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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Up in Smoke by Hannah Conway - A Book Review

Up in Smoke by [Conway, Hannah R.]     An image posted by the author.

     Hannah Conway is a gifted storyteller. There are so many things to love about Up in Smoke. Hannah’s characters, main and secondary, are endearing. Her themes of forgiveness and the joy found in a life lived in Christ are clearly communicated without being preachy. The plot of Up in Smoke is suspenseful, yet realistic; the story would play well on 48 Hours and would not seem farfetched in today’s newspaper headlines. Hannah portrays twenty first century small town life in Kentucky without making it seem hokey or relying on stereotypes. The romance in the story is touching without lustful embellishments. The pace of the story and the twist and turns are well designed to keep the reader’s interest.
     Following the untimely death of her parents, Leanna Wilson leaves her New York law practice to return to her hometown in Kentucky to become guardian to her much younger sister. Unfortunately, a will written before she reached full adulthood and a surprising amount of debt left by her parents for her to contend with might strip her hurting sister from her loving care. At about the same time, Leanna’s childhood friend and former sweetheart, Garrison Burke, is struggling to put together an appropriate family care plan for his son and aging aunt in preparation for his deployment to the Middle East. A widower, Garrison had stayed behind the last two times his unit deployed. He knew what staying behind again would mean to his military career, and it wasn’t good. Was there a way that Leanna and Garrison could be the answer to one another’s problems, and if so, would it be a God-honoring solution? Each time Leanna and Garrison seem to be gaining some element of control over their situations, the past in the form of Leanna’s former fiancé, her aunt and uncle, and Garrison’s regrets and fears threw them into a tailspin. Might ceding control to God be a better choice?

     I received an advanced reader copy of Up in Smoke in exchange for my honest opinion. A favorable review was not required, and I received no monetary compensation for my review. I recommend this book to fans of both Christian romance and suspense novels. You won’t be disappointed. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Gone for a Soldier by Marsha Ward - A Book Review

Marsha Ward

     Marsha Ward is a new to me author, having only read one of her short stories prior to this book, and I was happy to be asked to read and review this Civil War novel as my reading has focused on this era a lot lately. Based on a wonderful monolog by a docent on a recent visit to the Lotz House in Franklin, Tennessee, I believe Marsha Ward did a marvelous job of capturing the horrors of the sights, sounds, smells and privations of the Civil War. I must admit, while not at all inappropriate in her word choice, the intensity and frequency with which Ward dealt with the desires of young, unmarried men was a bit over the top. Nevertheless, I did enjoy and would recommend the book with that caveat.
     The Owen family is blessed with both strong maternal and paternal characters, and a wealth of love within the family. Julia and Roderick Owen of Shenandoah County, Virginia have nine offspring, ages eight to twenty as the story begins. Father and five sons will serve on the side of the Confederacy during the war; not all are destined to return. Rather than focusing on the issues for which they fought, Ward concentrates on the toll military service in the Civil War took on relationships, on those on the front lines, on those left behind, and on the communities devastated by the invading troops.

     I thank Marsha Ward for providing me a copy of Gone for a Soldier in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. I do look forward to reading her novella, That Tender Light, which tells the story of how Rod and Julia met. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason - A Book Review

Chasing Secrets (Elite Guardians Book #4) by [Eason, Lynette]   Lynette Eason

     Chasing Secrets, book four in the Elite Guardians series, is equally as good as its predecessors. The Elite Guardians are a group of women bodyguards, previously trained in law enforcement, each coming to this line of work through unique circumstances. Each book in the series focuses on a different guardian. Haley Callaghan, the main character of Chasing Secrets, comes to the bodyguard agency from the G2, the Irish Intelligence Service, after graduating both high school and the school of hard knocks. Most of her childhood was spent on the streets with other homeless people becoming her family, especially after her mother’s passing. Her growing up years increased her empathy for others in similar circumstances, and her faith bore fruit in her volunteer work with underprivileged children and teens. Nothing in her past prepared her for learning that childhood nightmares were in reality memories from her earliest years, memories of a life she had been led to forget, of a life fraught with danger, danger that had already begun to seek her out once again.
     Detective Steven Rothwell recently returned to his hometown, joining the police force there, in order to be close to his parents during his father’s cancer treatment. He had absented himself in the years following his younger brother’s death at the hands of a drunk driver. A Christian, Steven was aware of, but seemingly unable to do anything about, his lack of forgiveness and continued bitterness toward the man who killed his brother. He had never met anyone like Haley before, someone so capable of forgiving great trespasses, someone displaying such great strength of character. Drawn to Haley, Steven makes it his job to protect her, in spite of his respect for her ability to do her job, and to do it well.

