friends. She struggles through wanting to protect her friends in town from the unfair laws that will make them move to a "separate" community four miles away.

Because Irma is from South Africa, she has a first-hand knowledge of how the "colored" people were treated. Only white people were considered "whole people," and there were even levels of wholeness among the whites. Persomi fought to overcome these labels and designations. While faith is part of the book, it's not shown as much as in other books by other authors. The understated way that faith is lived out in this book makes it all the more brilliant.

This is a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a scholarship to the university near you.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Waves of Mercy

I absolutely LOVE Lynn Austin, I'd study a menu if she wrote it. So when I saw her newest book on the list of potential reviewable books, I jumped on getting the e-galley. I was right. Waves of Mercy is one tremendous book with parallel plot lines, incredible characters, unbelievable settings, and unrelenting conflict within the plot. The other thing Lynn has worked into her book is a great deal of spiritual growth.

At the beginning of the book, Geesje is a young lady whose family is being persecuted for their faith. Her father decides to move once, gets run out of town again, and so he decides to emigrate to America. Geesje is reluctant to come with the family because she has fallen in love and wants to stay until her love can come with her.

Anna is a young lady who has dreams of a shipwreck in which she watches her Mama drown and she is given to her father to save. Her engagement is broken because she goes to a church her fiance does not agree with.

Derk is Geesje's "adopted" nephew who is the grandson of the man she was in love with back in the Netherlands. He is studying for the ministry and wants more than anything to understand and live in God's will. His fiancee doesn't want to make the sacrifices of being a minister's wife and breaks up with him. During the time that Anna is in town, she befriends Derk--who is working at the hotel where she is staying.

It is because of Anna's and Derk's friendship that Anna begins to have answers to her questions, but even her answers begin to add more questions. But, eventually, Derk introduces Anna to Geesje, and answers begin to form.

There is no romance, per se, but the love that comes through the pages of this tome is real, is tangible, and is eternal. This is a five-star, two thumbs up book with Dutch pancakes for breakfast.

My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book. It was certainly my pleasure.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wildflower Harvest

Colleen Reece has written a pair of rollicking novels taking place on the frontiers of Wyoming in the post-Civil War era. Mountain Laurel--more often known as Laurel--has grown up in her twin sister's shadow. Ivy Ann is more vivacious, more flirtatious, and more socially adept all the way around. Laurel is happy in her quietness, but lurking inside Laurel is a spark of adventure that longs to see more of the country than just their West Virginia home. When Adam Birchfield shows up at the family's mansion and hears Laurel express her desire to follow her husband (should she ever have one) wherever he'd go, he applauds her adventurous thinking.

This is how Wildflower Harvest begins. With a generous helping of humor, Colleen creates a story that takes the reader on a spontaneous adventure to find love. Laurel just has to overcome Ivy Ann's duplicity of pretending to be her.

Included with this book is the story Desert Rose, who is the daughter of Laurel and Adam. Taking on a dare by her cousin Nate, she puts an ad in a magazine for a "Mail Order Husband." Nate sends her ad to a teacher he had at the boarding school back in Massachusetts. With the beginnings of a pen-pal romance, Carmichael Carey Blake-Jones decides to buy a ranch in Antelope, Wyoming, and go incognito as a ranch hand to learn how to run his ranch. In the meantime, he's still writing to Desert Rose and he's falling in love with her.

While Wildflower Harvest kept my attention all the way through, Desert Rose seemed a bit predictable because some of the elements are repeated from Wildflower Harvest. Nevertheless, both are good reads, and maybe the reader needs to take a break between the two books to come back to Desert Rose fresh. Four Strong Stars.

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Silent Songbird

Evangeline is the cousin of King Richard and he wants her to marry the Earl of Shiveley. The Earl wants to marry Evangeline in order to usurp the King's throne and take it for himself, but he very cunningly keeps that part to himself. Evangeline can't stand the sight of the Earl and knows that there is some question about his first wife's death. In order to keep from marrying the Earl, Evangeline and her lady's maid sneak out of the castle and follow a group of men who are going to a castle a couple of days' travel away.

