©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

Celeste Fletcher McHale is a new to me author and she has written a book that deserves to be savored.  It needs to be read slowly and carefully so that each word can sink into the reader and take hold.  This is not just a compelling story line, it is enrapturing!

Jacey is a journalist writing about impoverished people in the deep South.  She gets caught in a flood and ends up on a roof with Lillian, her four boys, and Colin, waiting for rescue.  When the first boat comes by, Jacey, Lillian, and the boys get in and before they get too far, their boat is hit by another.  The currents of the flood waters are strong enough that Lillian's baby boy is ripped from Jacey's hands and Lillian is also pulled out of the boat.

A year later, Jacey encounters Colin as the minister who is performing the wedding ceremony of her best friend, Willow.  Jacey has scattered memories from the flood and Colin holds the key to some of the memories.  She keeps having dreams that rattle her sense of stability, but when the final key unlocks the last of the memories, Jacey runs to Colin for comfort.  Colin tells her he thinks he's falling in love with her and then backpedals so fast, she gets whiplash.  To soothe her hurting soul, she thinks of the boys and she goes to Biloxi, Mississippi, to see if she can find them.

Several items remotely related to this book:
   A.  I am glad it is not a scratch and sniff book.  There are many scents and perfumes that give me migraines, and magnolias are one of them.
   B.  There is a scene with a vague reference to sex and it is pre-marriage.
   C.  Everybody needs a Miss Ernestine in their life, and NO one needs a Miss Penny.
   D.  I have a friend who is just as outrageous as Grace and I love her dearly.

This is a great book for people who love happy endings, it's got the best happy ending of them all.  Celeste knows how to get the best out of her characters and settings. This is a five star book with two thumbs up, and a branch of magnolia blossoms.

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection

She's poor, he's rich; he's poor, she's rich; either way, the love bug bites them and elevates at least one of the couple into the polite society of the day.  In this collection of romance novellas, the money spoke and it said, "I love you."

The powers that be at Barbour Books pulled together nine extremely talented authors to bring love to society's mis-matched couples. I have come to the conclusion that there are authors who write best when they write full length novels, but there are some incredible authors who can write the short novella and bring just as much enjoyment to the reader as the full-length novelists do.  It's quite a feat, and Barbour Books knows who these authors are and how to tap into their talents to the best outcome.

This is a five-star collection, two thumbs up, and an unexpected bit of money.

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rachel's Dreams

Rachel has three dreams and she keeps them written in a journal that stays in her hope chest made by Old Sam.  One of her dreams deals with her horse Cinnamon and becomes especially dear to her when Cinnamon becomes ill.  Cinnamon's illness brings Jarred Zimmerman to the Kauffman farm.  Jarred is not Amish and yet he and Rachel connect in a way that baffles them both.  One of the connections is Cinnamon, Jarred was there when Cinnamon was born and nursed him through an early illness.  Now both Rachel and Jarred are committed to nurse Cinnamon through this illness--one that has taken every horse it has reached.

Lisa Jones Baker has put together another Amish winner.  This one is a bit too syrupy sweet for me, but the writing is impeccable and the people are quite likable and the problems they face, they face them with aplomb.  The solutions the characters achieve are well thought out and well implemented.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a buggy ride with a healthy horse.

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Farmer's Market Mishap

Elma wants to be married, she wants the life her twin sister has, including the coming boppli.  She can't bear to move away from her sister and from her general store that she inherited from her grandparents.   This is the beginning of The Farmer's Market Mishap by Wanda Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter.

The two authors have put together a book with parallel stories that collide at the Farmer's Market.  Elma's sister wants her to marry Delbert--a man she courted before with no results.  Benjamin Wagler's mother wants him to marry a local girl, but the mishap at the Farmer's Market puts Ben and Elma together in a way that thwarts everyone's efforts to bring them together with other people. But it is a dog that cements their relationship forever.

It's been a number of years since I've read a Wanda Brunstetter book, but this was a nice reintroduction to her writing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  She's taken out the smarmy sweetness and added a reality that gives a new realism to her books. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a bushel of vegetables from the Farmer's Market

My thanks to Barbour Books (Shiloh Run Press) for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Secret Courage

Tricia Goyer writes incredible Amish Fiction, and she writes World War II Era fiction and some non-fiction.  A Secret Courage is a WWII era book that details the life of a Photo Investigator. There are spies, double agents, counter spies, and a budding romance. I didn't find this book as enticing as her Amish fiction.  With all the characters carrying main roles in the book, there just wasn't enough time or space to develop them all.  The setting was well described and fit its role in the book.

