©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Sound of Rain

Judd Markley's brother, Joe, died in a mine cave-in.  Judd vowed never to go back into a mine and so he headed south to Myrtle Beach.  He started working for a timber company that allowed him to use his gift for mechanics.

Larkin Heyward is the daughter of Judd's boss, but she wants to make her life count for more than just being a candy striper at the hospital.  She wants to go to the Appalachians and help those in need there.

Sarah Loudin Thomas writes of the Appalachians with a personal knowledge of the culture and the background of the peoples.  The Sound of Rain encompasses the history of post-war America along with the devestation of Hurricane Hazel on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She also takes on the interpersonal relationships within families and shows how they work or don't work--how dysfunction can turn around and become fully functional through conflict and its resolution.

Larkin's conflict is with her father because she wants to join her brother in Kentucky, but her father has disowned him and will disown her if she goes to him. 

Judd's conflict is with the mines, the dangers and the life on the edge of disaster, as well as the cave-in that took his brother's life. 

Sarah's writing is of such quality that it engages the reader from the very first page to the back flyleaf.  Her characters are realistic and quite likable--with a few exceptions.  Her settings are spot on for detail and involvement.  Her plot moves at a good pace--not at all frenetic.  This is a five star book with two thumbs up and no hurricanes to mess up your home.

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill

Annie and Felty Helmuth are at it again.  Now their granddaughter, Elsie, is living with them and teaching at the Bonduel school.  They want her to meet Sam Sensenig because they know he's the man for her.  What they don't know is that Elsie and Sam have already met and it wasn't the kind of meeting that left lasting good impressions.

Jennifer Beckstrand writes such sassy Amish fiction, with not your normal Amish women, and not your normal Amish families.  Elsie is known for speaking her mind.  Sam is overprotective of his brother.  Annie and Felty are still their same old selves--Annie meddling and Felty sitting back and watching. 

A curve in the path to true love is Rose, who lives next door to Sam, and tries everything in her bag of tricks to get Elsie fired as the teacher so that Sam will pay attention to her, along with bringing some kind of treat nearly every night. 

I have always enjoyed reading Jennifer's books and this is no different.  Jennifer always writes five star books, with two thumbs up, and a homemade dinner.

My thanks to Penguin/Random House for allowing me to read this book.

Life in the Presence of God

Kenneth Boa takes the Christian life and boils it down to its practical practices.  Conformed to His Image defines for the Christian whose image we should conform to and how to do it.  He breaks it down into easy-to-understand instructions.  Now the follow-up book is Life in the Presence of God.  It focuses primarily on prayer--which is the foundation for our relationship with God.  Again, with easy-to-understand instructions and reasons for following them, Kenneth shows how every Christian can experience the presence of God in a continuous way. 

Ken's language is practical and down-to-earth.  His narrative is biblical in all ways and theologically sound.

Five Stars

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Puzzle House

When you come to the Puzzle House, all that is required of you is to put together a jigsaw puzzle of your choice.  No one can help you except Rachel Summers, and while she helps she has a story to tell--not all at once, but over the week that you are in residence.  To be able to come to Puzzle House, you have to be outside of the doctors' abilities to aid in improving your health.  There is no cost for the week at the Puzzle House, donors take care of all costs.

Nia is the newest visitor to Puzzle House with stage 4 leukemia.  She is stubborn to the core, wanting most of all to be left in peace while she dies. 

Puzzle House is written from two perspectives--Rachel's and Nia's.  Rachel tells Nia how Jesus visited her and gave her a choice--to heal or to be healed. She chooses to heal before she finds out she has two tumors in her brain.  In telling Nia her story, Rachel breaks down the walls that Nia has built around herself. 

Lillian Duncan has written a book that is a quick read, but also one that will pull on the reader's heart strings.  It is a five star book with two thumbs up and a jigsaw puzzle to work while you are solving the puzzles of life.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Where O Where Are You Tonight?

Lady Jayne has disappeared and no one knows what has happened to her.  Was she murdered, did she emigrate to another country, was she kidnapped? Only Nathaniel Droll knows for sure because he is writing her story in serial format.  But, another question is who is Nathaniel Droll?

Lady Jayne Disappears is a book that kept me confused, but kept enough humor in the confusion to keep me reading.  Aurelie Harcourt's father died in Shepton Mallet, the local debtors prison.  Her only relative is her father's sister, Aurora, and she has a reputation for not being a welcoming soul.   Her father's niece and her family live with Aurora, and they create just enough chaos for Aurora.

Aurelie's father is using Nathaniel Droll as his nom de plume while he writes Lady Jayne's story.  After his death, Aurelie picks up the story and carries it on, adding to the mystery of who Nathaniel Droll really is. 

Joanna Davidson Politano has written a real "screen swiper" of a book with intriguing characters and interesting settings.  Imagining the places is not a difficult because of the fitting descriptions Joanna provides.  The action in the story moves fast enough to keep the reader interested all the way through. This is a five star book with two thumbs up and a new chapter to your favorite book.

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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fire on the Track

Roseanne Montillo has written a book near and dear to my family's heart--women in athletics, specifically running.  Fire on the Track details the story of Betty Robinson breaking into the world of competitive running.  Betty's races were sprints and she happened to get a high school coach who knew how to bring the best out of her.  He looked for talent and then worked to bring the talent out to its best possible presentation.  Roseanne doesn't just talk about Betty, but also Babe Didrickson, Helen Filkey, and other early notable women. 

Roseanne's style is a cross between biography and novel--something like Irving Stone's writings without the fictionalization that Irving adds to his novels.  Roseanne captures the history and the conditions of the world at large as well the individual histories of the women themselves.  She also delves into the development of track shoes and the improvements they brought to the sport; as well as the science behind head winds, tail winds, and physiology of the human body. 

This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a new pair of track cleats.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Engagement Plot

I was surprised when I got an email from the publisher saying they specifically wanted me to read and review this book.  When it came up in my TBR pile, I found that it was much more than I realized it to be.  Krista Phillips takes a poke at the "Bachelor/Bachelorette" shows on tv. 

Hanna Knight and William Preston met on the set of "The Price of Love," and Hanna lost her heart.  Hanna was a kindergarten teacher who made no secret of the fact that she was a Christian and thus garnering herself the nickname "Holy Hanna." William Preston was the CEO of a seemingly failing cosmetics company.  According to the contract of the show, after the finale was filmed, they were allowed no contact until it aired, except for one weekend.  After the show was broadcast, William was interviewed on his weekend with Hanna and made an insinuation that ruined her reputation. 

