©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Amish Widower

I've read several of Virginia Smith's Amish fiction works and thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them.  I was pleased when The Amish Widower came up on my list because I knew it would be a good read.

Seth Hostetler has been widowed twice and plans to never marry again, first because he has suffered too much pain, and second, because he can't see that God would give him another chance. He lives on his father's farm with his parents, grandmother, and two brothers and all the assorted family members.  He felt a bit out of place and taking up too much room.  The farming work is fine but it doesn't hold the excitement for him that he wishes he could have from his work.

When his sisters-in-law want him to drive them to town, they take him to a pottery shop on the far side of town and the owner of the shop gives him a lesson in throwing pottery and captures his imagination.

When a girl from his district runs away because her boyfriend started dating someone else, Seth is called in to try to bring this girl back to the district. When she does return, she thinks Seth has feelings for her that he doesn't really have.  As the pressures mount for him to take another wife, he decides to move closer to the pottery works where he's been apprenticed to the potter.

At the prologue of the book and at the very end, my eyes flowed with unrelenting tears.  My nose got stuffed up, the whole works. Virginia truly writes believable Amish fiction and puts the warts on the Amish instead of writing perfect characters who never step out of line.  This is a five-star book, with two thumbs up and a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of pottery.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Abiding Mercy

This is the third Ruth Reid book I've read.  When I went back to read the reviews of her books I'd previously read, I was surprised to see this review.  What surprised me in rereading that review was that I felt I would never read another book by her again.

I've gone through cycles where I will read Amish fiction, or cycles where I won't read any Amish at all.  I'm in a cycle where I'm picky about the Amish fiction I'll read, but I do enjoy reading it. This book is  a bit similar to an Amish fiction book I've read before, but it does come with a twist.

Roslyn and Brandon's toddler daughter was kidnapped and for the last fifteen years Roslyn has been obsessed with finding Adriana.  She has created a foundation to reunite kidnapped children with their parents, and she has made it her life's work to find Adriana.

Faith has been working at her maam's restaurant ever since she finished school in the eighth grade.  She loves cooking and she loves baking the bread in the restaurant. She also loves Gideon, but he's her sister's boyfriend.

These lives are on a collision course without any of them knowing it.  And it caused no small amount of tears for me as I read it.

After I read that one Ruth Reid book, I kind of forgot about it, so I picked up another one.  I am certainly glad I did.  This book broke my heart and it gave me such hope at the same time.  I give it five stars, two thumbs up, and a freshly baked loaf of bread.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

To the Farthest Shores

To the Farthest Shores is an historical novel that covers a portion of history I've not paid too much attention to.  Starting just after the Spanish-American War and moving up to the early years of the 1900s.  Elizabeth Camden has pulled together several people, places, and events to make an incredible novel surrounding the Presidio military base and soldiers returning from war with all kinds of injuries and needing rehabilitation. Jenny is the nurse all the soldiers love because of her sweet attitude and care for all of their needs.  It's in this capacity that Jenny met Ryan and fell in love.  Then suddenly he was gone.  After four years, she gets a letter telling her to forget him.

Elizabeth has depicted the establishment of the now CIA, and the advent of covert spying by the US.  Through her descriptions, she has formulated a character whose very being is protected by his need to keep secrets. Those secrets spill over into his outside life, and become an obstacle to what he really wants.

To the Farthest Shores is a well-crafted novel full of surprises at every turn.  Elizabeth has not left out a single detail or a single thought within the pages of this book.  The characters are so well developed, they feel like friends to the readers.  The settings are so well described that they are almost tangible. Hospitals, pawn shops, and pearl farms make the world of this novel, but that world is so full and so meaningful, it was incredibly hard to finish the book and walk away.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a productive Pearl Farm.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Shine Like the Dawn

Maggie and her family are on an outing to celebrate her older sister's birthday when the boat sprang a leak.  When it became apparent that they were not going to be able to get back to shore, Maggie's father told her to swim to shore with her baby sister, Violet, who was only two years old.  Maggie's mother and older sister were not able to swim, but Maggie saved herself and Violet.  Four years later, Maggie and Violet are living with their grandmother making hats in her millinery shop when Violet is involved in an accident when she is hit by a motor car and breaks her leg. Even with Violet's accident, there is nothing Maggie wants more than to find out what happened when her family drowned.  A face from Maggie's past shows up to help.  Nate Harcourt has come home because his father is ill and Nate needs to take over his father's responsibilities.

