Google+ Badge

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Surprised By Love by Julie Lessman – A Book Review

     This is the third book in Lessman’s The Heart of San Francisco series.  The first book found true love for Cassie McClare, the second for her cousin Allie.  This third book focuses on Meg, Allie’s sister, who underwent an amazing transformation while spending her senior year in Paris both in her physical appearance and in her self-confidence while also discovering God’s call to serve women living in poverty doing whatever it took to survive.  Matron of this clan, Caitlyn McClare, also comes to grips with her ability to trust or not to trust her deceased husband’s brother, Logan. A quandary whose storyline spans this trilogy.
     The theme of this book is forgiveness, forgiving those who have wronged us as well as forgiving oneself.  Bram, loving known as Padre by his closest friends, is wise beyond his years;  explaining the importance of forgiveness, “‘ People don’t realize just how much energy it takes to hate and hurt someone who’s wounded them, nor how destructive that hate can be….It’s like a gun aimed at themselves instead of the offending party….It can destroy them and those they love.’”  He also explains how, through prayer, to rely on God’s power to be able to forgive; something that isn’t always possible under our own power.  The theme is well developed, and Biblically grounded. 
     I was excited to see this third book of the series on the list of books available for review. I’d enjoyed the first two books, and was anxious to read the third.  What I found when I started reading the book was that I was tired of the characters, tired of reading about Cassie’s smelly lasso and Allie’s stick both of which they supposedly used to keep the man in their life in line. I was tired of reading about Blake being a rake and family game nights. There seemed to be a lot of redundancy of events and in dialogue. On the other hand, wondering which man Meg would be interested in, even though it was fairly obvious which one she’d end up with, kept my interest in the story, as did pondering how Caitlyn and Logan would work out their differences.
     The heavy emphasis on the importance or impact of physical beauty was a concern while reading this book.  There were a few instances like when Meg reflected on the lesson that, “although the naked eye admires outward appearance, it’s in the mind’s eye where true beauty and confidence begins,” and when Devin states that, “For once I’ve met a girl whose beauty on the inside is so powerful and deep, the surface beauty is almost secondary,” when the author acknowledges the greater importance on\f inner beauty.  For the most part, the reader encounters evidence that the transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan was what inspired men’s ardor and admiration for Meg. 

          I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Surprised By Love for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.      

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Promise To Protect by Patricia Bradley - A Book Review

Pat's-FB-43        A Promise to Protect

A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley (Book 2 in the Logan Point Series) – A BookReview
     I posted a review on my blog for book one in the Logan Point series on February 1, 2014.  It began, “This book has more twists and turns in the first chapter than many books do between their covers.” A Promise to Protect is no different.  Half-way into the book there had been a murder, attempted murders, two arsons, and two snake bites, among other nefarious events.  While the romantic storyline might be a bit predictable, the mystery and suspense elements are not.  Bradley plays it close to the vest until very near the book’s end, revealing some character’s involvement only to make you question others’.  I had been greatly anticipating this second book, and was not disappointed.   While this is the second book of the series, it would work fine as a stand-alone read, and the reader would be able to read the books out of sequence without too much of a problem. 
     Recently an author asked a group of avid readers what element of a book was most likely to determine their opinion of the book.  For me it is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.   When selecting a book I open it up to three or four different spots and sample the dialogue.  If it sounds stilted or cheesy, I put the book back on the shelf and continue my search.  Bradley’s books contain a great deal of well written dialogue that keeps the story moving.  She is a master of show don’t tell, avoiding lengthy descriptions, allowing the dialogue to lead her readers in inferring and creating mental images. 
     A Promise to Protect deals with the theme of forgiveness.  While forgiveness of others is central to the plot, it is the main characters’ struggles with forgiving themselves that is really addressed within the storyline.  Bradley also deals with the importance of accepting forgiveness, something often ignored as many authors and speakers deal with giving forgiveness.  I have taught many a comprehension strategy lesson on making text-to-self connections.  I doubt that there are many readers who would fail to connect to the theme of this book as there are multiple opportunities among a variety of characters to give and receive forgiveness, as well as opportunities to withhold the very same.
     Whether this is your second visit to Logan’s Point or only your first, I predict that you will be losing a lot of sleep until your visit comes to an end.  You will find yourself rooting for Sheriff Ben Logan as Dr. Leigh Somerall reenters his life ten years after their college romance abruptly ended.  Your heart will go out to her son, TJ, as he deals with the many challenges life hands him, and your heart will race as revenge is sought for real and imagined wrongs, and as the desire for revenge or retribution is relinquished by some.  Welcome to Logan’s Point.   
     I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing A Promise to Protect for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own

Monday, September 29, 2014

Deceived by Irene Hannon - A Book Review

Deceived               Irenepic
Deceived by Irene Hannon – A Book Review
     Irene Hannon is not a new author, but she is a new-to-me author.  I will be looking for more of her books in the future.  Deceived is the third book in her Private Justice series, so books one and two in the series would be a good place for me to go next, although this book read well as a stand-alone novel.  It was very easy to follow without having the benefit of having read the first two.
     Someone recently asked on Facebook if it was even possible for Irene Hannon to write a bad book.  Well, if Deceived is any indication, the answer is a resounding NO!!!  The blurb on the back leads readers unfamiliar with Hannon’s writing thinking the book will follow a very predictable storyline, but the additional comment,  one that I didn’t attend to prior to reading the book, which referred to unexpected twists and a riveting plotline  was quite accurate.  Repeatedly I found myself questioning which way the author was going to go, and leaving many things undone as I was compelled to read on and find out.
     Kate Marshall is finally turning her life back on again after losing both her husband and son in a boating accident.  She has moved halfway across the country for a fresh start, when a chance encounter with a familiar-looking boy asking for a poppysicle turned her life upside down.  She turns to former Secret Service agent turned private investigator, Connor Sullivan, to help her decide is she is going crazy or if the impossible might just be possible.  On the path to find the answer help comes from unexpected sources, and danger increases as does hope.  Kate exemplifies what it means to trust and respect God’s sovereignty even when there is the possibility that it might contradict something about which you are passionate. 
     I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Deceived for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Guest, Hannah Conway, author of A Wounded Warrior's Wife

On September 2nd I posted a review of A Wounded Warrior's Wife, a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Today it is my pleasure to interview our guest, the author, Hannah Conway.  After reading the interview, please post a comment and you will be entered for a chance to win an eCopy of Hannah's debut novel, or amazon gift cards, or a free photo book from groovebook. A winner will be chosen at random on September 18th. Hannah will contact the winner soon after.