In this, Krista has set up the characters, the conflict, and the plans for the denouement.  Hanna lost her job because no one wanted someone like her teaching their kindergarteners, she started getting hate mail, and she was in no way ready to forgive Will.  Will comes to visit with a plot to help right the wrongs done in this almost melodramatic situation.  There are chuckles and laughs throughout the book. And that makes it a five star book with two thumbs up and a prize winning fish caught through the ice in one of Minnesota's many lakes.

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

Brides of Minnesota

Lena Nelson Dooley understands the immigration struggles of the Swedes and it makes it easier for her to write about the Swedes in Minnesota and their brides.   

Olina is supposed to marry Lars, but he fell in love with another woman and married her before Olina got to Minnesota.  She has to find a way to support herself.  With the help of Lars' sister, Gerda, she opens a dress shop.

August is in love with Anna and always has been, but she was his brother's "cast-off," and August didn't want the comparison between him and Gustaf.

Ollie and Lowell met a mysterious woman and fell in love with her.  The mysterious woman happened to be identical twins and Ollie and Lowell each fell in love with a specific twin. 

These are cute stories that while away an afternoon each.  Life in Minnesota is interesting and Lena gives a good picture of that life. 

The Brides of Minnesota collection is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a dress in the latest fashion. 

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

I've never read anything by Bethany Turner before, so I was not sure what to expect when I picked up this book.  I was surprised and delighted after I started reading about Sarah Hollenbeck.  Sarah wants a family, including children.  Her husband, Patrick, has one reason or another to put Sarah off.  When Sarah found Patrick with another woman, she kicks Patrick out of her life.  At loose ends, Sarah starts joining book clubs until she finds one that she can tolerate.  She also starts writing a book and one night at book club, the pages of her novel fall out of her bag.  The other women in her club read the pages and want more.  Thus starts Sarah's publishing career and her friendship with Piper.  One thing that Piper does for Sarah is to help her find the one thing that is missing from her life--Jesus Christ. 

The pace of this novel is almost frenetic.  It's like horses getting ready for a race and the gates open and the horses shoot out at a dead sprint.  Bethany has packed more action and interactions into this book than any I've ever read.  There are many funny lines that wake up the reader by their unexpectedness--when Sarah meets Ben for the first time (at church), she introduces herself and Ben repeats her name.  Sarah is confused enough to think he's telling her his name is Sarah.  He says something like, "that's my middle name--Benjamin Sarah.  My brothers are Jeremy Marie and Jacob Ann."   There are also some unexpected lines like where Ben and Sarah are talking about the families they want to have and Ben tells Sarah he wants to keep her knocked up as often as possible. I suppose I should say that Ben's being the pastor of the church where Sarah is going is what makes that line unexpected.

This is a five-star book with two thumbs up and a plot twist to keep you awake. I loved the book, had a really hard time putting it down and I was sad when it ended.

My thanks to Revell Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.  It is well worth the time.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Experiments in Honesty

I have never heard of Steve Daugherty before, but after reading his book, Experiments in Honesty, I'm glad I've made his acquaintance through his writing.  So much of what he has to say in this book requires deep thinking and then instant application to life.  He is trying to change the mindset of people who think they know who God is without listening through His Word to what He's saying He is.  Steve peels back the layers of misconception to bring God to the people just as He is, nothing extra added.  

This book will cause me to think and to meditate on what I know of God to determine what's really true about God.  Thank you Steve Daugherty.  

Five Stars

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

A Bouquet of Brides

I like the olios of romantic stories to just while away an hour or two between jobs I need to do and this one is a complete bouquet of flowers.  Each heroine's name is also a flower name but sometimes the girl in question doesn't like her name or its implications.  The hero of the story has to convince the posey that she is not only likable, but her flower name has a broader, more impressive meaning than she believes. 

Barbour Books searches out the authors who do creditable jobs in putting together these short novels (which to my mind is a bit harder to do than writing a full-length novel.  I mean, you have to get the character development, setting, plot, plot twists, and denouement in fewer words and fewer pages than a full length novel.) and Barbour finds these incredible writers and draws the best out of them. 

This is a five-star collection, two thumbs up, and a bouquet for your wedding. 

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy

Lucy is a whiz at reading and translating morse code. Her brother, Nick, is a gifted plumber who wants to help out in the tenements to make the lives of the poor better.  The only fly in the ointment is their Uncle Thomas who has embroiled the family in a law suit for forty years over the use of a specialized pump that will get water to the upper floors of tenement buildings so that the residents don't have to haul water up multiple flights of stairs. 

Elizabeth Camden has written an intriguing turn-of-the-century novel with mystery, skull-duggery, and underhanded dealings. Lucy's abilities with morse code landed her a job with the Associated Press, transcribing stories as they came in for the newspaper in New York.  She meets Sir Colin Beckworth, who has an office in the building and works for Reuters.  Together they work on defeating Uncle Thomas' in the lawsuit about the pump.  When Uncle Thomas' father, Jacob, comes to town, he finds Nick and offers to teach him all that there is to know in taking care of the family business.  Jacob wants to leave his entire estate to Nick. 

This is a five star book, just based on the excellence of the writing.  It holds all the hallmarks of a good read:  intriguing plot twists, engaging characters, and interesting settings.  The only thing this book lacks is that I am not an afficionado of mysteries.  I'm still giving the book five stars, even though it is not my favorite genre.  Two Thumbs Up, and a transcribed morse code message.

My appreciation goes to Bethany House Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Quilting Circle

Amy Lillard writes good Amish fiction, and it's enjoyable even on a re-read.  There are three novellas in this book and each one has many of the same characters so that the reader feels a familiarity with the population of Wells Landing and a friendship with all of the ladies of the quilting circle. It is easy to feel empathy for the struggles that the characters endure--from unrequited love to childlessness to unhappiness in marriage.  There are times every reader has been in similar positions, but what Amy does is show how the Amish deal with such disappointments.

I've read a couple of the stories before in different collections, so they weren't new to me, but they were like meeting up with old friends. This is a five star collection, with two thumbs up, and a new quilt to keep you warm. 

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Austen Escape

Isabel wants to go to Bath, England, to experience two weeks of living like a character in a Jane Austen novel.  Not only does she want to do this experience, she also wants her best friend, Mary, to go with her. Mary's work is somewhat at a standstill and her immediate supervisor is trying to get her fired. In Mary's mind, there is no better time to make the Austen Escape.