     New guardians join the agency in this fourth installation in the series, causing readers to hope for more books in the series’ future. Fans of action packed mysteries will love this book, and this series. I thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for providing me a copy of Chasing Secrets in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson - A Book Review

Fatal Trust by [Johnson, Todd M.]     Todd M. Johnson

     I would tend to classify this book as a clean mystery rather than Christian fiction. After finishing reading Fatal Trust, no particular Christian message came to mind. As a clean mystery, it was superb. I could not help but feel Ian Well’s anxiety as his life quickly became a train wreck. His mother is slipping further away due to Alzheimer’s. The law practice he joined following his father’s death is falling further and further into debt. The case that seemed like would pay the bills may involve an armed robbery and murder cold case, and might also incriminate his parents. To say Ian was in over his head would be an understatement, and his only life preserver might be his long-time friend Brook Daniels, an attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Would Brooke be willing to put her job, her career, on the line for him?

     Fatal Trust is a fast-moving, action-packed story. Johnson holds his readers’ emotions in the palm of his hand from start to finish. He masterfully times the revelation of new information, often startling his readers and misdirecting them. Fans of legal stories and mystery fiction will likely love Fatal Trust. I was happy to find that I already have another book by Todd M. Johnson on my bookshelf. I extend my thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of Fatal Trust in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble - A Book Review

Beneath Copper Falls (Rock Harbor Series) by [Coble, Colleen]     Colleen Coble

     Relationships, they can be amazing and they can be really tough, even dangerous. Within the mystery of Beneath Copper Falls, Coble addresses many facets that may enrich or may complicate relationships. It becomes apparent that having a right view of self, and a right view of God are essential to having healthy, nourishing relationships. Without those views, one may seek fulfillment beyond human capability of providing, one may sacrifice principles and morals in order to earn approval, and one may find oneself in an abusive relationship with no easy avenue of escape.
     Finding common elements in the deaths of young brides-to-be, including her cousin, Renee, has led Allyson in search of a serial killer she has come to refer to as the Groom Reaper. A killer who may have ties to the small town of Rock Harbor in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and who may now have Allyson in his crosshairs. Boone, Renee’s brother, is skeptical of Allyson’s theory, but is ready to pay more attention after Dana’s abusive former fiancé follows her to Rock Harbor. More and more he’s ready to pay attention to anything that might involve Dana as he realizes that she is different from the other women he has known, women who saw his scarred face and caused much deeper emotional scarring. As always Coble masterfully provides clues to the killer’s identity and motivation, as well as an ample number of red herrings to keep her readers guessing and reading.

     I highly recommend Beneath Copper Falls to mystery and suspense fans. I want to thank NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation. 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck - A Book Review

The Writing Desk by [Hauck, Rachel]       Rachel Hauck

          I really like books and movies that float back and forth between different eras. The Writing Desk did not disappoint. I was especially drawn to Birdie’s story. Birdie Shehorn lived a life of privilege during the Gilded Age, a position that usually included arranged marriages that were advantageous to the families of the American elite. Young women were raised to meet society’s standards; Birdie on the other hand had been allowed to attend and graduate from college. She had plans to pursue a writing career, to marry for love, and did not see that either of those excluded the other. Her strong-minded mother had different plans for Birdie. Birdie’s strength of character vs her mother’s strength of will, which woule prevail?
     Tensley’s story takes place during modern times. Her story is initially less compelling, but becomes more so as tension mounts. I wondered if the author selected Tensley’s name because of it’s similarities of the word tension. That word described her relationships to the mother who abandoned her, to her past, to her own writing, to her fiancé, and to the man she met in Cocoa Beach while caring for her mother who was undergoing chemo therapy. Tensley retreated from the world wrapped in an old robe until she exchanged the robe for the security of the God who sent her a special song, the same song He had sent to Birdie. Do not be dismayed. Do not worry or be afraid.
     The element that tied Birdie’s story to Tensley’s was a writing desk. The desk originally belonged to Birdie who loved it, and found inspiration to write many successful novels while seated at the desk. Tensley fell in love with the antique desk the moment she saw it in her mother’s home, and was certain it contained the secret to abolishing her writer’s block. The desk indeed held secrets, but not the type Tensley expected or longed for, rather secrets that led to a healing of a different sort.