Emma is the Photographic Investigator charged with scouring photos of the German countryside looking for weapons installations and possible rocket launch sites.

Will is an artist whose job it is to paint pictures of England where the war has not touched it.

Berndt is a German spy wanting to bring Emma's work down.

Ruth is a German woman taking care of war orphans, but that's only her cover for her duplicitous actions.

Both Will and Berndt want to get to know Emma more because she has information that can help or hurt the English cause by their own agendas.

I wish I could have liked the book better than I did.  Three stars.

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm Back in the Saddle Again, . . .

Sam Stafford has been injured by a rather cranky cow, and in the meantime, he's having trouble with his liver.  Colt Stafford's investment empire has imploded by a Ponzi scheme, and to avoid the press, he has come back to Grays Glen, Washington, and the Double S Ranch.  At the Double S, Colt meets Angelina--the housekeeper for Sam, and that meeting causes Colt to consider going back to the Rat Race of Wall Street, or stay in the saddle at the ranch.

Ruth Logan Herne has written an exciting book with interesting characters who have very real problems in life.  A minor character is Nick, whose wife left him with two young daughters to raise.  His hackles rise up whenever Colt offers advice.  There is a tension between the two that helps the plot to move forward without becoming frenetic.

The only criticism I have for this book is that Ruth has Angelina talking on her cell phone while she's driving.  Angelina is a former law enforcement officer from Seattle and should know that cell phone use in Washington while driving is not legal.  I looked at her bio information, and found she doesn't live in Washington.  This is something that she should have checked out.  Driving while Distracted carries a fairly serious fine with it.

I enjoyed Back in the Saddle and previously read Home on the Range with the same interest.  There is one more brother to come back and find his home on the Double S.  I can't wait to read Trey's story.  Back in the Saddle is a definite 4+ book and worth the time to read.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ascension of Larks

I am not sure the title is apt for the book.  It does have some meaning to the plot, but a bigger player than the larks is a  Dall porpoise.
 But more on that later.

Ascension of Larks is one of the best books I have read for a while.  Maggie Henry, Marco Firelli and Lena Firelli have been friends since college.  Maggie is a renowned photographer with many awards to her name.  Marco is equally renowned architect as well, and Lena is the one who earned Marco's heart.  Maggie is finishing a photoshoot at a coffee plantation in Central America when she hears that Marco was drowned in an accident in Puget Sound. She rushes to Lena's side to be there for her and the children.

Rachel Linden has presented her readers with the most captivating novel to come out for a while.  In delving into the lives of Marco, Lena, and Maggie, she unearths some depths to each of the characters that some authors would have left unplumbed.  She even brings in a minor player who adds so much to the landscape of the plot of the book, it just would not have been as good without them.

Rachel has done exquisite research especially in some of the customs of the early years of the San Juan Islands.  When Maggie takes the children to a museum, they find a display of a beckoning ceremony, and the children decide they want to do one for their father.  They build a fortress under the fir trees and put things that were important to their father inside the little fortress.  They gather together and have Maggie say a few things to show Marco's spirit where he needs to go.  Soon after, a Dall's porpoise shows up in the sound, and the children believe it is their father coming to greet them.

I am having a hard time giving some idea of what the book is about without spoiling it for other readers who haven't had a chance to read it yet. One thing about this book, faith is very much an undertone to the book rather than the driving force.  What faith is portrayed makes this book all the more winsome.  I must say it is a five-star book, two thumbs up, and a Dall's porpoise to greet you.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How to Charm a Beekeeper's Heart

If we take the title of the book and try to answer it with the contents of the book, sometimes the answer is convoluted.  But that is how real life plays out.  It's not a neat package that moves from one episode to another seamlessly, there are messes that interfere with our nicely planned out lives.  Candice Sue Patterson has written a novel that mimics the messiness of life and still tells a compelling story with love, angst, pathos, and joy.

Arianne runs a bridal shop and lives in a small apartment upstairs from the shop with her daughter and her sister. So far, her sister has not done anything with her life but be a mooch on Arianne.

Huck's Uncle Martin has died and Huck inherited the building that Arianne's bridal shop occupies.  She hasn't paid rent in ten months, so Huck shows up to evict her.  Huck and Arianne have a history that isn't a pretty one, but somehow Huck wants to overcome that.

When Huck has an accident on his motorcycle and breaks his body to bits, he needs someone who can take care of him during his long rehab.  Arianne has been part of the way through medical school and has the knowledge to help in his recovery, but he's most unwilling to have Arianne be his caretaker until it comes down to the fact that he has no one else who can help.

A few misunderstandings and a couple of accidents later, it looks as if Huck's chances are slim to none and Slim left town.