After they reach Bath, something happens to turn Isabel's world upside down, and she reacts the only way she knows how. She retreats into a world only she knows, and confuses the others who are on the escape. 

Katherine Reay has written a soul-tugging book that grips the reader from the very first words. There is a bit of darkness to the plot, but it is not overwhelming, and it does have its lighter moments.

Katherine creates characters whose struggles mimic real life struggles every reader can relate to.  By setting this book in Bath, the reader gets a peek into another well-loved author's life and works, as well as a look into the life and times of the beloved author.  Some of the customs included changing clothes multiple times a day to suit the various activities of the day. 

The book is a deep read, but it is completely intriguing.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a custom-made dress befitting Jane Austen herself. 

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty

Kristi Ann Hunter has written quite a series of historical romances.  An Inconvenient Beauty is the final book of the series. 

Isabella Breckenridge is living with her Uncle Percy for the London Season to help him pass a bill through Parliament.  He wants her to use her beauty to lure peers of the realm to consider courting her so he can talk to them about his Apothecary Act and convince them to vote for it.  In exchange for her acting her part, Uncle Percy will pay off her father's debt and help him get back on his feet. What she doesn't know is that if she doesn't fulfill her part of the agreement, he will frame her father and have him transported. 

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, has finally decided to settle down and look for a wife.  He decides that Frederica St Claire will be his choice.  She's not an incomparable--her nose is too large and offsets  the rest of her features.  But instead Griffith keeps running into Isabella, and then becomes fascinated by her beauty, her open personality, and her reluctance to fully engage in society's functions.  She doesn't gossip, she doesn't play flirting games, she'd rather just blend in to the background and it attracted him like no other.  What bothers him is that she doesn't want to engage in a relationship with him either.  If only he could figure out her secrets.

I meant to read only a little bit of the book last night before I went to sleep, but I got caught up in the way the story was ending and read it to the end.  I didn't have that much to read, close to two hours of reading, but I really didn't mean to read all that. 

This is a Five Star Book, Two Thumbs Up, and a little bit of mystery to keep you interested.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Simple Wish

Charlotte Hubbard writes interesting Amish fiction with complex characters and equally complex plots. First, there's Loretta Riehl, once engaged, but now she's trying to make the young man understand she just doesn't feel for him the way she used to. 

Drew Detweiller is Asa's twin brother and finds himself intrigued by Loretta.

Edith Detweiller is Asa's wife and Loretta's sister.

Rosalyn is the other sister in the Riehl household. Cornelius is their father and he's in a perpetual bad mood. His demands that he be obeyed and his every whim catered to makes for quite a bit of angst and drama in the book. 

A Simple Wish is Loretta's wish that she find love that will last her life and that her life will be filled with peace.  Cornelius causes trouble with his daughters and then with the bishop and the other leadership of the local congregation. He's got the idea he doesn't answer to anyone but requires his family to answer to him.

Loretta's and Drew's relationship grows in spite of Cornelius' behavior, and in fact, Drew steps in to speak for Loretta with her father and make himself understood as far as how Cornelius should treat his daughters. 

In the review of the previous book in this series, I was wishing that more of Cornelius' secrets would have been revealed.  They were in this book, but not entirely.  Charlotte has set this book up for another sequel.  This is like reading the Mitford series by Jan Karon.  The more books you read, the more you find out about the people who populate Willow Ridge.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a wish come true.

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cherished Mercy

I absolutely adored this series by Tracie Peterson, and she capped it off with a wonderful tale about Mercy, the Flanagan's youngest sister.  All three Flanagans lived through the Whitman Massacre, but Mercy lived through another Indian uprising.  The missionary friends of the Flanagans, Isaac and Eletta Browning have asked that Mercy come to them to help Eletta with a difficult pregnancy.  While she was with the Brownings, many people were taking a vigilante approach to the Indians in the area--the only good Indian is a dead Indian kind of thinking. 

Mercy's name always seemed to fit her.  She was the most merciful of the sisters, quick to forgive and long-suffering in patience.  She also had many friends among the local Indians when she was living with the Brownings, she wanted them protected because they posed no threat.

This is also the story of Mercy falling in love with Adam, Isaac's brother; and the story of all they have overcome to get to where they are.  I was confused by the geography Tracie was describing.  She mentioned towns that I know but I couldn't figure out where they were in connection to the other towns she was describing.  That is my only criticism. 

It would be helpful to read Cherished Mercy after the other two books in the series, it's helpful to know the characters and what happened to them along the way.  Those experiences make the characters into who they are.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a friend to walk with you along the way.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Amish Christmas Candle

I am of two minds about this book.  I read the first novella by Kelly Long and did not like it at all.  I read the second one by Jennifer Beckstrand and liked it better but not as much as I thought I would. I was discouraged enough that I just would not read the third one at all.  This is at best a two star collection. 

I am still very appreciative of Kensington Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

These Healing Hills

Ann H Gabhart writes soul-wrenching novels that grab the reader on the very first page and shakes her around, then lets her go, wrung out, and exhausted at the very last page. 

These Healing Hills begins toward the end of World War II and covers about a year of Francine's and Ben's life. 

Francine has joined the Frontier Nurses in the hills of Kentucky, coming from Cincinnati. In joining the Frontier Nurses, she is taught midwifery and signs on for a full year of service to the hill people of Kentucky. 

One of the first families she works with is the Locke family.  The youngest child, Sadie, is feeling porely (you have to say this aloud in your head to get the full gist of the jargon of the hill people) and Francine is treating her.  Sadie's brother, Woody, was the first of the Lockes to meet Francine because she got lost getting to the medical center up in the hills.  He helped her find her way and often came to the center and ended up going with her to many of her calls, just to make sure she finds her way to her patients.  Woody is also a fount of knowledge of the people of the hills and doesn't mind sharing his knowledge. 

Woody's brother, Ben, is serving as a medic in the army in France and is waiting to come home.  The only problem is that Ben doesn't know what he wants to do when he gets home.

Ben and Francine's worlds collide almost as soon as he gets home and then they repeatedly run into each other.  Each time, something grows between them. 

Ann has left the ending open a bit so that a sequel could be written to this book. It is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a guide through the hills of Kentucky.  (And I really relate to Francine, I can get lost at the drop of a hat).

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

The Return

Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of the best Amish fiction writers I've come across. The Return is but another book in this genre.  Not that it's "just another," but it's a high quality read that embraces the reader and holds on until the final page.  The way Suzanne has written this book, she's got two choices to make--either leave it as is, or write a sequel.