Hannah, thank you for taking the time to share with us about your journey as a writer and your debut novel.

Q: Please tell us about the inspiration behind your pursuit of a writing career.
A: With all my heart I believe God gave me the inspiration to pursue writing as a career. He’s behind it all! Since I can remember, writing has always been fun for me. Definitely a dream of mine to be a writer, but I guess life got in the way. Maybe I forgot that desire, put it on hold, or simply stopped dreaming, but for whatever reason, writing left my radar. Six years or so ago I felt God leading me to write again and to write with a specific purpose. So here I am.

Q: How does your writing work as a part of your ministry?
A: I've thought about this often. For many years I thought I needed some skill to be a missionary and work for God. I’m a small-town Kentucky girl. What could I do? Should I go to med school? Be a nurse? Should I teach? All of those things are wonderful ways to serve God, but I tuned out that little voice telling me to write. Words are powerful. God says His Word is living and active. God used words to form the universe and all of creation. Words tear down and build up. When God showed me that truth I no longer viewed writing as some hobby—though it’s a good one. He’s given me an assignment to write…to create stories that tell the truth of His love, forgiveness, healing, and redemption to anyone who picks up one of my books. That’s ministry. I’m not really an author, I’m a missionary.

Q: What posed the greatest challenge as you moved from idea to publication?
A: Ha! Learning to write. I had a desire and drive to write, so I wrote the first draft of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife and was so proud! I joined a critique group, got some feedback from seasoned authors and they told me, “You’re definitely a storyteller, but you need to learn to write.” What a blow, but at the same time it was encouraging. For two years I studied the writing craft, read so many books on writing my eyes almost crossed, and wrote two more drafts of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife before publication.

Q: Many authors focus on a particular genre while others write across several genres.  Where do you see yourself along that spectrum, and why?
A: Good question. I had to stop and think a bit! I write in Women’s Fiction which has strong elements of romance. However, I have all sorts of science fiction and historical fiction stories swirling in my head. I’m going to have to say I’d like to be able to eventually write across several genres. If there is a story in my head I have to write it no matter the genre and I think other authors would lean toward agreeing with me.
Battles Raging Within Are The Ones You Must Fight To Win
Army wife, Whitleigh Cromwell, struggles after an unexpected deployment during the height of the Iraqi war sends her husband, Collier Cromwell, away for another year. Their lives tumble down a path marked with strife, and fatalities, crippling their faith when Collier brings home a war of another kind leaving Whitleigh wondering if some wounds are beyond God’s ability to restore.
Q: Do you think we will meet Whitleigh, Collier, and Linc again in a future novel?  How attached are you to these characters?
A: You know, I think that is very likely. J I am crazy attached to these characters. I know they are fictional and I made them up, but they’ve become very real to me, and I hope readers will feel the same.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: Join the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and find a critique group of two or more writers or create your own. It’s good to be able to share your work with others you can trust, who will give you honest feedback in a loving way to help you grow as a writer. I also encourage writers to read. Read books in the genre you want to write and read books about the writing craft.

Q: What would you most want your readers to know about Hannah Conway?
A: Know that I am a follower of Christ. I’m someone who said yes to what God wanted them to do. I’d like for my readers to ask God how they can serve Him—no matter how big or small they think it may be—and then go for it.
Q: Tell us when and where we can get our hands on a copy of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife?

A: Right now you can preorder an eCopy on and Smashwords. The novel will release on Sept. 22nd anywhere fine books are sold! Bookshelf space at local bookstores is a battle, so if you don’t see The Wounded Warrior’s Wife at your local bookstore or library simply request they stock it! Simple as that!

We really appreciate Hannah's taking the time to be with us here.  If you would like to learn more about Hannah and her current projects and  speaking engagements, check out her blog at
You can connect with Hannah via
Twitter:                 #thewoundedwarriorswife

Don't forget to comment below to have a chance at those great prizes!

I have to include my favorite Hannah picture.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpratrick – A Book Review