     Fans of Christian romantic fiction and fans of the old Hallmark movie The Love Letter will likely love The Writing Desk. I would like to thank Zondervan and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Beloved Hope by Tracie Peterson - A Book Review

Beloved Hope (Heart of the Frontier Book #2) by [Peterson, Tracie]     Tracie Peterson
     This is the second book in Peterson’s Heart of the Frontier series. Book one, Treasured Grace focused on the eldest of the Flanigan sisters, while Beloved Hope focuses on the middle sister. Set in the area of Oregon City in the mid-1800s, this second installment largely revolves around the trial of five Cayuse men being tried for the atrocities of the Whitman Mission Massacre. Many townspeople and survivors of the massacre feared the men, including the one who repeatedly abused Hope Flanigan, would not be put to death in an effort to appease the local tribes and thus ward off future attacks. Hope was counting on their death to ease her fears, fears that had taken over her life, but would it?
     Hope, convinced her ordeal had ruined her for any decent man, had put aside any idea of falling and love and marrying. Lieutenant Lance Kenner, tasked with guarding the Cayuse waiting to stand trial, was fighting his own demons, filled with resentment toward the man he held responsible for both of his older brothers’ deaths. Now, ready to return from Oregon City to his plantation in New Orleans, he was not interested in forming any romantic alliances. Yet, Hope and Lance feel drawn to one another. Is there any chance for them, or will bitterness darken any hopes of happiness for either of them?
     I am anxiously awaiting the third book in this series, to learn of the important life decisions made by the youngest Flanigan sister as she considers a path just opening up to women, a college education, I highly recommend Beloved Hope, and Treasured Grace for fans of historical and romance fiction. Both readers of secular and Christian fiction will find this series appealing. While there is enough information provided to make this book comprehensible as a stand-alone read, much of the emotion will be lost by not reading the series in order.

     I thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Beloved Hope in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing the review.   

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard - A Book Review

Product DetailsSandra Orchard

     What cozy mystery would be without its eccentric, little old lady, amateur sleuth? The Serena Jones mystery series has its in the form of Aunt Martha, Serena’s aunt. While Serena is an FBI special agent in the art crimes division, her aunt becomes actively involved in all of her cases. Not only is she involved in solving crime, she is actively involved as Serena’s matchmaker as well. In this third installment of the Serena Jones series, Serena is once again torn between putting aside romantic ideas and her interest in both her partner, Tanner, and her apartment superintendent, Nate, who has many and varied talents. I must admit to mentally yelling at her about halfway through this book, “Just choose already!”
     Serena had thought that a short vacation at Martha’s Vineyard with her aunt and parents would be a relaxing time away. When no one showed up to pick them up from the Ferry’s dock, the family took a taxi to the home of Serena’s father’s best friend whose engagement party they had come to attend only to find that he had died in a suspicious fall. Was it an accident? Was it related to a call he had placed to the FBI over antiquities smuggling, or was it related to the changes he was making to his will? Serena dove into solving the mystery as a way of dealing with her grief. Through unexpected circumstances, both Tanner and Nate ended up joining Serena and her investigation, both vying for her attention when she most needed to focus on the case at hand, and then there is always the “helpful” Aunt Martha.

     If you are looking for a lighthearted summer read, you have found your book! Over Maya Dead Body is a great travel read. I finished it at home in two days. I thank NetGalley and Revell Publishing for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels - A Book Review

Product Details An image posted by the author.

     This is the first book I’ve read by Carrie Fancett Pagels, but it definitely will not be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Maude Welling and Friedrich König set on Mackinac Island in the late 1800s. I look forward to one day visiting the Grand Hotel, and I feel sure these characters will be with me as I explore the resort and the island. I respect both Maude’s and Friedrich’s integrity, and the drive to be both true to themselves and true to their Lord, not allowing the desires for success in their careers to sidetrack them, well at least not for long. This is a lesson that is timeless.
     Chivalry certainly lived in the character of Friedrich König, always putting the safety and best interest of others before his own, even risking exposure of his working under a pseudonym, exposure that could cost him his job.  Maude’s character exemplified grace born out of a relationship with her Savior and from her great ability to empathize, an ability that grew as she worked to prove herself while serving incognito at the Grand Hotel. Will these two strong people be able to get past their misunderstandings and find common ground that will make them a couple? Well, we all know how these kinds of stories work out, don’t we, but you will have to read for yourself to discover the path these two follow.

     As I read My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island, the thought occurred to me several times that fans of Lorna Seilstad’s The Gregory Sisters series, would love this book as well. Each is a book with a strong female character that is at peace with her strengths and abilities, and who also understands that God’s role for women is not to be confused with keeping women in their place. I thank NetGalley and Barbour Publishing for providing this book for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.       