Carrie Turansky writes incredible novels with intriguing plot lines that make her novels hard to put down.  In Shine Like the Dawn, Carrie has not only given us a novel with an interesting plot, but she's also given us a peek into the daily life of England near the turn of the twentieth century.  She's also shown us the very real human foibles we all have, but entertained us while doing so.  The romance in this novel is not over the top, but more understated--almost taking a back seat to the characters and plot lines.  Her plots move seamlessly through several character points of view and bring a cohesive story to the reader.

This is a five star book, with two thumbs up, and the clues to solve a serious mystery.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Heart Belongs

When I began to read this novel, I was almost prepared to dismiss it as a formulaic romance.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that this novel takes a few detours along the formula line. While it does have a bit of a slow start, the pace of the plot picks up quite quickly.  In a comedy of mistaken identities and a rush to the altar before everything is understood, Tad and Rebecca find themselves married, when Rebecca was supposed to marry Tad's cousin, Theodore.  The animosity between Tad and Theodore adds to the comedy of errors.

Suzanne Dietze has contributed to several of Barbour Publishing's novella collections and I always find her writing entertaining and worth the time to read. This novel is no different.  My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho, has all kinds of adventure, angst, and growth. Some of the characters have to overcome a prejudice and find the kindness within themselves.  For that reason alone, the book is worth reading.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a marriage to the right man.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Behind the Scenes

Imagine, opening your mail and find that you have been invited to a masquerade ball at Alva Vanderbilt's home, the creme de la creme of society.  You are a women's page writer for the New York Sun and this invitation allows you access to the inner workings of her home and to see all of the Knickerbockers while also allowing you to gain tasty tidbits of society gossip for your column.

Such was the case for Miss Permilia Griswold, who wrote under the pen name of Miss Quill.  Her writing allowed those not at the party to feel as if they'd been there and seen the people.  Permilia talked about the gowns the ladies wore, the escorts they had, the dances they danced, but left out salacious details of the evening.

Leaving out the salacious details is what got Miss Quill fired from her job at the New York Sun, but that was secondary to the murder plot Permilia accidently overheard.  Jen Turano writes novels that exude humor and delight and that entertain the reader from page one to the last page.  Behind the Scenes is one such novel.  Permilia has been handicapped by her step-mother and her step-sister who live for drama, making the right impressions and being seen in the right company always.

I didn't realize that Jen had chosen "Permilia" as her heroine's name, I'd only heard of this name one other time--in researching my family tree, one of the great-great-grandmother's had this name, and her mother was Parmilia.  I adore Jen Turano's writings because of her humor and settings.  Her characters are more than just the fluffy, air-headed society debutantes.  This is a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a dress that doesn't look like a chicken molted all over it.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride

Judith McCoy Miller writes amazing novels with charming characters and incredible settings.  Her research is impeccable and informative. I learn something nearly every time I read one of her books.

The Chapel Car Bride taught me that there was at one time in history train cars where preachers traveled on the railroad teaching about Christ.  I'd never heard of this before, but it's not outside the realms of credulity.

This takes place soon after the turn of the century of 1900s.  Prohibition was about to come into play, but in West Virginia, it was already being enacted, county by county.  Where prohibition exists, moonshining and bootlegging exists alongside.  Moonshining is part of my family's history--a cousin and a great uncle on my mom's side of the family were the still owners, and my grandfather on my dad's side was their customer.  Cousin Wesley was the grand joke of the family.  If something was mentioned about illegal booze, Cousin Wesley's name was not far behind.  He spent time in and out of the federal penintentiary, and often listed his occupation as "sugar delivery for Weyerhaueser." I know this world, not well, but I know it.

Another significant part of the plot is the location--the back hills of West Virginia.  Hill people are hill people, no matter where they are, and Judith has written a true portrayal of the hill people in this book.  They are closed off, wary of strangers, slow to trust outsiders, and definitely mistrustful of people from the government.  I've lived in a community like that.  Some of them believe they are a law unto themselves, and can tell stories about that, but that's for another day.

The relationships Judith has put into the plot are charming and insightful.  I LOVED this book.  I couldn't wait to finish it, but I wanted it to go longer.  It's five stars, two thumbs up, and NO moonshine!

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Journey Toward Home

Carol Cox writes historical novels with a humorous twist and creates an entertaining read for her fans.  In this offering from Barbour Books, she has two stories make a complete narrative, and both are highly entertaining.

Journey Toward Home details the life of Judith Alder as she's moving from Missouri to New Mexico to live with her uncle instead of with her aunt.  In order for her aunt to allow her to make the move, her aunt set her up to travel with a family going west in a wagon train. The woman of the family was extremely severe and actually resented Judith being with the family, and at the first opportunity, the family abandoned Judith in the middle of the desert.  Judith learns how resilient she really is.

