©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

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.

A Royal Christmas Wedding

All the time I was reading this book, I was thinking of another book I've read many times, simply called The Princess by Lori Wick. There were several similarities between the two books, a royal marries someone of common background. A primary difference includes the fact that the Prince in A Royal Christmas Wedding has already fallen in love with his "Princess" before they marry. It was just a matter of coming to a common mind on their releationship. The primary problem is that Prince Colin's father is against the match and tries to get his son to marry a woman of his choosing instead of Avery Truitt, the college volleyball star. Prince Colin has a dickens of a time convincing his father that he alone has the right to choose whom to wed.

Rachel Hauck
has woven into her Princess story an old tradition about a chapel bell ringing at midnight after the Harvest Festival and how the ringer of the bell has until Christmas morning to convince the love of his life to marry him.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It has just the right amount of fluff and such a beautiful happy ending for me.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an agreeable father-in-law.

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

A Lady Unrivaled

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and Fire Red Diamond Earrings

I am not sure how to write this review. I didn't like the book, but it was more of a matter of taste rather than a matter of poor writing. Roseanna M White writes with clarity, excitement, mystery, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Her characters develop to their full potentials, her settings are impeccable, and her plot lines are intriguing. It just didn't "trip my trigger," so to speak.

Much of the plot centers around blood red diamonds that have been missing from the Cayton family for a number of years. Lady Ella Myerston is the recipient of Lord Cayton's attentions. But on the flip side, are some nefarious characters after the diamonds that Lord Cayton wants to give Lady Ella.

A Lady Unrivaled
is worth reading, it just wasn't my taste.

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