     The thing that most impresses me about Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing is her meticulous research and the care she takes with the authenticity of her story.  Any assumptions that she makes are logical and supported by research.  The author’s note in A Light in the Wilderness provides information allowing the reader to differentiate between known facts and details added for the benefit of the story.  Ms Kirkpatrick provides the logic behind assumptions that were made, supporting the added details. 
     In this story I learned about Oregon’s exclusion and lash laws.  At a time when existing and potentially new states had to decide whether to be slave or free states, these laws attempted to eliminate choosing by excluding people of color from the population.  While the laws were not consistently enforced and were repealed and reinstated in a variety of versions, there were times when people of color were to be lashed twice a year until they left the territory.  Oregon entered the Union as a free state, but had an exclusion clause in its constitution until 1926, although it was largely unenforced. 
     After moving from Kentucky where she was most likely a slave to Missouri where she was likely given her freedom, our heroine, Letitia, married, in a private ceremony and without the benefit of a license or an official, Davey Carson, a white widower.  Through mutual consent and inspiration they traveled the trail to Oregon, enduring many hardships, and making a life together.  While Davey did not always understand Letitia’s needs, especially her need to feel safe as a free black woman, and was not always able to reconcile her needs with his own desires, he did truly care for her and probably took her opinions into account more than many husbands of the day. 
     Letitia was a light in the wilderness to many as she comforted and coached mothers as their babies entered this world, and as their loved ones were birthed into the next.  As Letitia said, “Tending and mending used threads of many colors.”  Her candle was lit from the flames of those who loved, accepted and befriended her, those who nurtured her from being someone who tried not to stand out, to one who wanted to fit in, to being someone with the courage and faith to stand up for what was right. 
     The most amazing transition in Letitia was in where and how she found freedom.  Initially she longed to be free from slavery.  That granted, she longed to be free of the fear of being placed back into slavery and of being oppressed by a small minded majority.  Later she found freedom in how she chose to look at life, how she chose to remember things, how she chose to forgive and show grace.  She found a type of freedom many would be blessed to find today.
     For those readers who enjoy historical fiction, those who long to see good triumph over evil, and those who root for the underdog, I would highly recommend A Light in the Wilderness.  Letitia’s light will warm your heart.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing A Light in the Wilderness for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Wounded Warrior’s Wife by Hannah Conway – A Book Review

     It was an honor and a privilege to beta read this book for Hannah.  I only wish I’d read it while I was still working with soldiers’ families as her story gave me added insight into what these families must deal with. Anyone in any type of working or personal relationship with military families would be blessed by reading The Wounded Warrior’s Wife. They are not the only readers who would find a blessing here.  Those who enjoy a good, clean romance story will also be pleased with having spent time between the covers of this book. 
     While this is Hannah’s debut novel, she paces the story and used dialogue like a veteran writer.  She develops her lead characters in a manner that brings them to life. (Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself praying for Whitleigh, Collier and their son, Linc.) Mental images will be painted so vividly in your mind that you will find them lingering there long after you've turned the last page: the beauty of new love, the anticipation of a loved one’s return, the heartbreak of conflict, the horrors of war, and the cleansing breath of forgiveness.
     The Wounded Warrior’s Wife is a tale of a young military wife who puts her own career and goals on hold while supporting her husband and later caring for their chronically ill child.  A wife, like many in our world today, solely bearing the weight of family responsibility on her shoulders, making it possible for her warrior husband to make the world a safer place to live. It is a tale of a young warrior who strives to protect his wife from the atrocities of war, but who sorely needs personal release from the memories that plague him. It is a tale of love and forgiveness, one of which cannot be found without the other.  It is a tale of war wounds, visible and invisible, and casualties of war, found both in the Middle East and at home. 
     Along with the author of this poignant story, debut author, Hannah Conway, I invite you into Whitleigh and Collier’s world.  You won’t leave the same as you arrived. 

Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason – A Book Review

     My husband is used to my telling him about the characters and events in the books I’m reading just like I relay information about our friends and relatives.  However, while I was reading Nowhere to Turn he got used to my starting to tell him something only to end with, “No, I can’t tell you that.  You are going to want to read this one yourself!”  I have seen several requests among the avid reader group I belong to on Facebook asking for suggestions for Christian fiction that men would enjoy.  Lynette Eason has definitely written a mystery tale that is not gender specific. 
     Nowhere to Turn is the second book in the Hidden Identity series.  I reviewed the first, No One to Trust, on my blog on January 5, 2014.  While Summer and David were indeed in this second book, they played minor roles.  Adam Buchanan, a member of Operation Refuge, founded by Summer and David and supported by the governor, steps to the forefront in this story.  While dealing with his own family issues spurred on by the circumstances of his uncle’s death, Adam puts the crisis in Danielle Harding’s life before his own concerns.  The crisis in Danielle’s life places everyone around her in mortal danger, especially those sworn to protect her and her son.
     Danielle and Simon cling to one another in a life that has been dictated by betrayal.  Everywhere they turn someone they should have been able to rely on turns on them.  Out of desperation they turn to Operation Refuge, forcing their heightened sense of distrust aside because they had nowhere else to turn.  In spite of Adam Buchanan’s promise of protection, danger seems to follow them everywhere they go.  Someone is able to track their every move, but how?  Until that mystery can be solved Danielle and Simon will never be safe from their hidden enemy or enemies.  Threats seem to be coming from multiple directions, but could they all be tied together somehow? 

     Nowhere to Turn has something for most every reader: mystery, intrigue, romance, family values. I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Nowhere to Turn for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  I would give this book five out of five stars for being able to keep readers awake and turning pages throughout the night.  I am anxiously awaiting book three, No Place to Hide.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Survivors: The Empty City by Erin Hunter – A Book Review

     This book will fall under the “And More” portion of this blog’s title.  One of our Sunday School youth shared this book from one of his favorite series, the Survivors,  with me.  While I apologize to him that it took me so long to complete it, I wanted to honor his sharing the book with me by adding a review to this blog. 
     The theme of this book that spoke to me was developed through, Lucky, the lone dog’s consistency in putting the needs and desires of the dogs he encountered before his own.  He blessed the leashed dogs by teaching them to survive on their own after an earthquake (the Big Growl) devastated their city. By doing so Lucky was also blessed with a growing sense of community and developing relationships. While this book would not be listed as Christian fiction, it provided a great parable about God’s desire for us to live in community rather than isolation.
     The fun element in this book came from translating dog speak into people speak.  Longpaw, longpaw skins, sitting boxes, loudcages, and clear-stones were just some of the terms the author used to identify items through the dogs’ eyes.  Then as I encountered other things I began to label them: scratching table, longpaw picture maker, moon stick, and leashed bird. 