Measure of a Man, which is a bonus story in the book picks up a few years after Journey Toward Home ends.  Lizzie is looking for "that" one man who will love her and keep her life adventurous.  There are two men vying for her attention, and they are vastly different in lifestyle, beliefs, and basic character.  Lizzie has a tough choice ahead of her.

This is the first book with a bonus story that had a connection to the first novel in the book, and I thought that added to the charm of the collection.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a move west.

I would like to thank Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Goosey, Goosey, Gander

Melanie Dickerson takes ordinary fairy tales and reworks them to make complete novels.  She does a masterful job at taking the child-like story and making it an enjoyable narrative for adults to read.  Magdalen has been called to Wolfberg to wed the Duke there.  She only goes because she wants to better the lives of the people living in her demesne since the copper in her father's mines has played out.  Steffen is the Duke, but he's been in Prague going to school and his uncle has been overseeing his land and castle. His uncle calls him home to get married, but. . .

The story is set in Germany and puts the The Goose Girl into a setting where she is allowed to bloom and grow even though her identity has been stolen from her.  Steffen becomes her ally in this problematic situation because his life was being threatened by his uncle.

The Noble Servant is quite a story that is a quick read and hard to put down.  I appreciate Melanie's talent in telling the tale and her ability to make it so enjoyable.

Five stars, two thumbs up, and a goose-feather quill.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Treasured Grace

One of the first things I learned about after I moved to Washington State was the Whitman Massacre.  When my children were about six and eight, we went to Walla Walla to visit the Mission.  To see where history happens is one of those experiences everyone should have.

Tracie Peterson has written a novel that brings history to life in the Whitman Mission Massacre.  She has done her research well, she has developed characters to flesh out the plot lines, her plot and setting are incredible, she has added intensity to the telling of the story to make it more than just  retelling of the history of the events.

Grace Martindale and her two younger sisters have come west with a man Grace married so that he could set up a mission for the "savages."  Along the way, he died, and Grace was left alone with her sisters to finish out the trip.  Grace has been gifted with the gift of healing and knows how to use herbs and other botanicals for her remedies.  She butts heads with Dr Whitman about helping people with their ailments.  I truly believe that Tracie researched these characters well to show how they acted in real life.  I never realized the ego Dr Whitman had. Egos clashing played a large part of the massacre.

But Grace had an ego of her own that she had to overcome, especially when it came to her love life, but she did and she did it graciously.

This is a five star book, two thumbs up, and healing for your soul.

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

With Love, Wherever You Are

Dandi Daley Mackall has written the book I've wanted to write, but never thought I had the chutzpah to do it.  She has told her parents' love story in such a winsome way that the book is impossible to put down.  Because she had an inside view of her parents' lives, her characters have a depth that the characters in most novels don't get to.  Dandi was able to pick her parents minds and get the real low-down on the places and settings for the novel, as well as get the real low-down on the relationship between her parents.

Helen Eberhardt is one of thirteen children, and against her father's wishes, she went to nursing school.  After finishing nursing school, she was working in a hospital that catered to the wealthy who were demanding and spoiled. After a run-in with a particularly trying patient, she quit and enlisted in the Army.  Her first day in an Army hospital, she was assigned to the amputee ward.  After her first look, she ran into the men's restroom to gather her wits.  That's where she met Frank Daley, and for him, that was all it took for him to fall in love.

Eventually both were sent to Europe to different hospitals and the only way they had to communicate was to write letters, copious numbers of letters.

There are more than a few similarities between my parents' story and Dandi's, but there are quite a few differences.  Neither of my parents were in the medical professions, nor were either of them in the Army.  Daddy was in the Coast Guard, but he was willing to take the same kinds of risks Frank took, but for different reasons.  Still this narrative reminded me much of my parents' lives, I thoroughly loved the book.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a letter from your true love.

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Secret Admirers

When you collect nine authors who tell nine stories, you get some of the same kinds of stories, but all from a different perspective, and all have the right length to allow you to get away for an hour in the afternoon and escape the real world.

The problem with this format of reading is that the authors. who are ultimately qualified to write these stories, are hamstrung by the length of the narrative.  Few authors are able to develop a plot as well as the personalities that populate the plot.

Barbour Publishing has the knack of finding the best of the best who can achieve this nearly impossible task of great stories that only take an hour to read. Each of the tales in this olio involve someone loving another from afar and finally finding his/her own true love.  Part of the time, I read this before falling asleep, part of the time I read while I was exercising on my stationary bike.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and an anonymous love letter.

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