Included in this narrative are hatred, racism, violence, and unrequited love. 

Betsy's family is decimated by an Indian raid on their village, and Betsy and her brother, Johnny, are taken captive.  Betsy's other brother, Willie, escapes but is mute because of the devastation he's seen.

Tessa's family takes in Willie to try to help him heal.  Tessa has always been in love with Hans but Hans is in love with Betsy.  The other thing about Hans is he's bent on revenge for what Betsy and her family went through.  His actions cause a raid on a friendly tribe and eventually wipes them out. 

Woven throughout this story is the history of a new Amish settlement in the pre-Revolutionary days and the history of the Indian relationships in the New World. This is a five-star book with two thumbs up, and a daring rescue from an Indian camp.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Across the Blue

It is the infancy of flight and Bella Grayson is enthralled with all things aviation.  She has a deep desire to write as a journalist on her father's newspaper, The Daily Times.  In order to prove her point to her father, she writes a letter to the editor anonymously and when it is printed, she points out to her father that she is, in fact, the author. 

In writing Across the Blue, Carrie Turansky has taken the history of the development of flight and made it into a readable novel that engages the reader from the first page till the author's notes at the end.  She still follows the romance novel formula, but it truly doesn't distract from the lovely narrative Carrie is telling.

1.  Boy meets girl:  Bella and her family have bought an estate called Broadlands to be their home away from London.  James Drake lives on one of the tenant farms with his mentor Professor Steed.  Bella and James meet when he lands his plane on the Broadlands grounds.

2.  Boy gets girl: Bella begins to spend time with James, asking questions, observing his work on the plane, and getting to know him.  James begins falling for Bella in their moments together. 

3.  Boy loses girl: Bella's family wants her to marry and settle down.  She's been through three seasons in London and hasn't found a suitor she wants.  Her parents want her to encourage another pilot, Mark Clifton, who is more than happy to interfere with James and Bella's growing fondness.

4.  Boy gets girl back:  In a flying competition in France, one of the legs of the competition require that the pilot also carry a passenger.  Bella is James' passenger and Bella's father is Mark's passenger.  When Mark's plane crashes, James gives up his place in the competition to save Bella's father and Mark. 

This is a five-star book with far more depth than I have described here.  Two Thumbs Up, and a plane ride off the cliffs of Dover. 

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Julie Cantrell writes interesting books, but like my last review, faith wasn't an integral part of the book.  However, Julie has hit on some tough family dynamics that nearly every family has experienced--sibling rivalry.  Bitsy and Lovey have a rivalry that defies explanation, and Bitsy has an irrational jealousy of Lovey that refuses to heal, despite Lovey's attempts. 

Julie uses the flashback device throughout the book quite successfully to keep the reader informed of what's going on with the characters and how they are feeling and why. 

Lovey has an important job in an ad agency and is trying to bring in an account that will solve a lot of financial problems for her firm when her father calls her and asks her to come home for his fiftieth anniversary with her mother.  He is not one to allow no to be the answer to his request, especially this time. 

Bitsy resents that Lovey came home and has taken part of the limelight away from her. But Lovey meets Fisher--a childhood friend--again who is able to put some new perspective on Bitsy's irrational attitude. 

I was ready to give up on this book, but it hooked me in at just the right time and held onto me until I closed the last page. 

Much of the book revolves around perennial flowers and the garden that Bitsy and Lovey's father is having built for their mother.  He takes the group around to towns close by Oxford, Mississippi, to collect cuttings for the garden and to keep their mother from guessing what's going on. 

This is truly a five star book, two thumbs up, and hydrangea cuttings for your Mary Garden

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

Blue Ridge Sunrise

Denise Hunter usually writes sweet books of small town life and romance.  I found that Blue Ridge Sunrise didn't fit the "sweet" description.  Too many of the books I have read lately have only given "ink service" to faith within the narrative and its characters.  This one in particular didn't seem to give that much word space to faith, but I do have to admit I didn't finish the book.  When the kissing scenes become R rated, I'll put the book down and move on. I can get my own R rated kisses in real life.  I don't need to know how the hero "punished her lips" or how it was the best kiss she'd ever received.  I've read some of Denise's other books and enjoyed them, but this one missed my mark. 

Two Stars. 

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

The Regency Brides Collection

Barbour Books is making their mark on the novella anthologies with the Regency Brides Collection, they have departed from their normal nine novella format to have only seven novellas in the book. This is a good thing in my mind.  I just wish they'd come down to only four.  From a reviewing standpoint, four seems to be my highwater mark for keeping the plots of the stories straight.  That being said, this collection is quite light hearted and fun. 

My favorite one of this collection includes a governess of three children and their guardian.  The children's antics make the story fun and engaging. 

The authors of this collection know what they are doing in preparing a full plot to go in a small package. 

Five Star Collection, Two Thumbs Up, and an afternoon cup of tea while entertaining visitors.

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Belle and the Beast

Sarah Price has started a new series of Amish Fiction based on well-known fairy tales.  The first one is a modern-Amish retelling of Beauty and the Beast. 

Belle is the youngest daughter of Melvin Beiler and the one who does most of the work around the house while Melvin works on his inventions.  Little do Belle and her sisters know is that their father has frittered away his money on his newest invention and the mortgage is about to come due.

Adam Herschberger is a man scarred from a fire that killed his mother.  Children look at him and run from him, calling him a beast.  Townspeople look the other way when he comes into town, or they stare with undisguised disgust. 

Adam has bought the Beiler farm and has put into motion the eviction of Belle and her family.  He has paid a generous amount for the farm, but it won't take care of all the bills and give them enough to find another place to live.   Belle approaches Adam to see how she can save the farm so her family won't be homeless.  He is willing to allow her family to stay on the farm if she will marry him and give him a son to inherit her family's farm. 

Melanie Dickerson has written several Young Adult books based on fairy tales and I have enjoyed all of them, but I love how Sarah Price has not only put this one together, and how she's planted the seed for the next ones in the series.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and some homemade cheese from your very own dairy. 

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

A Place at Our Table

So here's the deal.  Kayla's brother, Simeon, was killed in a fire as a firefighter. For that reason alone, she doesn't like firefighters.  When her family's barn catches fire, Jamie Riehl is one of the firefighters who responds to the call.  Kayla is attracted to him, and he to her, but her mental block against his profession stands in the way.  Jamie and his friends who are all part of the crew that put out the blaze show up the next week to put up a new barn for Kayla's father.