This is how Melanie Dickerson sets up The Silent Songbird. Muriel, the lady's maid, tells Evangeline to not speak and introduces her as being mute. It's really hard for Evangeline once they get to Glynval Castle because she is expected to work, but has never lifted a finger in work before. She tries really hard, but seems to find trouble at whatever she puts her hand to. Coming to her rescue time and again is Westley, the son of the Lord of Glynval.

Melanie writes midieval fiction for young adults and sometimes weaves old fairy tales into her stories, and sometimes writes stories that stand alone. This one stands alone. Melanie has done an excellent job describing the settings of the story and giving adequate background for the movement of the plot. Her characters are well-developed with the Earl of Shiveley having a better than average complexity. But, I think a villain needs to be complex. Evangeline and Muriel's friendship is easy to see and the love growing between Westley and Evangeline is unmistakable. There is quite a bit of humor in the book, especially as Evangeline is trying to learn the chores assigned to her--harvesting the wheat, shelling peas, scrubbing the floors, slopping the hogs, etc; but her winsomeness wins over most of her detractors--there are some who won't be won.

This is a five-star, two thumbs up book, with a chore you can do easily so you can get back to reading.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Guide Me Home

I have to say this latest offering by Kim Vogel Sawyer fits this bill completely.

Reb Hardin and her family are still mourning the loss of the only boy in the family. Reb's mama wants a headstone for Andy's grave, but there is no money for it. Reb seeks a job at Mammoth Caves, near her home. She dresses as her brother, then talks to Tolly, the head of the guides about working in the caves. Tolly is no fool and knows from the very beginning that she's a girl, and takes her under his wing.

Devlin Bale is a student at the University of Kentucky and takes on mapping the trails through the caves as his senior project. With Tolly and Reb as his guides, he makes great strides on his project. But there is something about Reb that draws him to her, especially after he finds out she's a girl.

As another sub-plot, Kim has worked in Reb's sister, Cissy, into a story of her own. Cissy is entering a full-fledged rebellion that is only going to lead her into trouble with a capital T.

Kim has worked into her plot the fact that EVERYONE needs forgiveness, peace, and strength that only comes from God. It takes some pretty dire circumstances to bring that about, but Kim's ability to write has provided the platform for proclaiming the source of these things and all things created on this earth. Tolly's wisdom and Reb's strength will speak to the reader in ways never encountered before.

This is a five-star, two thumbs up book with a tour through a cavern to amaze and delight you.

Waterbrook/Multnomah provided the galley I read for this book. My only obligation was to give an honest review.

The Lilac Year

My husband hates lilacs, he feels their scent is too strong--and it is a rather strong aroma, but I love the tiny blossoms and the gorgeous colors.

Mariah Rose is looking for her nephew, Joshua, as she is his only living relative and she wants to raise him since her sister died. She traces his movements to Dakota Territory to find he's been adopted and the man who adopted him is so sweet and so gentle. Ben Harris is instantly attracted to Mariah and wants her to stay around. The wager is made that if she can get lilacs to grow within a year, she can take Joshua back with her. Before the year is up, though. . .

Rose Kelly is the second novella in this book, and Rose is a journalist uncovering secrets that have lain hidden for a long time and would be better left hidden. She also uncovers love with a homesteader.

In reading these offerings by Janet Spaeth, I read The Lilac Year all the way through. I enjoyed watching Mariah Rose try to find her nephew and wondering when Ben's secret would finally dawn on Mariah. As far as Rose Kelly's story went, I found it a bit too predictable and jumped ahead to read the ending. However it is worth picking up just to read The Lilac Year. Four strong stars.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mattie's Pledge

There are times that the wanderlust just gets to us and we need to go! Mattie was in such a position. Her family was moving from Pennsylvania to Indiana to help populate a new Plain community. Also in the move were some families Mattie had known before her family moved to where they are now, including Jacob Yoder's family. Mattie is ready for this move, but she wants to go farther than planned--she wants to go all the way to Oregon and to the ocean.

Jacob is excited to see Mattie and truly he wants to make her his bride, but her desire to go see more holds him back. The other concerns on his mind is his mother and her pregnancy. That there is a midwife among the group that is moving eases his mind a bit. When the midwife says that there may be twins, Jacob's concern ratchets up a bit.