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman - A Book Review

Fatal Mistake: A Novel (White Knights) by [Sleeman, Susan]      Susan Sleeman

     As always, Susan Sleeman keeps her readers in the palm of her hand as she moves them along through a story line filled with suspense. In Fatal Mistake we learn right away who is behind the terror plot; it is the motivation that is slowly revealed. As both main and secondary characters find themselves in extreme danger, readers may find themselves tensing up and holding their breath as tension mounts. There is a bit of romance in the book, but it definitely plays second to the suspense.
     The overarching theme of this book deals with taking on responsibility and guilt for things that are out of one’s control. Doing so not only robs one of joy, but will likely have a negative impact on the choices one makes. Readers see this play out in the lives of Tara Parrish and Cal Riggins. Tara accidentally stumbles upon the identity of a terrorist bomber, quickly becoming his target. For a while she alludes both him and her would-be protectors, a special FBI unit known as the White Knights. She does not want to be responsible for more lost lives. Cal, a member of the White Knights, is driven by his need to make things right by compensating for lives lost with more lives saved, hoping to quench the guilt that hounds him. As readers will anticipate it is between these two that the romantic tension exists, but will this tension lead to a fatal mistake?

     I thank NetGalley and Faith Words for providing a copy of Fatal Mistake in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson - A Book Review

Product DetailsChristine Johnson

     I carried my Kindle around with me, room to room, in the car, almost everywhere I went, reading every spare minute, compelled to find out what was going to happen to Catherine Haynes as she traveled from England to Louisiana to meet the family who had disowned her mother following her marriage to an Englishman. An adult, but orphaned nonetheless, Miss Haynes seeks to reconnect with her mother’s family, only to find that her mother’s beloved plantation, Chêne Noir, has been left in the hands of an unscrupulous property manager. Will she have the strength of mind and body to reclaim her place within the family and her rights to her share of the plantation, or will she fall prey to the villainous DeMornay? The answer seems to lie within her budding relationship with a Key West sailor, Tom Worthington, but things are not always what they seem.
     The title of this book holds the key to its theme. I read this book following Memorial Day when our nation focuses on the price of freedom, and the heroes who pay that price. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends,” tells us the price of freedom. Readers of Freedom’s Price will witness someone willing to pay that price. Who will it be?

    I recommend Freedom’s Price; it is even better than the previous books in this series, and I had given them quite positive reviews. I thank Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a copy of Freedom’s Price in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for writing this review.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher - A Book Review

The Return (Amish Beginnings Book #3) by [Fisher, Suzanne Woods]   Suzanne Woods Fisher

     I first met Anna in Anna’s Crossing, a story of one of the first groups of Amish to leave Germany to settle in the New World. The Return is largely the story of Anna’s daughter, Tessa, although many others play major roles in the story’s development. The story is one of finding one’s self and one’s place in the world. Some discoveries are made quite by surprise, some grow out of tragedy, and some are slowly revealed. Not all those seeking to know themselves and the direction of their future are as young as you might anticipate.
     While this book, in my opinion, got off to a slow start, by the end of the book, I was lost in the story, unable to put it down. Fisher develops the characters in a way that causes her readers to care about what happens to them, both those they have a strong compassion for, and those they find a bit irritating. The scenario they find themselves in during the last third of the book compels the reader to read on to find out how things work out. For some the ending is tragic, while others discover possibilities that didn’t exist before.

     I would encourage readers of The Return to hang in there if they too feel like the book is a little slow at the beginning. It is well worth reading to the end. There is enjoyment to be had and lessons to be learned. I thank Revell publishing and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for providing a review of this book. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate - A Book Review

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by [Wingate, Lisa]      Lisa Wingate

     No work of fiction has touched my heart as deeply as Before We Were Yours, not even The Memory Keeper’s Daughter or The Secret Life of Bees. I would definitely put this book in the league with those titles and To Kill A Mockingbird. That is high praise indeed in my book.
     About halfway through Before We Were Yours, I felt compelled to do a little online research of The Tennessee Children’s Home Society and Georgia Tann. How I had not heard of Tann and the Memphis branch of this society that operated from the 1920s through the 1950s, I cannot imagine. Tann arranged thousands of questionable adoptions. She and her network of informants tricked uneducated parents, poor parents, and single parents into surrendering their children, others were simply stolen off porches, on their way to school, and other places children might be found without adult supervision. In addition to the thousands that were adopted out, often to the crème of society, hundreds did not survive the life they were forced to live within the wall of homes run by Tann and the society. Most biological parents never knew what had happened to their children.
     While the sons and daughters of Queenie and Briny Foss were fictional characters. Their experience with the Tennessee Children’s Home Society mirrored those of real life victims. Wingate tells their story in such a way that the reader is fully engrossed and completely overwhelmed with the raw emotion evoked by the tale. I found myself praying for those real-life children and families who were victimized in this decades-long tragedy. While this book is no fluffy beach read, I would suggest that if you don’t read any other book this summer, read this one.