Circumstances, events, happenings all conspire to keep these two star-crossed lovers apart.  Kayla hates him for what he does, but then she loves him for how he stands in to help her family.  When his life falls apart, he hides from Kayla and anyone else in his life.  He hates himself, he can't love Kayla.  Their story switches back and forth so quickly I got reader's whiplash just trying to keep up with whether they are together or not. 

Most of the time, I really enjoy the writings of Amy Clipston, but this one didn't really tickle my fancy as much as her other writings did.  I still say it's a solid four stars.  A Place at Our Table does tackle grief in all its emanations.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Promise of Dawn

Lauraine Snelling's claim to fame is her novels about Scandanavian immigrants to the Midwest--including several families in the Blessing series.  The Promise of Dawn is the beginning of a new series that still gives a nod to the characters in the Blessing series.

Einar and Gerd write to their relatives in Norway seeing if Rune and his family can come and help.  Gerd is not doing well and Einar needs help felling trees.

Just as Rune and Signe leave for Amerika (sic), Signe finds that she's pregnant one more time.  When they reach Einar's farm, they find all is not what it was purported to be.  Einar is an angry man who looks to take out his frustrations on anyone in proximity.  Gerd is bedfast and unable to do anything for herself.

Signe sees much of this as a challenge--getting Gerd back on her feet, standing up for her boys, and ultimately, making sure they get their due from Einar. 

Lauraine has given a full development to her characters, as well as genuine conflict.  She's a quality writer who puts out quality narratives. She's given us a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a slice of cornbread with your dinner.

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Where Do We Belong?

Picture it:  1890 in the Sahara Desert looking for a monastery that is supposed to have ancient documents and codices that will prove the verity of the Bible. Two sisters, two of their servants, and several Bedouin guides as well as a sheik are riding camels across the desert toward the monastery.  Each of the sisters and both of the servants get a voice in telling the story of this book.

Lynn Austin has woven together a cohesive narrative from four viewpoints that entertains her readers as well as challenges them.  I love it when a book I read for enjoyment has nuggets of truth that will push me to see what there is beyond my own little world. 

Rebecca and Flora are sisters who live for adventure.  At the young ages of 14 and 12 respectively, they begin their first adventure by skipping school and planning a trip to Europe.  They want all the information in hand to present to their father before asking for the trip.  Rebecca is thoroughly engulfed in finding what her purpose is in God's Kingdom, she wants to know where she belongs.  She is fearless in seeking her place and in her adventures because only God knows the end of her days. 

Flora finds her purpose rather early on--to reach the children who have no one to speak for them or to protect them.  She goes along with Rebecca's adventures because she doesn't want Rebecca to be alone.  A "Good Samaritan" situation allows Flora to find the love of her life who will stand beside her and help her with her purpose--funding and founding an orphanage that will provide a place for children who have lost their parents, or been abandoned by them, or for whatever reason are living on the streets.

The two servants along on the last adventure are street children that Rebecca and Flora have taken in to show them what love is all about.  Soren and Kate are incredulous that there are people in their small  worlds who will put themselves out for them. 

All of these characters are finding "Where We Belong" throughout the book.  Sometimes the hunt for place is longer and more involved than at other times, but the getting there is entertaining and intriguing.  I've read many of Lynn Austin's books and she NEVER disappoints.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a camel ride across the desert.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bygone Christmas Brides

So, Christmas is just around the corner and you are single and need escorts to all the balls and parties.  What can you do?  Well, these stories are just the thing to give you some inspiration.  Maybe your father meddles in your life.  Maybe you just meet by accident.  It doesn't matter, it's Christmas magic.
That's what you'll get when you read Bygone Christmas Brides put out by Barbour Publishing.  Six stories by six great authors who know how to put together a great story for an afternoon's reading.  Each story goes great with your favorite hot drink as you sit beside your Christmas tree.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a cup of wassail.

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

Bringing Maggie Home

I've enjoyed reading many of Kim Vogel Sawyer's books and I have found this newest one to be as engaging as her other books.

Hazel Mae is asked by her mother to take her little sister, Maggie,  with her to the blackberry woods and pick blackberries for a cobbler for their father. While Hazel is trying to scare a snake away from a bunny's nest, Maggie went missing.  The whole community searched for days to try to find Maggie to no avail.

Speed ahead seventy years.  Hazel overreacted to the disappearance of her sister by being overprotecting her daughter. Her daughter, Dianne, reacted to the overprotection by keeping a hands off policy with her own daughter, Meghan.

Meghan, in her working life is a cold-case detective, but she's off work due to being in a three-car pile up and breaking her foot.  Since she has to be off for six weeks, she goes to her grandmother's house for a visit.  As soon as she gets there she finds her mother there as well.

First thing, Kim has taken the situations of a family dynamic on the verge of eruption, and made it the core of her plot.  Hazel hasn't forgiven herself for Maggie's disappearance.  Dianne has built up a resentment of Hazel and Meghan, because of Hazel's overprotectiveness, and because Hazel has given Meghan the love she wants.

These three women all need something and Kim has brought about the filling of that need by bringing them all to the place where they have to reach to God because there is nowhere else to reach. She has shown that God is the only answer to the questions that haunt our lives.

I read this book much more slowly than normal because it needs to be pondered, perused, and puzzled over. This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and a family reunion that brings healing with it.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Crooked Path

In my last review of a book by Irma Joubert, I said that I'd read several of her books.  I guess now that I have read three of her books, I can claim that. There are some remarks I made that I will stand by for a long time.
 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. 
This book, The Crooked Path is a sequel to Child of the River, and many of the same characters show up in the book, along with a whole company of new ones.  Lettie is the daughter of the village doctor in South Africa, and desires to be a doctor in her own right.  Her marks in school and in university are the envy of those who don't work as hard.

Marco is in love with a Jewess but in Italy as well as the rest of Europe, the Jews are in danger.  After hiding her family in a cave for three years, they are all found and relocated to a concentration camp.  When the war ends, Marco finds that his love is dead along with the rest of her family, and Marco is very sick.  His brother Lorenzo comes to take him home from the hospital so his mother can nurse him.  His brother Antonio was a prisoner of war, taken to South Africa to work on a farm where he fell in love with the daughter of the farmer.  When he goes back to South Africa, he convinces Marco to come along--the dry climate is going to be better for his health.

While the book starts during World War II, it ends with the advent of the polio vaccine.  Marco and Lettie's love story is a happy/sad one all at the same time.  Because Marco is so fragile, he doesn't want Lettie to get pregnant, but he finally gives in and they have two beautiful daughters.