    Not a dog person?  Other related series feature cats (the Warriors series) and bear (the Seekers series).  The reading level of the series may be intermediate level elementary to middle school, but the interest level extends beyond that.  Thanks to Kevin Linscott for sharing!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Bouquet of Love by Janice Thompson – A Book Review

     This book might be for you if you enjoy reading a light romance.  This book might be for you if the Hallmark Channel is your go to channel each evening.  This book might be for you if you live in or love to vacation in Galveston.  This book might be for you if the mere mention of the words gyro, tzatziki, or baklava make your mouth water profusely.  This book might be for you if you grew up honoring your Italian or Greek heritage, or if you grew up in a big family of any heritage.  This book might be for you if you are a Judy Garland fan. Finally this book might be for you if your life revolves around a family business.
     Ms Thompson introduces each chapter with humorous, “You might be Greek if…” statements.  The story itself focuses on the common ground among people and people groups rather than the attributes that set them apart.  It is a story of two families, one Italian and one Greek, with competing restaurants, and with warring patriarchs who seek to provide for their large families. It is a story of the women of the families who build relationships and bridges.  To quote one wise woman, Helena Pappas, “What ever happened to winning people over with love?  With real relationships?  This is what being a Christian is all about.”
     It is also a story about recognizing and using our God given gifts and passions, and both encouraging and allowing others to do the same.  This lesson is especially focused on parents as they prepare their fledglings to fly the nest rather than tethering them there. It’s about roots and wings. 
     With such serious themes, readers can be grateful to Ms Thompson for skillfully including humor reminiscent of the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Personally I found it to also be reminiscent of large Italian family gatherings I've attended, lots of love, lots of food, and lots of noise. 
    While I prefer romance to serve as a subplot within a mystery, historical or science fiction novel, I did enjoy this novel that relied heavily on the wedding theme of the series of which it is a part.  I found it well written, amusing and entertaining, but just because of my own reading preferences, would not want a steady diet of this type of story. 

     I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing A Bouquet of Love for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

Huge Giveaway Opportunity to Win

A chance to win lots of new releases.  Good luck everyone.


<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Liz Johnson book giveaway

Here is a link to a great giveaway.  It ends Saturday, July 26th.  Good luck and happy reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Death Takes a Ride by Lorena McCourtney - A Book Review

Death Takes a Ride by Lorena McCourtney – A Book Review

     The first book I read on my Kindle was Invisible by Lerena McCourtney.  I enjoyed it so much, I purchased the other three books in the series about the insuppressible little old lady, Ivy Malone, and read them in quick succession.  So, when I had the opportunity to read and review Death Takes a Ride by Ms McCourtney, I jumped at the chance. 

     The leading lady and sleuth in this story, Cate Kinkaid, who is moving in on middle age, does not find herself in quite the same types of dangerous yet hilarious predicaments as her predecessor, little old lady Ivy Malone. Yet this mystery provided enough twists and turns to keep me interested in the story line. I have always been a big mystery fan, and I enjoyed this cozy mystery that kept me awake nights wanting to know what was coming up next, not checking the doors and jumping at bumps in the night. 

     Death Takes a Ride is the third in the Cate Kinkaid series.  However it worked fine as a stand alone read.  Through implications within the text, I was able to infer that throughout the series Cate typically finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, or as an assistant PI, was that the right place at the right time?  While her uncle’s private investigation agency did not typically handle murder cases, it seems Cate often has a way of finding herself alongside a dead body.  The reader of this book does not have to get far into the story before just such a situation manifests itself.  The story also includes enough romance between Cate and her “Computer Dude” boyfriend, Mitch, to keep romance novel lovers interested, while there doesn’t seem to be any love lost between Cate’s cat and the dog Mitch is fostering for the victim of an attempted robbery.  Or was it attempted murder?  No spoilers here, you will have to read the story to find out, and also to enjoy the wonderful ending with the sweet, and ketchupy, surprise.

     If you are looking for a cozy mystery that is enjoyable without overtaxing your own inner sleuth, this book is for you.  I would give it four out of five smoking guns for reading pleasure.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Death Takes a Ride for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Love Comes Home by Ann H. Gabhart - A Book Review

Love Comes Home by Ann H. Gabhart – A Book Review
     For this reader Rosey Corner was a special place to spend a weekend.  In rural Kentucky, this idyllic community is home to the lovely Merritt sisters, each very different from the other, but all grounded in their faith.  Each impacted by World War II in ways that did not always show, and in ways that that were at times glaringly evident.  The Merritt family includes an adopted child, an adopted favorite uncle/grandfather figure, and a very wise, respected adopted aunt; and the family is still expanding!  Sometimes they even adopted people into the family by making them in-laws.
     The residents of Rosey Corner share their joys and their heartaches.  They lend physical, moral and spiritual support when it’s needed.  They also give one another nudges in the right direction when that is what is needed.  Tough times were not new to Rosey Corner, but as Kate’s husband, Jay, learned from his sergeant, nothing in the Bible says life here is meant to be easy.  It’s the next life where easy is the assignment.  Kate learned from experience that, “The Lord didn’t promise easy coasting.  He promised to stay with those who loved him, whatever the ride. Or walk.”  Aunt Hattie would tell them that, “everybody had dark valleys to walk through.  That wasn’t the Lord’s doing.  It was just the way of the world,” and that, “prayer gets you through when you’s thinkin’ there is no way through.”  There are lots of valuable life lessons to be learned by spending time in Rosey Corner. 
     As always Ann Gabhart draws you into her story with unique and interesting characters, characters that are believable and with whom the reader can easily identify.  As is often the case her story takes place in a simpler time and place.  However, simpler does not equate with easier.

