©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

If the Prospect Pleases

Annora Nolan's parents died and she is taken in by the minister, his wife, and their incredibly spoiled daughter. After four years of being mistreated and accused of misdeeds by the daughter, the minister and his wife decide Annora should marry the son of a widow whose husband had recently died. On the wedding day, Annora sneaks out of the church with the help of her friend and takes a train to Wyoming to answer an ad for a housekeeper/babysitter for a rancher, whose ad said that "If the Prospect Pleases," marriage could ensue. Sally Laity has written a nice little historical romance that seems so familiar. A strong four stars.

As a bonus, this book comes with the book The Son of the Mountain by Gloria Brandt. Lydia Bennett is moving with her family to Darby, Wyoming, to open a general store. Caleb Jonas owns a ranch nearby where he hopes to raise cattle and horses. This story takes on the love story that grows between these two characters. For my taste it wasn't as good as Sally Laity's offering. There's a bit of mystery mixed in with some derring-do to move the plot along. Three stars.

Overall 3.5 stars.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Land of Silence

I have waited a long time for someone to tell this story in a novel and I am thrilled that Tessa Afshar took up the challenge to write it. Every time I read this unnamed woman's story in the Bible, I relate to it so well. This woman's illness was my life for several years (not the eleven she suffered, but still too long for anyone to have to go through), and I could relate so well to her feelings of uncleanness. I didn't visit as many doctors, nor did I chase as many remedies as she did; my only foray into the medical world suggested surgery and that ended it for me. But enough about me, and more about the book.

First off, Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a length of the finest fabric to make garments.

Elianna was the daughter of a weaver/seller of linen and wool cloth. She loved the business and she loved learning about the process of making and selling fine fabrics. Her mother didn't like it that she spent so much time in the workshop and invented ways to occupy Elianna's time, including taking care of her younger brother. This particular day, taking care of her younger brother turned traumatic when a bee sting became fatal. From that time on, Elianna worked so much harder to obtain her father's favor, without any success.

Elianna is betrothed to Ethan, but feels that she's not up to the challenge of being his bride. She puts him off for a year and then tries to find a way out of the marriage. When a Roman soldier forces his attentions on Elianna, she tells Ethan she welcomed the soldier's affections, forcing Ethan to break their betrothal contract. After the death of her father and the marriage of her sister, Elianna and her mother move to Tiberius to be closer to her sister and her husband. It is there that Elianna begins to be plagued unending bleeding and unending uncleanness, and her life turns upside down again.

Reading the story in the Bible will give you all the spoilers you need, but Tessa has done a masterful job in creating a readable novel with a compelling plotline that keeps the reader involved from the first word to the very last page. She includes characters from other parts of the Bible and it makes me wonder if she is going to use them in a later novel, especially Lydia.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

I'm in love with you
Let me hear you whisper
That you love me too

Keep the love light glowing
In your eyes so true
Let me call you sweetheart
I'm in love with you.

Bing Crosby really had a way with singing a song and he could croon this one with the best of them. This song kind of wraps up the point of Amish Sweethearts. I wonder if Leslie Gould got her inspiration from the song. Who knows, but she can write a sweet book.

Lila keeps house for her father, two brothers, and two sisters; and she has ever since her mother died several years before. Her best friend from childhood, Zane, lives next door. He's not Amish, but he is a believer, and he's in love with Lila. Lila actually loves Zane as well, but she's supposed to be courting Reuben, the bishop's son. Because he feels that Lila is out of his reach, Zane joins the Army. In the wake of Zane's signing up, Lila's younger brother, Simon, also signs up and creates hard feelings between Lila's father and Zane. The things Zane sees and experiences while in the Army make him wish he'd never signed up. When he is injured and sent home to recover, he decides to go to Canada and escape going back to Afghanistan. He wants Lila to go with him.

I've got to say that Leslie has crafted a narrative that is hard to put down for any Amish fiction fan. She provides angst, humor, happiness, sadness, love, comfort, and companionship among her characters. While there are a few occasions for food in this book, it's not what the story revolves around--rather it is the people who make the story as compelling as it is. Her dialogues are incredible, and the characters have fully developed personalities so that you either want to hug them or smack them, depending on what they are doing. This is definitely a five-star book.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Just Like Me, . . .

They long to be
Close to You! (The Carpenters)

I started this book with the intention of reading it in tandem with a memoir. Oops. I finished this book instead of reading on the memoir. Oh well, tomorrow is another day, but even that comes from a different book! I'm getting kind of silly here, so I'll just get down to the review.