Irma has woven the stories of a number of characters into one cohesive novel that engages the reader from the very beginning, and doesn't let go until after the last page has been read.  This is one of the best books I've read in a while, and I appreciate Irma's talent in writing the story.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an Opera at La Scala!

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Home All Along

I can't believe I forgot to write a review for a book I read, but I guess it happens.

Beth Wiseman writes incredible Amish Fiction and Home All Along is no less compelling than her other books.  

Charlotte has come to live in the house her brother left her in the midst of an Amish community.  She is "almost Amish" in the way she lives--her house has no electricity, she has no electronics, she attends the worship services of the church in the district, but she still drives her truck and that separates her from being Amish. 

Daniel is Charlotte's boyfriend and is just waiting for Charlotte to join the church so they can be married, but there are obstacles.....

Charlotte's mother has died from a drug overdose, Daniel's mom is pregnant, Charlotte's sister shows up to manipulate and use her, and Charlotte feels her life spiraling out of control. 

Beth's characters are believable, likable, and real.  Her settings are realistic and imaginative.  Her plot moves with compelling pace to keep the reader intrigued and involved in the story.  This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and some fine Amish Cooking.

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Amish Cooking Class--The Blessing

Heidi and Lyle opened their home to a troubled teenager who was expecting a baby after she agreed to let them adopt the babe.  But coming toward the end of the pregnancy, her parents asked her to come back home and offered to help rear the baby too. Heidi was heartbroken, and so was Lyle, but he saw a way out of the grief and that was to get Heidi to give another one of her cooking classes.  There are six characters who show up to learn what Heidi has to teach.

Todd is a food critic with no time for God
Lisa is a caterer wanting to expand her repertoire
Bill wants to impress his hunting buddies
Nicole is the teen daughter of a single father who expects her to cook for him and her siblings
Allie was given the class as a gift from her husband
Lance just wants to learn what Heidi teaches because he smells her cooking every day when he delivers her mail.

Each character in the book gets to tell the story from their own point of view, which makes the book so much more interesting.  The other character is Kendra, the pregnant teen who sees something in Heidi and Lyle that she wants in her own life.

Wanda Brunstetter includes the recipes at the end of the book that Heidi teaches her class.  I have a couple of them I want to try for myself in the coming week.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a piece of apple cornbread for a snack.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Colors of Christmas

When I saw that Olivia Newport had written this book, at first I assumed it was Amish fiction, but I was surprised that it wasn't.  There are two novellas in this book and they are delightful stories.

Christmas in Gold describes Astrid's life under the Nazi regime.  She's telling her story to a young woman who is just at the edge of despair.  By revealing all the secrets, she's giving hope to the young woman.

Christmas in Blue details Angela's life after she's been given the responsibility for arranging the Christmas festival for her town.  Angela really resents being handed this responsibility because it belonged to her best friend who passed away in the spring.  A stranger shows up in town that no one seems to know, but he's got the ideas for the festival and helps Angela make it work with the scant supplies she has.

Both of these narratives encompass every aspect of hope that the Christmas season brings.  Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and Golden ornaments with Blue lights.

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

The Captive Brides Romance Collection

Usually I like reading the anthologies Barbour Publishing puts out.  However I was not held captive by the Captive Brides Collection.  The stories just weren't up my alley.  It could be mood or reading taste, but I couldn't find myself reading these stories about women who had been enslaved or indentured and then finding love.  There is nothing wrong with the writing or anything else about the book.  It was that I couldn't relate to the subject.  I'll give this three stars.

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

To Wager Her Heart

There are a few authors whose books I will read without reading the blurbs because I know that the writing will be excellent and the plot will be intriguing.  Tamera Alexander is one such author, and her newest novel is no exception.  To Wager Her Heart follows Belle Meade Mansion and the history of the railroad through Tennessee.  Tamera has woven historical fact in with the elements of her novel.

Alexandra Jamison wants nothing more than to teach, especially the freed slaves in the post war South. She applies to teach at the Fisk University and even without a teaching credential, she is hired to teach the beginning classes.

Sylas Rutledge is trying to clear his father's name in the train crash on Dutchman's Curve a year earlier.  It wasn't enough that his father died, but he had to be charged with causing the crash.

These two have to fight prejudices of friends and family to accomplish what they set out to do.  I must say that I did not anticipate the ending of this book (and no, I didn't cheat and read the ending first), but it was thoroughly satisfying.

I give this Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and some stock in a railroad.

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My Daughter's Legacy

Previously I reviewed book #2 in this series here and I made some statements that showed I didn't know what I was talking about:

 One thing I would change in this book is to leave out the murder of the man in the cabin. While it allowed a few extra characters and a bit of cloak and dagger action, it really didn't add to the plot lines except as a distraction. I feel the book would have been a whole story without that particular device.   
In book #3, My Daughter's Legacy, the murder is explained along with a few other mysteries within the two stories.  In keeping with my format in the last review, I'm going to go with my favorites in this story.

Modern Day Character:  Nicole has overcome some pretty extreme things in her life just to get to where she is, recovering from drug addiction, running from the demons that plague her thoughts and dreams, and holding onto her grandfather's secret for many years--a secret she should have never been asked to hold.

Historical Character: Michael Talbot has come home from France after most of the Civil War has been fought.  He is reviled by his neighbors for being to cowardly to fight. He joins up anyway as a medic for the local battalion.  Using his position as a cover, he spies for the Union army instead of the Confederates in Tennessee.  While he was in France he happened upon an illustrated manuscript belonging to a family he knew back in America. He bought the manuscript and brought it home.

The whole of the novel revolves around finding this manuscript and returning it to its rightful owner.  The manuscript is stolen a couple of times throughout the book, but is finally found and one more attempt to steal it is committed.

Leslie Gould and Mindy Starns Clark are both excellent writers in their own right, but together, they are an unbeatable team.  I can't wait to see what more comes out of their collaborative pens.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an original illustrated manuscript to protect.

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Letter from Lancaster County

Kate Lloyd writes impeccably.  Her characters are always fully developed and fit into the scenes where they are placed.  Saying this, I could not get myself interested in her book, A Letter from Lancaster County.  I have read other of her books and enjoyed them all, but even with a well-liked author, the random book will come along that just doesn't fit my taste.  This is no criticism on Kate or on her book.  It's a matter of personal taste.

