©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.