     Gabhart’s expert wordsmithing evokes deep emotions and empathy in her readers.  It is easy to be in the place, in the moment, and in her character’s shoes.  Reading her books is a pleasure, and feels like a privilege.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Love Comes Home for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gone South by Meg Moseley

      I'm not going to write a lengthy review of this book as my time is dedicated elsewhere this week.  However, I wanted interested readers to know that this book is a good summer read, especially for those with southern roots.  While some of the characters may hold somewhat stereotypical attitudes about "yankees" and "carpetbaggers," the story line is heartwarming.  This is a sweet tale of hope, generosity, and forgiveness.  It also stresses the importance of seeing the best in others as well as in yourself, and holding your head up high.  Of course this can best be done when in relationship with the true Lifter of our heads, God our Father.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard – A Book Review

     Kate Adams is the Nancy Drew of pharmaceutical researchers, finding herself in increasing numbers of dangerous situations, some of her own making, some not.  Tom Parker would be the ideal person for her to develop a relationship with, a detective who is used to dealing with trouble, which seems to follow Kate everywhere she goes.  However both Kate and Tom have histories that complicate the matter. Sandra Orchard has also cast a large number of supporting characters who fall in and out of suspicion.  At one point in my reading, I thought I’d use an analogy of Ms Orchard and a tassel maker, someone who ties up all of the loose ends, but it wasn’t too many pages later when the ends began to unravel, and the mystery or should I say mysteries, took an unexpected turn.  Blind Trust will keep the reader up at night, and grabbing minutes whenever they can be found during the day, driven by a desire to know who is behind the counterfeiting that plagues this small town, who is behind the threats directed at Kate, and what is causing the erratic behavior displayed by Kate’s elderly neighbor.
     Ms Orchard has truly mastered the smooth flow of dialogue in her writing.  Conversations sound natural and not contrived, and her readers can easily immerse themselves into the scene being played out with this author’s skill. There is one drawback to Blind Trust, a significant one for me.  I am one of those readers who prefers book series in which the reader can enjoy getting more involved with a particular group of characters while feeling that each individual book comes to a conclusion.  This book does not fit that description.  If you are a reader who likes for the story to continue on throughout a series, lingering with the details of a particular storyline, then this book is for you.    
     Ms Orchard throws in a nice little bonus at the end of this book, a recipe for the muffins mentioned several times within the story.  Our three and a half year old granddaughter helped me to bake the muffins one Saturday afternoon because in her words she, “loves, Loves, LOVES muffins.”  These muffins were a big hit, but I will admit she talked me into doubling the cinnamon in the recipe so that they might taste “more like Daddy’s cinnamon rolls.”

     I received Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard compliments of Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  I hope many of you will also enjoy this book, book 2, from the Port Aster Secrets series.  Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino – A Book Review

     God is faithful.  That is the message I got from reading this story and from God’s timing in placing this book in my hands.  Like Mary Langton Horton, the leading lady of this story, I become impatient when I’ve been praying the same prayer over a period of years with no apparent changes in the situation.  Also like Mary, I needed to be reminded about God’s timing, especially the wisdom of His timing.  God is truly sovereign, and He is indeed faithful. 

     Rebecca DeMarino, author of A Place in His Heart, creates an interesting tale based on the lives of her ninth great-grandfather and grandmother.  She successfully blends thorough research, family lore, and her imagination to create an interesting tale that explores the challenges and the blessings of waiting upon God.  Mary marries the man she loves, Barnabas “Barney” Horton, a widower looking for a mother for his two young sons.  Barney remains deeply in love with his deceased wife and fears loving another would be an act of betrayal.  He and his son, Joseph, wrestle with their changing feelings for Mary and their feelings for their lost wife and mother. The youngest son, Benjamin, finds it much easier to love and show his devotion to his new mother.  In her attempt to secure a place in her husband’s heart, Mary follows him as God leads him to the New World to begin a new community and plant a new church along with Reverend Youngs.  Having lost her own mother at an early age, Mary longs for love, a baby and a place that truly feels like her own home.

     I enjoyed the details Mrs. DeMarino included of everyday chores required in living in a small English village and in early New World settlements, especially those involving meal preparation.  It is truly amazing what culinary delights were created within a home’s hearth in the 1600s. While we have conveniences our ancestors would never have dreamed of, we can still enjoy some of their hearty meals.,1-0,colonial_1600s,FF.html is a site that offers recipes for the modern kitchen that simulate colonial dishes.  I cannot wait to try the ginger cake recipe hoping it will be similar to the ginger cakes Barney bakes so often for the youngsters in his life.

     The story is a testimony to the hardships our forefathers and foremothers were  willing to endure to ensure the right to worship God in one’s own way. Frequently placing this goal before personal concerns.  I would highly recommend this book to all fans of historical fiction.I received A Place In His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino compliments of Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own..

Thursday, May 22, 2014

While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad – A Book Review

     This novel takes its theme from 2 Kings 4:1-7, the story of the widow who owed a great debt after her husband’s death.  She went to Elisha for help, and he told her to collect all the empty vessels she could from her neighbors and pour out her remaining oil into all of the vessels. Once the vessels were full, the flow of oil ceased.  He told her to sell the oil, pay off her debt, and for her and her son to live on the rest.  Lorna Seilstad tells a story of relying on God to use what we have, and to trust Him to fill our empty vessels.  A message most of us need to be reminded of from time to time. 

     The story is set in the early 1900s.  Charlotte Gregory has trained in the science of cookery under the tutelage of Fannie Farmer.  After finding it difficult to locate someone who would allow a female chef in their kitchen, Charlotte accepts a position giving cooking demonstrations to promote the use of gas ovens.  Most homes had coal or wood burning ovens.  She also, to the greatest degree possible, educated nurses in nutrition’s role in the healing process, frequently going head-to-head with Dr. Joel Brooks.  Sparks of all kinds fly whenever Charlotte and Joel are together, and as if they were “cooking with gas,” those sparks cause one explosion after another in their relationship. 