Angela and Rose have received a letter from their Aunt Silvia in Lancaster County asking them to come for a visit.  Each chapter is devoted to Angela or Rose in alternating fashion, giving their viewpoints on the things that are happening.

I just wish I could have lost myself in the book like I do with so many of the books I read, but this one eluded me.  Three stars--just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't.

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gathering the Threads

Cindy Woodsmall's series The Amish of Summer Grove comes to completion with Gathering the Threads. Ariana and Skylar both have been through a lot due to an error made by a midwife when they were born.  They are both in situations that cause them to reconsider and reevaluate their lives in light of what they've learned.  For Ariana, she's had to learn to question what men tell her and to find the source of the information before making an opinion.  This new learning doesn't always set well with her family.  Skylar is not thrilled that Ariana is back and wants what Ariana has.  She wants a family that loves her and doesn't realize that she already has that love.

There are so many threads of life that come together in a way that makes a tapestry and we may not see what the final design is because we are looking at it from the wrong side.
Skylar and Ariana are working on completing the tapestry of their lives and they are seeing the messy yarn ends.

It has been Cindy's task to draw these threads into coherent stitches and her engaging style of writing makes the denouement of this story extremely satisfying.  Cindy certainly ranks at the top of my list of favorite Amish Authors.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the most beautiful tapestry you've ever seen.

My thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book as part of the Cindy Woodsmall Launch Team

Friday, August 25, 2017

Mary's Home

I started reading Jerry Eicher's Peace in the Valley series thinking I'd meet some characters and then follow them through their lives. I met three different main characters, and they had some interesting stories, but they didn't show up again in any of the other novels in the series. What this means is that while these stories take place in one geographic location, the stories stand alone.

 Mary is committed to her church community and feels so strongly about it that she's already been baptized into membership.  Her sister, Betsy, wants to "jump the fence" so badly she can taste it.  Part of Betsy's reason is that she was burned badly on her face and neck and there is nothing that can cover her scars.  None of the local Amish boys will look at her.  Mary has met and fallen in love with Josiah, a boy from another community.  As the date draws near to the wedding, Josiah writes her a letter, telling her that he has met someone else and would be married on the same day they were supposed to marry.  

Often on her way to work at the co-op store, she would stop by an elderly woman's house and see how she was doing.  One time, she meets the woman's grandson and becomes intrigued by him.  He is a missionary to Kenya and his work there aroused Mary's interest even more.  He invited her to listen to his fundraising speech at a local church, where he described street urchins that his mission reached out to.  The more Mary hears, the more fascinated she becomes.  

Meanwhile, an old flame comes back to claim Betsy's heart and gives the reader the surprise of who jumps the fence and who stays faithful.  This is an interesting read with great characters and settings.  Five stars, two thumbs up, and the opportunity to rescue a glue boy. 

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

Phoebe's Gift

I started reading Jerry Eicher's Peace in the Valley series thinking I'd meet some characters and then follow them through their lives.  I met three different main characters, and they had some interesting stories, but they didn't show up again in any of the other novels in the series.  What this means is that while these stories take place in one geographic location, the stories stand alone.

So now we come to Phoebe's Gift.  She has been taking care of her grandmother and now her grandmother has passed.  Through a series of unexpected events, Phoebe finds out that her grandmother wanted her pony farm to become a respite farm for at-risk children, for a week at a time.  With David helping her with the farm and the children, Phoebe finds herself  a bit over her head, but still at peace with the choice she made to keep the farm and follow her grandmother's dream.  She has passed the county's foster parenting requirements, and once the children start coming, she loses her heart to each child who comes through her doors.

Jerry Eicher knows how to write Amish fiction and this one is great!  His characters are easy to understand, and to some degree, I wish I could meet them in person.  There is much I'd like to learn from them.

Five Stars, two thumbs up, and an Assateague pony to ride.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Silvia's Rose

If this book were a show, the title character would not appear in the show at all.  She is a memory of Joseph's and has died before the book begins.

Jerry Eicher writes Amish fiction of extremely high quality.  He has worked this story out so that the reader cannot figure out exactly how it is going to end.

Esther's husband, Lonnie, has died, and she moves with her daughter to the South Lancaster County community.  She's hoping to catch the attention of Isaiah, a man her radar has honed in on for a long time.

Arlene is Dorrine's cousin and is seeking a husband.  She feels Joseph is just the man for her, if she can change him to her liking.

Joseph takes some things that his late wife, Silvia, taught him about hybridizing plants and is working on a rose just to commemorate the memory of his love for her.

These are the stars of this particular show, with some minor characters who like to throw wrenches into the works.

The book is a great read with interesting people, events, and settings.  It is meant to be savored, each word taken in and pondered.  This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and a rose created just for you.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Freedom's Ring

From the Boston Massacre to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, this book is filled with poignant histories of two ladies.  Heidi Chiavaroli has written a book that is meant to be savored.  She tells the stories of Liberty, whose brother was killed in the Massacre; and Anaya, a runner who was injured in the bombing.

When Anaya was injured in the bombing, a man wearing a Red Sox sweatshirt took her to safety, and gave her a ring. After she recovered, she looked for the man, but was never able to find him.  When Anaya's mother calls her to tell her that her sister may be moving to England, Anaya decides to make contact with her sister and her niece. It wasn't a great homecoming. Anaya's sister is bitter about Anaya's desertion of her family.

Liberty has come to Boston to search for her brother.  She has no money, no means of support, and no idea where her brother is.  A compassionate "Lobster Back" (English soldier) offers her a job as his housekeeper.  When she finally finds her brother, she's somewhat afraid to tell him who she works for, even though, her employers politics don't dovetail to hers.  A couple of weeks later, Liberty's brother, James, was the first fatality.

The men in the book are strong men, who know how to face their fears--eventually.  They are matched well to the women and stand well in their roles as leading men.

This is my first book that I've read by Heidi, but I am sure it won't be the last one I read by her.  She has a fresh voice in Christian fiction and her books are worth every minute to read them.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a signet ring that follows the family through the ages.

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fraying at the Edge

When last we left our heroines, both were overcoming stresses of their new situations.  Arianna is living with the people who raised Skylar, and Skylar is living with the people who raised Arianna.  Living in the Englisch world is beyond a challenge for Arianna.  Her biological father wants her to learn to live in the world, question it, and embrace it.  He has no belief in God and wants to tear down hers.  He not only wants to change her inside, but outside as well.  He wants her hair cut, her clothing totally changed, and her attitudes changed.  He writes a bucket list for her and expects her to fulfill it as a condition to returning to her Amish family.