I've not read a book by Candice before, but this won't be my last one.  There is a reality to her book that encourages my heart. I started this book yesterday and finished it today.  It was a better read than I expected and it left me wanting more.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a jar of honey to sweeten your life

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Amish Summer

Every now and then, I need to read a book to "cleanse the palate," and just lose myself in some lighter entertainment. This time it wasn't because I had just read a deeply involved book, but because I was about to read a more deeply involved book.  An Amish Summer was just the book I needed to read for this purpose.

A collection of four novellas, each one has its characters (not just the players in the book, but characters in the sense of personality), and its conundrums.  There were difficulties to overcome for each couple to make it to the marriage bench.  The authors collected here are top knotch Amish writers and are a joy to read.  It is entertaining to follow the dialects of the Amish used by the authors in their narratives.  Some of the words are the same, but the spelling is different.  Some of the words are completely different. The rules or the "Ordnung" are pretty much the same across the four novellas and the reactions to them are pretty uniform, as well.

This is a five-star collection, two thumbs up, and a summer full of fun!

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Raine

If you are looking for a light-hearted, mindless read, then Spring Raine is the book for you.  Raine has come to Cambria, California, to have a vacation before she starts a parental-approved job as a forensic scientist.  Her father is not all that pleased with the fact that she's out of his "range" and is afraid she'll mess up her life, so he hires a "ghost guard" to watch out for her. Declan Keller is the neighbor to the inn where Raine is staying, so he's in a perfect position to be the guard her. . . .

This is my first Delia Latham book, and she does follow the formula fairly well.  She just threw in an undercover angel to spice it up a bit.  Among the  overabundance of butterflies, dreams, and unusual happenings, Delia has created a predictable narrative that in places is over-the-top silly.  Like I said, this is light-hearted and mindless.  I always feel bad when I have to give a bad review, but I wish this had been a better book.  Two stars.

I want to thank White Rose Publications for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sweetbriar Cottage

Noah gets a letter from the IRS that stirs his anger like nothing else can.  He pays a visit to his accountant that gets him nothing in the way of information and sends him to his lawyer.  What the lawyer tells him is beyond all he can bear.  His divorce was never finalized and in order to straighten it out, he has to face Josephine once again.

Josephine has secrets that she has never told anyone and has no desires to tell anyone.  She wants things between Noah and her finished as well.  When he asks for their papers, she brings them to him and then gets stuck at his house in a storm that goes from bad to worse.

Denise Hunter has written a real "screen scroller" with Sweetbriar Cottage.  The plot is what makes this book as good as it is.  The characters are a bit two-dimensional, but their interactions in their predicament did make the book more readable.  This is a strong four star book.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Writing Desk

Tenley Roth needs to meet a book deadline when she is called by her mother to come help her out.  Blanche has cancer and wants Tenley to be with her through the chemo and other treatments.  While Tenley goes to Florida, her fiance goes to Paris to work on a screenplay with an A-list starlet.  When Tenley gets to Blanche's house, she finds an antique desk that she thinks will be her muse.  Day after day Tenley sits at the desk and writes nothing.

Rachel Hauck has written one of those books that goes back and forth through history where she describes Tenley's life and then bounces back to one of Tenley's ancestors and she brings up an ethical dilemma that not only affects Tenley, but also affects her ancestor, Birdie.  Both love to write, but Birdie got her first novel stolen from her and Tenley finds a manuscript that she appropriates as her own.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the Writing Desk.  I read it in one day and stayed up until the wee hours of this morning to finish the book.  My husband often asks me how long it will be till I turn out my reading light.  Last night he asked several times, and I only said, "Soon." I couldn't put it down.  From the Gilded Age in New York City, to London, to Florida, the settings only add to the aura of the book and the characters are exactly that--real characters.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and that novel you've been saying you'll write.

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

and make believe it came from you.  I'm gonna write words oh so sweet, they'll knock me off my feet.

Seven ladies in Turtle Springs, Kansas, have pooled their money together to post an ad in several newspapers nationwide in order to find a husband.  The Civil War has decimated the male portion of the population, leaving many young maidens without prospects for a spouse. The men are to show up to audition for their prospective wives.  Each woman gets to choose whether or not to pursue a relationship with the man whose eye she catches.

This olio of stories has only seven novellas which gives the author a bit more time and space to work with her characters and since all of the stories are set in the same place, the settings were not hard to work with, and the plot development could still be personalized by each individual author.  This is one of the best collections Barbour Books has put out. Because the novellas get more space, the authors are able to refine their books with a bit fewer constraints.

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

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