Then there are the Bates brothers, Cole, Darrell, and Hiram. They are horse thieves but they try to look like travelers and they see that the Amish group has some really nice horses. They spend the next few weeks trying to get the horses without much luck, and what luck they do encounter is all bad.

Jan Drexler
does not write the "average" Amish novel, if there is such a thing, but her writing is intriguing with a twist of sass. Mattie's Pledge takes the life of the Amish on the road to a new locale. Jan has created an extremely readable book that will while away a couple of afternoons in pleasurable pastime. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Conestoga Wagon to transport your imagination to new places.

My thanks to Revell for providing the galley I was allowed to read and review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection

With nine top-notch authors, Barbour Books has put together another blue ribbon collection of romantic novellas. Each of the stories takes place at a county fair, with each of the heroines either working at the fair or entering a contest at the fair. Each of the women falls in love before the fair is over and makes a life-long commitment to the man of her dreams, but the narratives don't always end with the marriage, just the commitment to marry. Sometimes the young woman wins her competition and sometimes she comes in second, but each time, she wins the blue ribbon of love.

Barbour Books has arranged the novellas in the Blue Ribbon Brides Collection chronologically. Beginning about 1870, each story moves forward in time with the last one happening in the 1930s. Of course each tale has an obstacle to overcome--either by the young woman or the young man, and also demonstrates the perseverance to beat the obstacle.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a blue ribbon prize from the county fair.

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

The Captive Heart

Eleanor is a governess who has to leave her place of employ rather quickly because her employer tried to attack her. At the advice of her employer's wife, she indentures herself on a ship bound for the Colonies with the promise of redemption on the other side of the pond. When she reaches shore, her redeemer is not there to pay for her passage. She is sold to a man, Samuel Heath, who needs a mother for his two-year-old daughter and he wants to marry her. She makes a bargain with Mr. Heath that the marriage will be in name only, but after a time, neither of them want it to stay that way.

Michelle Griep has made The Captive Heart a rather intriguing read. There are many surprising elements in the book that make it hard to cheat on reading it. (I do like to read the ending and guess the rest of the plot. I did read the ending, but I couldn't guess the plot. Michelle, you got one over on me.)

With the other minor characters who only add to the charm of the plot, this book really grabs the reader and doesn't let go until the final page, and still the reader doesn't want the story to end. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a home in the wilderness.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Eden Hill

I have long loved Liz Curtis Higgs and her many books. Now her husband, Bill Higgs, has written his first novel and it is as much a winner as Liz's books are.

Eden Hill is a small town in Kentucky that has its own set of interesting characters. They all make their appearances with aplomb and sometimes with righteous indignation. Virgil owns the only gas station in Eden Hill, but a visitor sees an opportunity to build a competing station just across the street from Virgil's. Virgil's wife, Mavine, feels that Virgil needs to set the competition down, until tragedy strikes and the truths that Virgil has learned all his life come to the fore. Those truths have to be introduced by Pastor Caudill and he has to bring the two competitors together to get them to forge a friendship. But the friendship stands strong when its needed.

Bill has created his characters with depth and humor, fixed his setting with a "Mayberry" style, and still instilled some deep spiritual truths in his novel. He set his novel in 1962, in the South, when Civil Rights weren't so civil, and brought to fore the challenge of some of the thinking during that era. I was raised in that environment, with somewhat closed minded parents, and the attitudes only taught me to fear where no fear was necessary.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and Mavine's newest casserole recipe.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Amish Harvest

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a pantry full of harvested goods

Four stories of Amish youngie finding love and finding their homes. These four have the sweetness of Amish life along with the trials the Amish have with farming, making ends meet, and living day to day, just like Englisch folk do.

My favorite one of these novellas was A Quiet Love by Kathleen Fuller. It's a continuation of another story I've read by Kathleen, but this one is unusual in that Amos is more than likely autistic and he knows he's different. Dinah has a stutter and hides away from everyone because of it. She is the youngest child of her parents and has several older brothers. The gentle acceptance Dinah and Amos have for each other is more than heartwarming, it's beautiful. To think that an autistic man would want to have love is sometimes beyond our ken. Kathleen has described a beautiful situation where two people who need understanding find it in each other--even though they never expected to find their most significant need fulfilled.

Like I said, Five Stars.