For Skylar, the Amish world is totally backwards, and living by their rules is going to drive her to the looney bin.  She thinks she can hide her drugs and her habit, but Lovina, Skylar's biological mother, is wise to to Skylar's actions.

In the interim, Arianna's sisters and her twin are running the cafe with mixed results.  To save her sanity, and to have access to a phone, Skylar pitches in to help with the cafe.  After her last drugs run out, Lovina confronts Skylar and forces her to detox, but stands beside her to help her through the withdrawal.

Arianna feels pushed into a corner to fulfill the bucket list, even though much of it goes against her conscience.  When Arianna's friend, Quill, finds out what all is on the list, he confronts Ari's biological father and explains to him what loving a child is all about.  I think that is my favorite part of the book.

One thing about Cindy Woodsmall's series is that she sometimes leaves her characters hanging off the metaphoric cliff and makes her readers wait until the next installment.  Fraying at the Edge does exactly that, but it's still worth five stars, two thumbs up, and a cup of coffee, a scone, and a bucket list.

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

Ties That Bind

Cindy Woodsmall writes Amish fiction with a flourish.  Her characters have depth that I doubt I have as a person in real life. Her settings are imaginative but believable.  Her plots are impeccable. She writes five star stuff, Almost. Every. Single. Time.

Ties that Bind tells a story that has probably happened more than once--babies switched at birth in the busyness of a birth center.  Except that at this birth center, the busyness was a fire that allowed two baby girls to be switched. Now the girls are adults and have lived quite different lives which makes them different girls than they would have been.

When I was in college, I had to take a class in special education, primarily for the purpose of understanding what constitutes a special needs child.  One of the basic conundrums we encountered in this class is the influence of nurture versus nature.  How a child was raised, nurtured, and loved by his/her parents made a huge impact in that child's life.  But then there were the genetics of a child that tied into a child's behavior and characteristics as that child grew. The conundrum is--which one has the greater effect? And the answer is, I don't know.

This book and this series take a deep look at the effects of nature and nurture.  Arianna believes she's a twin to Abram, she loves her family, loves God, and loves to bake.  She works hard to buy a cafe so that she can contribute to her family, serve her community, and use her talents to the best of her abilities.

Skylar is a drama student and she's addicted to drugs.  When Arianna's friend Quill sees Skylar performing on stage, he realizes the looks amazingly like Arianna's sister Salome.  He does some research to find that Skylar and Arianna could have been switched at birth.  When Skylar's parents find out, they threaten a law suit unless Arianna comes to live with them for at least a year.  Then they give Skylar the option of living with Arianna's family or going to rehab.

It was hard for me to read this book and then wait for the next one to come out, but each page couldn't be read or turned fast enough.  Cindy's treatment of the situation is gentle and compassionate, yet at the same time engaging and compelling.  This is a five star book with two thumbs up, and a cup of the best coffee to be had.

Waterbrook/Multnomah put out this book and it holds to the high quality standards of the company.

Christmas at Carnton

Once in a while, I read a book, novella, or story of some kind where all the pieces fit together in such a way that there is no disconnect, no disjointed pieces, nothing but an enjoyable story with a completeness that brings satisfaction to the reader. Tamera Alexander's Christmas at Carnton is that kind of story.

Aletta is a war widow with a young son about to lose her house to foreclosure.  She looks all over town for a job, any job, just to keep the bills paid, and a roof over her and her son's heads.

Jake Winston is a sharp shooter who has been injured  and may never see well enough to do his job again.

Both of them end up at Carnton, a Franklin, Tennessee, planttion--Aletta to work, and Jake to recuperate from his injuries.  They end up working together on a couple of projects and a friendship forms.

All of the characters are believable--and I found it quite easy to put myself in their circumstances.  Aletta is not only skilled in the kitchen, she is also skilled in the woodshop--a deviation from the norm of the day.  Jake helps her build a nativity for the front lawn of Carnton to house a live nativity during the auction to raise money for the soldiers.  It's fun to watch Jake's opinions change as he sees that the ladies contributing to the auction really feel they have played a part in helping their loved ones.

I give this short novel five stars, two thumbs up, and a hot, flaky biscuit first thing in the morning.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore

Because many of the books I read are e-galleys, I don't often see the covers or synopsis before I read the books on my list.  On Love's Gentle Shore gave me the impression that it might be an historical novel, and I wanted a change of pace. I finally settled down to read the book, and, boy, was I surprised.

This is the third novel in the Prince Edward Islands Dreams series, and while the novels have some of the same characters, it will stand alone pretty well by itself.

Natalie O'Ryan is returning to Prince Edward Island to get married.  It wasn't her idea, nor her desire to marry in her home town. It held very few happy memories for her and lots of bitter ones where she was the object of all the town gossip.

Now she's having to plan her own wedding alone, because her fiance is called out of town for some kind of business emergency.  Her only port in this particular storm is the only friend she ever had as a child growing up--Justin Kane.

Liz Johnson writes with incredible skill and her novels are so compelling and engaging they are extremely hard to put down.  If it weren't for the fact that my dog wakes me up around 5:00 AM every morning, I'd stay up late reading her books.  I really can't wait until her next one comes out.

This is a five-star, two thumbs up book, and a lighthouse to hide letters in.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Promise of Breeze Hill

I don't know that I have read any books by Pam Hillman, but she is worth the time to read.  The Promise of Breeze Hill is the story of several people trying to tie themselves to the coat tails of the plantation called Breeze Hill.  One of the surest ways to get their grubby little hands on the land is to marry the daughter of the owner, Isabella Bartholomew. What most of the men don't realize is that Isabella's widowed sister-in-law is pregnant and her baby may be the heir to inherit the plantation.

The full gamut of characters populate the pages of this book--impostors, posers, milquetoasts, and ruffians.  Isabella and her family are the primary honest characters with a couple of other exceptions--one being Connor O'Shea, an Irish immigrant who has indentured himself in order to bring his brothers from Ireland.

From the time that Isabella bought Connor's indenture papers through the end of the book, Connor has felt it was his duty to protect Isabella.   When she gets a message that Leah, her sister-in-law, is having trouble with her baby, she leaves from Natchez to get back to Breeze Hill.  Connor decided to accompany her and it was a good thing he did.  Her trip wasn't as dire as she originally thought, and she didn't need to put herself into more danger than she already faced.

This is a good book, with quality writing, but it didn't engage me.  I can't put my finger on what I didn't like about it, but it's still a four star book.

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