Allison Shire works for a company giving Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand. Her latest group includes Ethel and Mavis, twin octogenarians; Louis Duff and his assistant, Jackson; Elroy and his daughter, Esther, a tweenager with sticky fingers; Hans and Sophia, newlyweds on their honeymoon. The only downside to Allie's job is that she has to dress as a hobbit with size 13 feet. Allie has her hands full with this group, but Jackson keeps getting paired up with her throughout the journeys through the hobbit kingdom. His "boss," Louis, who is really his great uncle, feels he is quite the matchmaker, setting them up as often as he can to see if they could, in fact, make a couple. Among the adventures is an orienteering test, in which Jackson and Allie get lost for about six hours. Jackson tells Allie of his business failure due to his ex-girlfriend's duplicity. Allie has secrets of her own that she keeps trying to tell Jackson about, but circumstances conspire against her getting the words out of her mouth. The fact is Allie is "married" to a bigamist--Derek--who has buffaloed her whole family into thinking he is falsely accused and has garnered their support into convincing her to take him back. When her mother shows up during the tour and takes her to dinner, Jackson overhears her tearing into Allie with a verbal assault that would annihilate a lesser person. Jackson cannot stand the barrage and takes on Allie's mother in a way she'd never been taken on before. Later he comes by with some food for Allie and brings it to her room, and as Allie is about to tell him about Derek, her roommate, Kat, comes in.

Kara Isaac has written a cute, funny, hard-to-put-down book that keeps the reader invovled just to find out what happens next. While she does use the romance writer's formula*, this book is in no way formulaic. She has made faith the background of this book--showing what happens when we take things into our own hands instead of letting God direct our lives.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a trip to the shire to see Frodo.

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

*The formula:
Boy meets girl
Boy likes girl
Girl likes boy
Boy gets girl
Boy loses girl
Boy and girl get back together

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Renovating the Richardsons

Millie and Al have bought a large house on the outskirts of Goose Creek, Kentucky, with the intent of making it a Bed and Breakfast Inn.
Susan has bought the veterinary clinic.
Justin is working for Millie and Al in renovating the house.
Thomas is a helicopter father who wants to take care of Susan and watch over her finances since he helped her buy the clinic. He also has a serious dislike for Susan's boyfriend, Justin.
Violet is Millie's best friend, and is helping her with some of the work on the house.
Frieda and Betty feel they have to know EVERYTHING that is going on in town and they also feel that their advice is indespensible.
Tuesday wants to open a massage therapy salon in Goose Creek, but is having a hard time getting her shop ready to open.
Jerry is the mayor and badly wants to win the annual softball game against Morley Falls.
Franklin and Lulu Thacker are the most irritating and misfitting citizens of Goose Creek. They just can't seem to find a way to fit in.

Virginia Smith has taken the citizens of this town and paraded them through this book as if they were the emperor sporting his "new clothes." You see these characters, not in their altogether, but unmasked and soul-bared. It's an hilarious mix of personalities come to life on the pages of this book. It is part two of a series revolving around Goose Creek, Kentucky. This is a mish-mash of stories all worked together to make quite the cohesive novel. There are many little nuances in the book but they all coalesce to make a rollicking tale that is hard to put down.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a home run on the softball field.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Centurion

I love waxing ecstatic about books I've read and loved. I love talking about the characters, the settings, and the plot. I love telling friends about the books and telling them to "feed their kindles." However, this is not one of those reviews.

The Centurion is a novel about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the centurion, Lucius, who witnessed the execution, and his life afterwards. He meets Mary of Magdala and wants to know who this Jesus really is. The book flashes back and forth between the events in Mary's life and in Lucius' life.

My first problem with the book is that it left Lucius' faith quite vague--there is no real conclusion in Lucius as far as who Jesus truly is, and no real decision. The other problem is that too much of the book leaned on descriptions of information and that made the plot rather plodding. There was a lot of details of the Roman soldier's life and of the rules and regulations laid out for the soldiers. Nero's reign was worked into the book and his insanity was made a real part of the story, and the part that truly came alive was the fire that decimated Rome.

Ken Gire has written many books that have spoken to my heart and inspired changes in my life. I love his non-fiction and I've read several of his children's books that I have dearly loved. I will NOT give up on Ken and his writings, but this one just misses. Two Stars.

Dang, I hate writing these kinds of reviews, but I appreciate Moody Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Flirtation Walk

Siri Mitchell has taken the recipe for a romance novel and mixed it up in a way that makes a hard-to-put-down read. I started this book last night and finished it just a few minutes ago. One of the things I most appreciated about the book is that Siri has included quite a bit of her research in her author's notes and put the book into a context that even the most plebian cadet could understand.