     I thank Ballantine Books a division of Random House and NetGalley for making this book available in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer - A Book Review

Product DetailsKim Vogel Sawyer

     This is not a new book to the market, the copyright date on this book is 2008, but it is one I would highly recommend. I was unaware that 150,000 homeless, orphaned and abandoned children were sent from crowded cities in the Eastern states out West between the years of 1854 and 1929 on trains that became known as “orphan trains.” In the early 1900s the practice of child labor was called into question. Advocates for children sought to improve the education and safety of our country’s young ones. The plight of children is the focus of My Heart Remembers, a story of three fictional siblings who rode an orphan train only to be separated, and the children they longed to aid and protect.
    Recent immigrants, Maelle, Mattie, and Molly Gallagher lost their parents in a New York City tenement fire. Maelle took to heart her father’s admonishment to watch out for the wee ones, the wee siblings whom she lost track of after arriving in Missouri, and the wee ones she met along the way as she grew up and sought after her long lost siblings. Mattie never forgot his older sister’s promise to find him, but was unsure how that could happen as life kept him constantly on the move; how he longed for home and family. Molly appeared to live a life of luxury, doted on by loving parents, unaware that she was not their biological child, that is until she was orphaned yet again. Might she really have siblings somewhere, siblings that loved and wanted her? My Heart Remembers tells the story of how God used all things for good in the lives of these three siblings, and how they came to know Him as a trusted Father.

     I purchased this book a number of years ago, and it waited upon my bookshelf until May of 2017. God’s timing is always perfect in big and little things. I did not receive this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Rather I offer it to those who are looking for a truly touching read, filled with important life lessons. 

Life After by Katie Ganshert - A Book Review

Product DetailsKatie Ganshert
     Every American thirty years of age or older should be able to relate to Life After, as they recall life after 9/11/2001. Many younger Americans may also be able to relate to life after a number of subsequent national tragedies or life after any personal tragedy. Unfortunately, life means sometimes searching for life after. Fortunately, we have a Lord and Savior who weeps with us and who leads us forward.
     One year later, Autumn Manning, the sole survivor of a train bombing that took the lives of twenty-two others in Chicago, has become obsessed with the lives of those left behind as well as the lives cut short. Her family is concerned that she may never find her way out of all that plagues her, but they cannot understand the guilt that is mounting in Autumn’s core. While her family tries their own intervention, they could never imagine the form in which help would arrive.
     Kate Ganshert tackles the difficult themes of evil that brings pain and loss to people who have done nothing to bring them upon themselves and coping with false, undeserved guilt. She does so with understanding, compassion, and by helping readers gain a more accurate view of God and a more accurate view of themselves.

     Thank you, Waterbrook and NetGalley for providing me a copy of Life After in exchange for my honest opinion, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

War Party, a Short Story by Marsha Ward - A Review

War Party by [Ward, Marsha]     Marsha Ward

     I appreciate Marsha Ward sharing this story with me, and hope those reading this will appreciate my honest review.
     I have recently read several books and viewed several movies focused on the history of the Cherokee. I found it very interesting to have this peek into the 1872 Battle of Salt River Canyon involving the Apache. Modern day Americans are so aware of the impact of our encroachment on the creatures with whom we share our environment, that it is somewhat beyond comprehension that we were once so callous to the impact of our encroachment on other humans who preceded us into that environment. War Party gives us a glimpse into the impact on both pioneers and those native to the land. While I typically read novels in which the author has time and space to develop characters, I found Ms Ward to be able to engage the reader with her characters within the limited time and space of the short story.

     To be honest, I have not read short stories since I left college. I had my Kindle read this one to me while I ironed, and enjoyed being able to hear a story from start to finish within that period of time. I may look for more short stories in the future as I can see they would nicely help pass the time while doing household chores as my Kindle reads, or time in a waiting room or the school pick up line as I read them to myself. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron – A Book Review

Product Details   Kristy Cambron

     If you loved Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key or Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief you will likely love Kristy Cambron’s The Butterfly and the Violin. Cambron tells the story of Sera James, who runs a Manhattan art gallery, and her quest for an elusive painting that she had viewed as a child. The quest turns into an obsessive search not only for the painting, but for the story of its subject, Adele Von Bron, Austria’s sweetheart, an accomplished violinist. While Sera’s story is lived out in modern day New York City, Adele’s takes place during the Second World War with circumstances that find her transported to Auschwitz. In an effort to heal her own heart, Sera feels compelled to learn whether Adele’s love story ends with life lived with her love Vladimir or with tragedy behind the gates of the concentration camp. This story of picking up the pieces, trusting God, and moving forward following betrayal and loss will wrap it’s arms around the reader’s heart long after the last page is turned.             