     This book is sweet and romantic, the kind of story Hallmark movies are made of.  While there is a bit of intrigue, it definitely takes a backseat in this second story of the Gregory sisters.  The first book concentrated on the oldest sister, Hannah, and I imagine the next will reveal more of the life of the youngest sister, Tessa.  Charlotte, the middle sister’s story was easy to follow, and there were no real spoilers for going back to book one at a later time.  This story moves at rather a slow pace, but there is enough tension between the main characters to hold the reader’s interest.  If historical romantic fiction is your genre of choice, I predict that you will be pleased with this selection.  If your preferences run in a different direction, this won’t be the book to sway you into becoming a fan of the genre.

Thank you to Revell for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pelican Bride by Beth White – A Book Review

Many thanks to Beth White for giving me hours of delightful entertainment immersed in the world of Genevieve Gaillain, Tristan Lanier and their siblings. Her wordsmithing allowed me to truly experience the discomfort and hardships of life in the early 1700s French colony of Louisiane. It also allowed me to experience joy found amidst adversity, which is in direct contrast to our current society in which so many experience material abundance yet lack joy. Genevieve certainly models for us that joy is indeed a choice.

The Pelican Bride is a wonderful blend of history, intrigue, and romance. Responsibilities and traveling mandated breaks in my reading, otherwise I would have read this book in one sitting. There was little about this book that was predictable. Those things an avid reader might think were predictable were always in question. Beth keeps her readers turning pages anxious for the next turn of events.

I believe myself to have a good vocabulary, but enjoyed five or six trips to the dictionary. The new-to-me vocabulary was befitting the times and manner of speaking, and I enjoyed learning something new. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the brides who came over from France to such a hostile environment to marry a virtual stranger. The important role the Indians played in the politics between the French and British colonies played a big part in the plot development of this book, bringing back memories of lessons learned in college history classes. The additional historical information Beth provided at the end of the book was most interesting. Her penchant for history and research was quite evident.

While this is book one of The Gulf Coast Chronicles, I appreciated that the book also served well as a stand alone read. I will however, be eagerly watching for book two, anxious to know about future generations of the Lanier family.

I want to thank Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing group, for providing this book in exchange for my honest review. I give it five stars.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Summers' Love by Stu Summers

Summers’ Love by Stu Summers: A Book Review
     I admit I have a love-hate relationship with this book, but I wonder if that’s not what the author intended.  As I was reading along I would think, “This is ridiculous!” or, “People don’t do things like that!”  When someone who had critiqued his writing told Stu (the character) that his dialogue was unbelievable, “Not unbelievable as in ‘good,’…but as in ‘not even close to believable,’” I felt the same way about Stu (the author).  If I had not been reading this book to review I probably would have closed it and moved on to another book, and I would have missed out.
     In spite of everything I was compelled to keep turning pages to see what would happen next to the two main characters: a rich, famous writer who is a closet wanna be and a poor ball cap salesperson who moonlights selling stun guns.  To say that their romance was a rollercoaster ride sounds so cliché, but what else could describe the sharp twists and turns and the rapid ups and downs?  Nothing that I know of.  Another thing, and a huge part of what I loved about this story, that kept me reading was Hattie, AKA the holy ghostwriter.  Her spunky attitude and pearls of Biblical wisdom were truly endearing.  I would love to read another Stu Summers book with Hattie as the leading lady.
     Summers’ Love did contain some dialogue I’ve rarely found in books written for the Christian fiction market.  One worth noting in a review of this type is what is in my opinion the careless use of the Lord’s name, maybe not in vain, but careless at the least.  As a popular movie and dvd reviewer would say, I give this book a three out of five jolts from a stun gun for reader friendliness. 

I received this book from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - A Book Review

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A Book Review
     I bought this book based on a recommendation from a Christian fiction author.  I had high hopes for this book, but it far exceeded my expectations.  The story of Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is one that will linger in my memory for time upon time.  Her tragedy filled story is also filled with the appreciation of small blessings, appreciation amid great struggles.  As a retired reading specialist and classroom teacher, I was especially touched by Leisel’s struggle to learn how to read and her foster father’s patience and heroic efforts to help her.  The bond that grew between them as they worked together through The Grave Diggers’ Handbook, her first stolen book, as Leisel painstakingly painted words on the basement wall, and as Papa read to her following her many nightmares was stronger than most between biological parents and children.  Their love became bound up in a love of words, but also in a hate of words; words that healed, words that rendered. 
     Liesel also had intense relationships with her foster mom who loved deeply and showed it badly, with a neighborhood boy who longed for greatness and for one special kiss, with a wounded soul who shared her library and received a mended soul in return, and with one lonely Jew who also knew the power of words.  Relationships documented by an unusual narrator, Death, a connoisseur of flavors, flavors the color of the sky as souls are collected, Death who vacations in moments of distraction.
     My brain loves to look for patterns, to put things in categories.  The Book Thief fits into a very small category of books, books whose language pulls me back to reread over and over just to enjoy the beauty of the words, words carefully selected and creatively used, words that are used unexpectedly, and words that paint vivid mental images, engaging all of my senses, pulling at my heart strings.  If joins The Secret Life of Bees and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter among a very few other special books, books that celebrate the beauty of language. 