So her recipe included

one swindler
one swindler's daughter
six senior cadets (four belonging to the Immortals)
one uncle--a professor at the academy at West Point
one aunt
four cousins
a few historical figures

She has mixed them together in a totally methodical way to bring about a fully baked novel that is not too sweet, not too sour, but completely satisfying to the taste.

Lucinda got word that her father had passed away and left the boarding school to go to Buttermilk Falls, New York, where her mother's sister lived. She hoped that she could put her past behind her and live a respectable life. She hadn't counted on her uncle's match-making, or the fact that her father's shenanigans would follow her to Buttermilk Falls.

Seth Westcott's sister had been swindled by Lucinda's father and he was trying to get into the Cavalry so that he could find Lucinda's father and get his money back. Four of his friends were Immortals--the lowest in the class, and quite adept at planning and strategizing ways to get around the rules of the Academy. They pitched in all their ideas to help Seth become one of them.

Before I go too much farther with the summary, I have to say this book is one of the most fascinating I've read in a long while. Siri has worked into her book some popular notions of God from the days before the Civil War--one being that He is a judgmental, angry God, and the other being that He is a loving God who longs to be gracious to us. She has given us a look into the military life at West Point, especially the traditions and requirements of the cadet's life.

This is most definitely a five star book, two thumbs up, and a scheme to keep all your money.

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


I will pick up almost any book that can teach me something about prayer. This book challenged my thoughts and beliefs about prayer in so many ways, I may have to reread it in order to get the full impact of what the authors have shared.

W L Seaver has collected and compiled A W Tozer's writings on prayer and added his own thoughts to each chapter. Each chapter is a challenge in and of itself, one of the most important concepts is that we have to INTIMATELY know God for our prayers to have real conversation value. Our prayers also must be preceded and followed by complete obedience. One of the most significant changes to my prayer beliefs is that God has three answers to our prayers--yes, no, wait (or "I have something better"). That takes prayer down to a trite grocery list where we lay out our desires and then walk away from our prayer thinking we have connected with God. Nothing is further from the truth. For example (and this happened to me a couple of weeks ago), we go to church, see people we know, ask how they are doing, and walk away before getting an answer. We feel we have made a connection when we barely acknowledged the others. Too often our prayer lives are like this. And a conversation MUST include talking and listening. We HAVE to listen to God to be able to say that we have prayed.

Seaver pointed this out with a quote that is older than Tozer--
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, the He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you conquer them, talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, you instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

If you pour out all you weaknesses, needs, and troubles there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved, conversation with God.
Francois Fenelon

This is a five star book that I cannot recommend highly enough. It can change your life.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hannah's Choice

I've not had the privilege to read any of Jan Drexler's books until I picked up Hannah's Choice. I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of the plot, the depth of the characters, and the historical aspect of the novel.

Hannah is one of eight children, three of whom died of diphtheria when Hannah was nine years old. She and her family live in a diminishing Amish community when some men come from the Ephrata area of Pennsylvania to see if there are any other Amish folk who would like to move to Indiana to a newer settlement where there were more Amish people. Hannah's father is very in favor of the move--her mother has been in a black hole of grief over the three lost children, Hannah has been friends with a Mennonite boy since childhood and he wants to marry her, and her older brother wants to move and start his own farm. One of the men wanting to move with Hannah's family is a younger man who is very interested in Hannah. Hannah does not want to move at all, because the farm has been her whole life.

Hannah does have one worry, her younger sister, Liesbet, has been fooling around with an outsider--a teamster. When Liesbet runs away and gets married, it just hardens Hannah's resolve to stay in the area and try to bring her back to the family.

Hannah still has to make a choice between her neighbor friend, Adam; and the young man from Ephrata, Josef. One of the factors pushing Hannah toward Josef is that Adam will not join the Amish and Adam is helping slaves run away on the underground railroad. Josef is committed to the Amish faith and keeps coming back to court Hannah. He knows they will be a good couple, it's just taking Hannah time to make up her mind.

My one criticism of this book and so many other romances is that so much rides on the emotions of the kisses between the couples. One's kiss leaves the girl unchanged, but another's kiss sparks electricity and leaves her breathless. Still in all this is a great book that is extremely hard to put down. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a farm in Indiana.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Heart Once Broken

I am at a loss as to where to begin with this review. There are so many stories, plots, subplots, and characters woven into this one novel; however the warp and woof of this tale necessitates the plethora of elements.