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dream of Life by Michael Phillips - A Comment

 Product Details    

Dream of Life is the second book in Phillips’ American Dream series. I finished the book last month, and have been trying to decide how I wanted to review it, but life kept getting in the way, and I was struggling with the words that would do justice by this book. Let it suffice to say that I have recorded twenty-four page numbers inside the back cover that I want to copy quotes from in my reading journal. While Phillips is a master story teller, his works carry meaningful messages that touch both heart and soul. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury - A Book Review

Product Details 

     A friend suggested I read this book, and I am glad that she did. The Bridge is a sentimental story that tugs at ones heart strings. Molly Allen went to college in Tennessee as a music student to escape her privileged upbringing and the expectations her dad had for her future. Ryan Kelly went to study music and follow his dream to be a professional guitarist. Together they shared many special moments in a bookstore known as The Bridge, but just as friends. Both Molly and Ryan had someone back home waiting on them, and they were cautious not to cross any lines, well until they did. Unfortunately that special night was the beginning of the end.
     Charlie and Donna Barton, owners of The Bridge, considered their customers their family, the only family they had other than one another. They loved them like family, and treated them like family, helping them to find God’s path for their lives through books, a listening ear, and a caring heart. A time has come when the Barton’s need family, now will be the time to see if customers, people like Molly and Ryan, reciprocate those family feelings.

     The theme of this book is that God is a God of second chances. If you are looking for a message of hope, this book has it. If you are a lover of books, this book honors your pastime. If you cry at Hallmark commercials, this book is for you; have the tissues ready.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Haven of Swans by Colleen Coble - A Book Review

Product DetailsColleen Coble

    I have read four other books from the Rock Harbor Collection, and a couple of other books in which Rock Harbor characters made cameo appearances. I really enjoyed returning to Rock Harbor in Haven of Swans, and following along with Bree and Kade as they assisted Bay City Police Captain Nick Andreakos in his search for a serial killer, a search that became very personal to each of them. Bree’s search dog, Samson, plays, as always, a very big role in apprehending the killer, but will he lead Bree there in time to stop him from killing again?
     Fans of the television show “Criminal Minds” will be great fans of Haven of Swans as well. While I would classify most of the Rock Harbor books as mysteries, I would classify this one as a psychological thriller. Coble has included quite a few red herrings for her reader to sort out. Through most of the book I prided myself on identifying the killer, snickering at Coble’s attempts to lead me down another path, only to be quite humbled by his true identity.

     I highly recommend this book to mystery, thriller, and romance fans. While Colleen Coble is a Christian writer, this book is not preachy, and will appeal to both Christian and secular audiences. This summer a new Rock Harbor book will be added to the collection, Beneath Copper Falls. I, along with other Coble fans, will anxiously be awaiting this next installment. I thank Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing me with this copy of Havens of Swans in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pursued by Lisa Harris - A Book Review

Product DetailsLisa Harris

     I was so excited to receive the third book in The Nikki Boyd Files. Formerly a classroom teacher, Nikki is now a special agent in the missing persons division of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, spurred on to make the career change in the aftermath of her younger sister’s kidnapping. In Pursued Nikki stumbles into a case after her seatmate, Erika Hamilton, goes missing following their airplane’s crash at the Nashville airport. After first having her offer of assistance declined by the FBI, Nikki is asked to join the case to locate Erika, a key witness in an upcoming grand jury trial. Has Erika been kidnapped or is she on the run? Why is there an abundance of dead bodies being left in her wake? These are just a couple of questions that Nikki and her team must answer, along with finding out who is the mole in the FBI.
     Nikki had been looking forward to reconnecting with her longtime friend, Tyler, following his three months in Liberia. They still needed to find out if there was something more than a friendship developing between them, and if so, what their future would hold. A future that may be complicated by some unexpected medical results waiting for Nikki upon her return to Nashville. A complicated case like Erika’s, that quickly became personal, was not what Nikki wanted or needed at this time, but it drew her in because that’s who she was, someone who did her best to find those who were missing before it was too late.

     Pursued, met my expectations and provided me with an enjoyable read. While having some background provided in the first two books of the series gave me insight I would not have had otherwise, I do believe Pursued would work well as a stand-alone read. Harris has provided adequate information as to not leave new readers in the dark, while not boring those who are reading the series in sequence. I thank Lisa Harris and Revell Publishing for providing Pursued in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

Treasured Grace (Heart of the Frontier Book #1) by [Peterson, Tracie]    Tracie Peterson