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Love Bears All Things

In the first book of this series, Charlotte is in the Amish Community disguised as an Amish person, trying to find out why her brother killed himself. Now, Charlotte is back in this same community, humble, begging forgiveness, and broke. She has been evicted from her apartment in Houston because her clients delay paying her for her editing work, her boyfriend broke up with her, and she feels God leading her back to Lancaster. Before she can get her skit together, Jacob shows up on her doorstep, having left home to "find himself." Welcome to Love Bears All Things.

Once Charlotte gets back to Lancaster, she moves back in with Hannah's family for a time, tries to help the family that helped her before, and puts her brother's death into perspective.

In writing this segment of the Amish Secrets series, Beth Wiseman has continued her incredible writing and made another book so worth reading, that I'd be willing to set aside any commitments I had for the day to delve into Lancaster County and see where she's taking me for the day. I am hoping for another book in the series to tie the three together. These are some of the conundrums I want to have answered:

Jacob is in Hot Water.
Charlotte may be falling for Daniel and will have to make a decision about the Plain life.
Hannah and Isaac are preparing to get married
Charlotte finds out that she has a sister, but has no idea where to find her.
Annie is still waiting on Jacob, but he seems to be embracing the Englisch life.
Edna is displaying some signs of mental instability.
Daniel and Annie's mother is pregnant at age 52.

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

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book. It is so worth the time.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Searching the Scriptures

Years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll preaching on the fruits of the Holy Spirit. He mentioned that the go-to scripture is in Galatians, and that many people believe that is the ONLY fruit of the Holy Spirit, but then he went on to explain there are so many more:
The Fruit of our Lips is in Hebrews
The Fruit of our Contribution is in Philippians
The Fruit of our Character is in Galatians
The Fruit of our Conduct is in Romans
The Fruit of our Witness is in Acts
I took notes while listening to that radio sermon and then put them away. Several years pass and I find them again, and decided to take on finding out what Chuck was actually talking about.

Now he has a new book, Searching the Scriptures, in which he details the methods I used to find out exactly what he was talking about back then. It took a little spark of inspiration to find the nuggets of truth about this subject. His book is a challenge to hear what God is speaking directly to your own heart. He gives techniques, instruction, examples, and challenges. His writing style is informative as well as informally easy to read.

I count Chuck Swindoll as one of the few radio preachers worth listening to. This is a Five Star Book

The Alliance

I am probably the only person who got through the nineties without reading the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. My nightmare threshold is too low to take in much of the action in those books. My children, however, loved them! So I chose to review The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim without realizing it was going to pick at my nightmare threshold.

Leora watches an airplane crash into a field near her home. She goes to the plane to see if the pilot is still alive. When the pilot comes to, he tells Leora his crash is the result of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse. The EMP takes out all phone and electrical services and creates a panic in the surrounding area. This book parallels a look into the tribulation when the cost of bread is so dear that the average person won't be able to buy it, people will be turning against their neighbors, and even the most faithful Christians will doubt their trust.

Jolina Petersheim writes with such skill her stories draw the readers in and shake them about before letting go. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a prayer for NO Electro-Magnetic Pulses.

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Family Under the Christmas Tree

This is another totally fluffy book. There isn't a whole lot of hard substance to it, but I don't mean that in a negative way. Terri Reed has written a very light story about a photographer and a computer programmer, his nephew, and her grandmother's dog. Sophie is called to her grandmother's home when her grandmother falls and sprains her ankle. David is the programmer who lives next door and has just been granted the guardianship of his nephew, Troy, after his brother and sister-in-law are killed in an accident.

Troy is five years old and rather difficult at times because he's missing his parents. He gets impatient and runs away to the park where Sophie finds him under the bushes in the park with the help of Grandma's dog, Riggs.

Sophie and David are drawn to each other but each feels that they cannot interfere with the other's life, and each feels they are not in the market for a relationship. Terri Reed has put together a cute novel that moves toward Christmas with two romances happening at the same time--Sophie and David, and Simon and Grandma. The stories weave together seamlessly and create a lovely story of celebrating Christmas for its true meaning. I read this in the car yesterday while we were on a ten hour road trip. It didn't take me that long to read it, but that was the size of the road trip.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a rambunctious puppy to give you slobbery kisses.

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