Before I get into the whole review, I want to talk about Amish weddings and a Russian wedding I once attended--they are very much the same. This wedding started at 10:00 AM, with a choir singing a couple of songs, then a preacher spoke for about 45 minutes. The choir sang a couple more songs, and another preacher spoke for about 45 minutes. One more song and then the third preacher asked each member of the couple getting married a question, and then he started in Genesis and preached clear through to the maps on every scripture about marriage. The best man passed out about midway through, but was quickly revived with a breath of fresh air. After the wedding itself, the venue moved to a larger facility where the family had set out tables and chairs for all the guests and started bringing food to each of the tables. There were friends and family members who served each table and continually brought out new foods for everyone to eat. It was an incredible feast.

Jerry Eicher has included in his book, not one, but two Amish weddings that so closely resemble this wedding I attended, from the songs to the three preachers, to the food and the table waiters. The only difference is that the church had chairs with backs to them and the seating wasn't segregated between male and female.

The first part of the story is about Lydia and Sandra--cousins who were in competition for the attentions of Ezra. When Sandra's father dies and Lydia's father finds himself in dire financial straits, some unexpected things happen. Lydia agrees to back off on chasing Ezra, Sandra's mother remarries, Rosemary sets her cap for Ezra, and Deacon Shrock convinces Sandra to look at her step-father's son as a potential husband. Then a boyfriend from Lydia's rumspringa shows up at her house and wants to pick up where they left off. Lydia's sisters are running beyond wild with their rumspringa and bring Englischa people to their house. Lydia's parents are not as strict with their younger daughters as they should be and come under the scrutiny of the deacon and the bishop of the community. Because of Lydia's former boyfriend, Lydia falls under the scrutiny as well.

As the narrative progresses, Ezra finds Rosemary's attentions flattering and returns them, but Rosemary finds out that she's seriously ill and likely terminal. Rosemary makes plans for Lydia and Ezra to marry and to be of comfort to each other.

A Heart Once Broken
is so hard to put down. It's the kind of book you want to take a whole afternoon to sit down with a cup of tea to read in one sitting. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a wedding feast.

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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Joshua's Mission

Alton Kline is a young man on rumspringa, running around and doing his best to make every mistake there is to make. Joshua Kline is his older brother whose responsibility it is to get Alton out of the scrapes he gets himself into, including bailing him out of jail. When the bishop of his community in Cody's Creek, Oklahoma, comes to Joshua asking him to convince his brother to go on a Mennonite Disaster Services missions trip and to go along as "chaperone," Joshua thinks that the idea has merit, especially since the bishop's daughter is going to go along too. At first it seems that Alton is not going to give up his profligate ways, but when something unthinkable happens, he begins to think beyond himself.

But I've gotten ahead of myself. First, we have to go to Port Aransas and the islands off the gulf coast of Texas and meet Charlie, Moose, Alice, CJ, Shellie, and some others who live on the island and we have to pack quickly because a hurricane is heading for shore. The hurricane is going to flatten almost every building on the island and necessitating the MDS missions trips. The purpose of the trip is to rebuild homes for those who lost theirs in the hurricane, and Joshua and his friends are working on Alice's home so that she has space for her grandchildren who live with her.

Vannetta Chapman has written a book of such realism that I had to do a couple of double-takes to be sure I was reading a novel instead of a biography. Her characters have such realistic characteristics--Alton's rebelliousness, Joshua's judgmentalism, Charlie's understanding of teens, CJ's impulsiveness, and Becca's steadfastness. She tells the stories of the residents of the island, the five people from Cody's Creek who come to the MDS mission, and the stories of the two groups together. Joshua's Mission is more than just a story, but it is a book of spiritual teaching. There are lessons on judging, forgiving, bearing one another's burdens, and prayer. I love when I read a book and find something to feed my soul as well as entertain my heart. This book does both quite well.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a house rebuilt after the hurricane.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Planted with Hope

Five girls in one family, Lovina, Hope, Grace, Joy, and Faith. Each girl has her own gifts and her own talents. Lovina loves making pies and she loves experimenting with new recipes, but Hope loves being in the garden--alone. The problem is there is no good soil to garden in and there is no place big enough to plant a garden, until the new teacher, Brother Jonas suggests the plot behind Lovina's pie shop. He has a double reason for wanting a garden--to teach the school children part of the Amish culture they are missing, and to be around Hope. She has already charmed his daughter, Emma.

Planted with Hope is the newest offering in the Pinecraft Pie Shop series by Sherry Gore and Tricia Goyer. They collaborate so well together to write novels with love, humor, and good taste. I love that they include recipes that go along with the stories. There are a couple of the ones in this book I want to try. I just wish the pie recipes came without sugar or calories. The characters grow throughout the book, and Pinecraft, Florida, is a great setting for the events in the book.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a piece of lemonade pie.