     With over one hundred books to her credit, Tracie Peterson is a prolific writer. While Treasured Grace falls among her historical fiction novels, Tracie writes contemporary fiction as well. Her fans will be very pleased with this first book in her latest series. 
     Treasured Grace is set in Oregon Country in the mid-1800s, leading up to Oregon’s recognition as a territory of the United States of America. Peterson’s fictional characters survive the trials of life on the Oregon trail, only to live through the real life horrors of the Whitman Mission massacre. Readers of Jane Kirkpatrick’s The Memory Weaver, which told the story of Eliza Spaulding, an actual Whitman Mission survivor, and her family, may also be interested in reading the story of the Flanigan sisters: Grace, Hope and Mercy.
     Following the death of their widowed mother, the sisters embark upon a journey to Oregon Country in order to locate their uncle. Unable to make the trip as a single woman, Grace, the eldest, enters a marriage of convenience. The Right Reverend T.S. Martindale, meeting the Mission Board’s requirement of having a wife, agrees to take on the responsibility of Grace and her sisters, while also taking most of their resources. However, during the trip to Oregon City, the Right Reverent succumbs to illness, and Grace becomes a widow whose marriage was never consummated. She finds that she must place herself and her sisters at the mercy of Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, who graciously allow the sisters to winter over while they build up their strength, and determine their next course of action. Any thoughts they had about their future were abruptly changed as the Cayuse attack the mission killing the older boys, men, and Mrs. Whitman, and keep the women and children hostage.

     Themes presented through this story deal with forgiveness, prejudice, healing, and faith in the face of the most difficult of times. I recommend this book to fans of well-researched historical fiction as well as fans of Christian romance novels. I thank the publisher for making this book available to me in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Returning by Rachelle Dekker - A Book Review

Product DetailsRachelle Dekker

     I have to admit I read Rachelle Dekker’s first book, The Choosing, because I was quite curious about her storytelling in light of her growing up as Ted Dekker’s daughter. However, it is her skill as a storyteller that brought me to read The Calling and The Returning. Rachelle definitely does not need to ride on her father’s coattails; she is an author with an eloquent voice of her own.
     The Returning is the third novel in Rachelle Dekker’s Seer series, and it leaves her reader longing for more, not because the tale is lacking, but because the reader will want to follow the characters and their future generations.  The Seer series is a tale of forgetting and remembering, remembering who one is in the Father. It is a tale of letting go, surrendering, in order to gain that which is of the greatest value. It is a tale of great power, power that comes only with being filled with the Spirit of the Father, a Spirit we know comes through the Son. It reminds us that Light can always overcome darkness; it is never too late.

     The Returning is best read within the proper sequence of the Seer series. The story’s impact would likely be minimized as a stand-alone read. I would encourage you to take this journey. You will find it time well spent. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Murder Is No Accident by A. H. Barnhart - A Book Review


      I enjoyed my first visit to Hidden Springs as much as I enjoyed visiting Hollyhill and Rosey Corner, each a small town springing from A. H. Gabhart's creative mind, complete with a cast of memorable characters. While Murder Is No Accident is the third book in The Hidden Springs Mysteries series, it worked well as a stand-alone read, revealing just enough from the first two books to entice readers to read the previous books in the series. (I already have Murder at the Courthouse loaded on my Kindle.)
   Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane has roots that grow deep in Hidden Springs as His ancestors were founding fathers in Keane County. Alexandria Sheridan's family never remained anywhere long enough to put down roots, but childhood visits to her aunt and uncle's made Hidden Springs feel like home. While undeniably drawn to one another, Michael and Alex had never been able to figure out how to match Michael's small town roots and Alex's big city career. Something not being made any easier by the demands suddenly placed on Michael's time to solve one or maybe two murders while protecting a key witness and her family. Solving the current mystery might depend on his being able to put other ghosts to rest in the old Victorian mansion known as the Chandler house.
     While this may be Gabhart's first mystery series, her expertise as a storyteller stands her in good stead, and I believe her fans, as well as those new to her writing, will not be disappointed. I thank Revell Publishing and the Christian Blog Alliance for providing me with a copy of Murder Is No Accident in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no compensation for this review.

Friday, March 10, 2017

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin - A Book Review

Product DetailsSarah Sundin

     The United States is fully engaged in World War II as Lieutenant Daniel Avery’s and Quintessa Beaumont’s story gets underway in the third installment of the Waves of Freedom series. Their story is driven by the strength of their character as well as their character flaws. A major theme in the book alerts readers to the danger of judging people by outward appearances and using those judgments to predict their motivations and desires. The lesson here goes far beyond the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, and touches tender places within the heart. We are reminded as well of the value of leaving vengeance to the Lord, choosing rather to take the high road, surrendering to God’s sovereignty. While all of this may make this book sound preachy; far from it, Sundin offers her readers action on land and at sea, mystery, spies, and romance. Fully entertaining, but not mindless entertainment.
     Daniel Avery is brother to Jim and Lillian from previous books in this series. Quintessa is best friend to Mary, the Nancy Drew of book one. Readers will enjoy encountering these and other friends and family members again. They will also appreciate Sarah Sundin’s continued portrayal of actual historic events within the context of the story. Her attention to accurate detail makes her books come alive. When Tides Turn places the reader alongside Daniel during battles at sea and celebrates the 1942 establishment and success of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) as Quintessa, now known as Tess, finds a sense of purpose in serving her country.