     I could not recommend this book any more highly.  Yes, its setting in Germany at the time of the holocaust makes for difficult reading, and the losses in this book accumulate like piles of ash posing as snow, but the love and the blessings far outweigh the sorrow.  They will leave you counting your life’s blessings, taking nothing for granted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Summer of Joy by Ann H. Gabhart - A Book Review
     When I was working time to read for pleasure was in short supply, so I tended to play it safe with authors I knew and loved. One of the best things about retirement is having the time to meet and spend time with authors that are new to me.  I was thrilled to spend time with Ann Gabhart in the pages of her book, Summer of Joy.  Now I was a little concerned about reading book three of The Heart of Hollyhill series without having read books one and two, but there was no need to be.  The story was easy to follow and enjoy, with just enough references to the previous books to provide necessary information and to motivate me to read those books in the future. 
     Hollyhill, Kentucky, the setting of this story, is a small town where everyone knows what is going on with everyone else.  In the 1960s it is still a town where children can safely roam free (well most of the time).  It is also a town where emotions and secrets run deep, and where they can be brought to the surface by a returning former resident as well as some new characters in  town.  It is a town that protects and nurtures its own, and those it adopts as its own.  It is peopled by those who know how to forgive, and those who don’t, and by some who don’t even realize the need.  It is a town slowly changing as the world around it changes, beginning to see the similarities more than the differences among its people, but also experiencing the accompanying growing pains.  It is a town where people are working to get a right and accurate view of themselves and of God. 
     Character development is one of the things that Ann Gabhart does best.  She fills Hollyhill with a cast of quirky characters: those that are down to earth, those that have been earthed (You’ll have to read the book to understand that one.), those with their heads in the heavens, and those whose heads may be just a bit scrambled.  As I read the thought kept coming to mind that fans of Jan Karon’s Mitford series would love Summer of Joy. David, pastor of Mt. Pleasant church, and Leigh’s romance is reminiscent of Father Tim and Cynthia’s.  Wesley Green’s stories of life on Jupiter made me want to return to Mitford and visit with Uncle Billy and some of the other eccentric characters who reside there.  They also made me want to get the first two books in Gabhart’s Hollyhill series so that I could join Wes and his young friend and surrogate granddaughter, Josie, David’s teenage daughter, on their adventures.
     I believe that Summer of Joy will appeal to a wide audience.  Young adult readers will identify with Jocie and her coming of age story.  Young wives and mothers will be touched by Tabitha and Leigh’s stories, and the love they have for those they nurture along with the insecurities they feel.  Older readers will enjoy reminiscing about a time gone by, and will be touched by the wisdom as well as the frailties that come with age.  All will enjoy the ebb and flow as Gabhart builds and releases tension as her story unfolds.  Tensions are bound to be present when the first wife, who abandoned her husband and young daughter, is headed back to town, as her former husband and his fiancé make plans.  They are bound to be present when a teacher takes an immediate dislike to one of his students, and when that same teacher sets his sights on her father’s fiancé.  Tensions mount when someone oversteps her bounds and sets off a series of events related to a past her co-worker prefers to forget.  Tensions will mount as you read this book, the kind that readers love, the kind that keep them reading. 
Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of Summer Joy for my honest opinion of the book.    

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thread of Suspicion by Susan Sleeman – A Book Review

     The continued saga of the Justice Agency, a private detection/protection agency run by adopted siblings, proved to be an engaging read.  I have read books three and four in the series, and am interested in going back to read books 1 and 2.  I believe the books can be enjoyed in any order.  Book 5 comes out in March of this year. 
      In Thread of Suspicion the youngest Justice sibling, Dani, struggles to exert her independence, and to be viewed as a capable adult by both her family and their current client, Luke Baldwin.  In trying to prove Luke’s innocence in the sabotage of his company’s software, designed to protect our soldiers in harm’s way, Dani meets her nemesis, Echo, once again.  Both she and Luke’s sister are in Echo’s crosshairs, and both must rely on each of their siblings for protection.  Dani fights off the attraction she feels for Luke as she works to be in control of the situation they all have found themselves in.  Luke also struggles with these feelings as his company and his livelihood are under attack, and as he is haunted by his past. 
     Susan Sleeman keeps the romance tense, but clean.  The romance and the mystery in her books play well together, neither dominating the other.  The pace of the story keeps the reader turning pages, and not wanting to put the book down.  I would definitely recommend her books to romance and mystery lovers alike. 

     I won this book in a contest, and was under no obligation to review it.  I am grateful to Ms Sleeman for sending me the copy, and am pleased to have the opportunity to write a favorable review.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley – A Book Review

Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley – A Book Review
     This book has more twists and turns in the first chapter than many books do between their covers.  It has been a long time since I was so quickly and completely hooked.  Shadows of the Past is classified as a romantic suspense story.  However, I greatly appreciated that the romance served the suspense plot rather than dominate it.  This is the first book I’ve read by Patricia Bradley, but I cannot wait to get my hands on other books by this author.  Although I may need to get some sleep first since I lost the better parts of two night’s sleep to this one. 
     Taylor Martin, an expert victim and criminal profiler and college professor, suffers from nightmares rooted in a childhood defined by her father’s disappearance.  Mystery writer, Nick Sinclair, is just beginning to heal from the grief and guilt of not being able to protect his wife from a murderous assault while attempting to understand and assist his troubled stepbrother.  Their lives, initially drawn together as Taylor searches for her stalker and Nick seeks to clear his brother of the crime, become intertwined as Nick seeks to assist Taylor in solving the mystery behind her father’s disappearance while protecting her from the person trying to kill her, and as they are unable to ignore the attraction they feel for one another. 
     Bradley is a master of writing believable, naturally sounding dialogue.  Her character and plot development are well paced, and subtle.  The reader is able to enjoy many unexpected plot twists that bring the mystery to a logical conclusion rather than having new characters or events inserted in the last chapter that almost feel like a “gotcha” in which the author made it impossible for the reader to solve the crime along with the story’s detective.  As I finished the last chapter it felt good to have some of my deductions confirmed, and at the same time have some unexpected elements as well. 
     The setting of this story was another element that drew me to this book.  Having been born in and having lots of family who still reside in northern Mississippi, I enjoyed the references to things unique to the southern lifestyle.  Living in Corinth, Mississippi, Bradley was able to represent people from the northern Mississippi, southern Tennessee area without the typical stereotypes.  Shadows of the Past is book one in the Logan Point series, and I look forward to other books in the series set in this location.  I am also anxious to see which characters will have recurring roles. 
     I highly recommend this book to fans of the genre, you will enjoy a real treat.  I also recommend it to those who might not normally read in this genre, you will be pleasantly surprised.  Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of Shadows of the Past for my honest opinion of the book. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman – A Book Review