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where She Belongs

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way Johnnie Alexander writes. She uses every emotion known to make her stories so hard to put down and her characters more real.

Where She Belongs
is a story of restoration, love, and reconciliation. Shelby Kincaid is moving back to Misty Willow, the farm that has been in her family for many generation, with the exception of when Sully Sullivan took it away from her grandfather. She wants to provide the sweet memories she has for her daughters who are only five and three. The only relative Shelby has living in the States is her great-uncle Richard, whose hands are actually in the pockets of her "enemy," the Sullivans. Her first day at Misty Willow she meets AJ Sullivan and takes an immediate dislike to him, simply because his name is Sullivan. She's trying to bring her home back into usable condition, and he's just a distraction to getting her work done. The only redeeming value AJ seems to have is his dog, Lila, who falls in love with Shelby's girls and they with her.

AJ's cousin Brett Somers shows up at a dinner with Shelby and Uncle Richard and then inserts himself in Shelby's life as much as he can. Brett is a womanizer, a ruthless business man used to getting what he wants, and a man who escapes responsibility at every turn. His sister Amy is a lawyer who is driven to close her deals in any way she can. AJ is treated as the red-headed step-child by Brett and Amy, and was treated that way before Sully passed away, simply because he didn't go to law school but became a teacher instead.

Johnnie has pulled together quite a number of sub-plots to bring this story to a satisfying conclusion with room for a sequel. The way she brings about changes in her characters is seamless and refreshing. She works the past into the current story to make enough tension to keep the story exciting. One of the key components of the tale includes a couple of verses from the Psalms: Psalm 31:8 and Psalm 18:19 which speaks of the Lord's rescue and setting his people down in a broad place. It is the kind of comfort that any reader can take away from the story and be built up, which to me is the whole point of Christian fiction.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Broad Place to meet with God.

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rebekah's Babies

One snowy day in November Rebekah, North Star's midwife, delivered four babies during a blizzard. Now the babies are turning twenty-five and this journalist/contractor wants to find the babies (now grown-ups) and see where they are now. Rebekah knew the whereabouts of a couple of them, but a couple of the babies dropped off her radar entirely. Now it's almost Christmas in North Star, Pennsylvania, and the mostly Amish babies are getting ready to celebrate an Amish Christmas at North Star.

Guiding Star: Chase, the journalist, looks for Anna and finds her in Illinois, only her name isn't Anna, it's Elle, and she was adopted into an Englisch family. Chase eventually lures Elle back to North Star where she meets her grandparents, and her birth father. This novella was written by Katie Ganshert

Morning Star: Eden helps her parents with their candy shop and one of her favorite customers and best friends dies unexpectedly. The problem is that his death was pretty suspicious as well. She uses every spare minute to investigate the circumstances around his death and meets his great-nephew who wants his uncle's death solved too. Written by Amanda Flower

In the Stars: Savilla does Rebekah's paperwork for all the babies born at the birthing center and then she sews for clients who want her quality of work. A couple of years ago, she broke up with her boyfriend Kore because of a secret she was keeping. After Kore moved away, his brothers treated Savvy with disdain at the best, and out and out rudeness at the worst. Kore has to come back to town because his Mammi fell and was injured. Mammi had promised to care for a neighbor's children, but they can't get into the house and now don't know what to do. Savvy finds them and offers to take care of them, and somehow Kore is enlisted in helping Savvy take care of the children. Author is Cindy Woodsmall

Star of Grace: Andy's girlfriend, Nellie, left him to go get more education she thought she wanted. Andy took his broken heart to Mississippi to help rebuild a community damaged in a storm. Andy's younger brother, Sam, wants Andy to come home and does what he can to convince Andy to come for Christmas--to the point of getting a job and earning money to pay for Andy's ticket. When Sam and Andy's father is injured by one cantakerous cow, Sam gives the ticket money to help off-set the medical bills. When the man Sam had been working for learned what Sam was doing, he pulled a card from his sleeve to give the young boy the Christmas of his dreams. By Mindy Starns Clark and Emily Clark

The latter two stories involve couples with broken hearts and in need of healing, while the first two stories involve couples just meeting and getting acquainted. All of the stories have the sweet Amish personality in them with a bit of angst to keep the reader involved. Forgiveness is a theme that is woven in the warp and woof of the novellas and it's a lesson that is needed by many people--not just the Amish.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a quiet night at the birthing center.

Waterbrook/Multnomah provided the book in exchange for my honest review. Many Thanks.