     I thank the publisher for making When Tides Turn available to me in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Moving Target by Lynette Eason - A Book Review

Moving Target (Elite Guardians Book #3) by [Eason, Lynette]     Lynette Eason

     Moving Target is the third book in Lynette Eason’s Elite Guardians series. Each book in this series is better than the last. Eason is hard for other mystery/suspense writers to top, so it is amazing that she continues to top herself. Her writing is fast paced, believable, and engaging.
     I had lots of things that needed to be accomplished over the last two days, but very few of them were as I was totally engrossed in Quinn and Maddy’s story. Over the past few years, Quinn, a police detective, and Maddy, a former FBI agent turned body guard, have found themselves working cases together. A friendship developed in spite of Quinn’s prickly personality, with Maddy realizing that she has fallen in love with him. Quinn is much slower to embrace the turn in their relationship as he is holding onto a complicated past. While he may have eventually come around, having his world rocked by their becoming the targets of a serial killer certainly worked as a catalyst. Even so, Maddy comes to the realization that both she and Quinn have family issues that are best rectified before they take their relationship any further, not to mention Quinn’s tenuous relationship with his heavenly Father.
     Quinn had hoped to convince Maddy to join the task force searching for a serial killer. Maddy, while interested in once again working with Quinn, was reluctant to use the skills to get inside a murderer’s mind; getting back out was not easy. The decision of Maddy’s involvement was made for them when both she and Quinn were targeted by the madman, or was it madmen? Who exactly was it who had whisked them off to an island of terror? What connection did they have to the previous victims? Even when it appeared that answers were in hand, more questions were just around the corner.

     I highly recommend Moving Target to mystery and suspense fans. Fans of romantic fiction will also delight in this most recent offering by Lynette Eason. I thank the publisher for making a copy available to me in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for my review.        

Friday, February 24, 2017

Love Story by Karen Kingsbury - A Book Review

    Product Details 

Love Story is the story of the origin of John and Elizabeth Baxter’s family. It is the twenty-fifth book Karen Kingsbury has written about the Baxters. Love Story is wonderful tale for long-time Baxter fans, as John reflects back on his and Elizabeth’s story. It is also a suitable introduction for readers like me who are new to this family.  
     In addition to learning about how John and Elizabeth met and fell in love, readers of Love Story will also follow the somewhat turbulent, on again-off again, relationship of Cody Coleman and Andi Ellison. Throughout both relationships, we see how God works in the lives of those who seek His will and put their trust in Him, even when, or maybe especially when, they have made a mess of things when trying to make a go of it on their own.
     As a reader, I am usually pretty in touch with what attributes of a story or writing style do or do  not appeal to me as I read. I found my reading experience with Love Story to be the exception of that rule. As I read I was very aware that my level of engagement with the story and its characters waxed and waned more frequently and to a greater degree than is normal for me, but I could never pinpoint the cause. This detracted from my enjoyment of this book. It will not keep me from picking up another book by this author as the story did unfold with a meaningful lesson, something I value in Christian fiction.

     I wish to thank the publisher for providing this book to me in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wish Me Home by Kay Bratt - A Book Review

Product DetailsKay Bratt

     Cara is fleeing, leaving her twin behind, a difficult journey made more difficult by a lack of money, transportation, and trust. Throughout their years in the foster care system the twins had learned to rely only on one another; now they were each on their own. Along Cara’s way she meets a series of very special people, people who demonstrate a love and selflessness that nurture her.  Although Bratt’s writing does not stress the root of these characters’ love, the reader might just see the love of Christ demonstrated. Cara is also blessed with the love and devotion of a dog she names Hemi after her favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. The reader journeys right alongside Cara, celebrating her triumphs and anguishing in her setbacks.
     Kay Bratt carefully paces her release of information related to the twins’ past and to the reason behind Cara’s flight, information vital to their future. Bratt is a master at placing questions in her readers’ mind, and engaging them in the search for the answers. I knew Bratt as a master of non-fiction; this book introduced me to her as a master of fiction as well. This book will please readers who simply love a good book with memorable characters as well as readers who desire a memorable reading experience with meaningful themes and important life lessons.

    I thank Kay Bratt for providing me with a copy of Wish Me Home in exchange for my honest review.