     When I read a book I usually form an impression of characters, and the opinions typically hold true until possibly a surprise is revealed near the book’s end.  That was not the case in Dare to Love Again.  Having read the first book in The Heart of San Francisco series, I had met the lead character in this book, Allison McClare, and remembered her as a compassionate, high spirited young lady of great faith.  In this, the second book of the series, Allison is multi-faceted.  One moment she is emotionally wounded and defensive, provoking sympathy from the reader; the next she is a spoiled, temper tantruming brat that the reader would like to take by the shoulders and shake!  There are times when she is a bright young educator, totally devoted to her job and her students, a young women yearning for independence and self-reliance.  Yet she is also capable of being manipulative, self-serving, and at times even cruel (although she eventually becomes remorseful and apologetic).  Her male counterpart possesses equally diverse character traits: handsome, harsh, humorous, easily perturbed, petulant, aggressive, honest, shady, compassionate, loving, angry, … I stayed engaged with the story in order to find out these two characters’ true character.
     One thing that I love about Julie Lessman’s books is the degree of research that goes into their historical accuracy.  Lessman is a master of weaving in interesting historical information that helps place her readers in the story’s setting. Allison’s excitement over the sites as she takes her first cable car ride causes her to take on the role of tour guide for the handsome policeman recently arrived in the city, allowing us a lens for viewing 1903 San Francisco. The horrors of life on the Barbary Coast are made evident as Allison, her mother, and her cousin work to improve the lives of the young girls who make their homes there.  By contrast Lessman paints a clear vision of the much different life among the residents of Nob Hill, the home of San Francisco’s elite.  Even the fine points of the dress and hairstyles of the day have been carefully researched and described.  The demands of morality during this time in the city’s history are clearly viewed in the lives of the McClare family, some who find them more easily met than others. The depths of debauchery, not so much different from today, are also evident in the circumstances found on the Barbary Coast, from which some in the McClare family may be profiting.  
     Trust is one of the major themes in this series of books.  The McClare women seem to be destined to having their hearts broken before finding true romance.  In the midst of these trials and heartaches, they learn the importance of trusting in God’s love, mercy and sovereignty.  They also learn the importance of trusting their hearts to men who also trust God.  I was reminded of the blessing of a husband who embraces the role of spiritual head of the household, a blessing I enjoy daily. 
      Julie Lessman is known for her ability to create sexual tension between characters while maintaining a storyline that does not compromise and using vocabulary that does not embarrass.  She has demonstrated that ability in Dare to Love Again.  While reading this book I also learned of a non-fiction book that Lessman has written in which she shares her secrests, and hopes to teach others as well.  Those reading this review who are interested in writing as well may want to check out [Romance-ology 101] Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets
In my review of Love at Any Cost I had expressed an interest in the continuing story of Caitlynn (Allison’s widowed mother) and Logan.  I was not disappointed in the way Lessman continued to develop their love story.  One of the nice things about this series is that the love story of each book’s main character is a stand-alone read with closure at the book’s end, but the story of Cait and Logan is a continuing thread throughout the series. 

     Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of Dare to Love Again  for my honest opinion of the book. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No Way Out by Susan Sleeman - A Book Review

No Way Out by Susan Sleeman – A Book Review

     “We can’t control things around us.  Not a single one of us can.  God is in charge.”  Who could not benefit from this reminder from Dani Justice?  Most of us have struggled with guilt about things that happened that were in actuality out of our control.  Susan Sleeman tells a tale filled with suspense and surprises that not only entertains, but also illustrates the damage we can do to ourselves and our relationships when we allow pseudo guilt, the guilt we feel even when we were not responsible or when sin was not involved in an undesired outcome or tragedy.  (For more on this you may want to read Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall.)  Readers are reminded of the perfect peace that is available to us through trusting in the Lord and accepting His sovereignty. 
     I will confess to being a bit of a book snob.  When I first received No Way Out as part of a prize package from a Christian fiction scavenger hunt, it was not among my first reads of the thirty books that arrived in the mail.  Why?  The size and the shape, what if I took it to the doctor’s office waiting room?  Why, someone might mistakenly think I was reading a Harlequin romance!  Such reasoning will never again stop me from enjoying a truly Love Inspired story.  Thanks to the scavenger hunt I am now a Susan Sleeman fan, and look forward to reading more of her books.  I am very grateful that I just won a second of Susan’s books, Thread of Suspicion, and can’t wait to continue the saga of the Justice Agency. 

     What elements of Susan’s writing made this book such an enjoyable read aside from the valuable message?  Susan had a way of placing me in a setting, engaging all of my senses, without lengthy descriptions that cause my attention to waver.  My emotions were engaged with the characters of the story: fear, hope, disappointment, new love, doubt, relief.  The story was a roller coaster of emotions with frequent bends and curves caused by unexpected plot twists.  Surprises were still to come even in the final chapter.  The story had a mix of easily anticipated events to make prior knowledge of the genre provide a comfortable read and of unanticipated events to maintain a high level of engagement with the story.  A nice read indeed.