Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Amish Christmas at North Star Book Review

Four Stories of Love & Family

REVIEW:  One night four lives entered the world by the hands of an Amish midwife on the edge of North Star, Pennsylvania.  Rebekah's Babies, as they were called, are now adults, and in four heartwarming novellas each person experiences a journey of discovery, the possibility of love, and the wonder of Christmas.
 
Guiding Star by Katie Ganshert
     Curiosity gets the best of Englischer Chase Wellington when he investigates the twenty-five-year-old disappearance of an Amish baby.  When he finds adventurous Elle McAllister in Iowa, will his revelations upend her world?

Mourning Star by Amanda Flower
     Eden Hochstetler slips from her parents' shop to investigate the death of her friend Isaac.  Who is guilty?  Isaac's handsome great-nephew Jesse, an angry Englischer, or someone else?

In the Stars by Cindy Woodsmall
     Heartbroken Kore Detweiler avoids North Star after Savilla Beiler rejects his love.  But when he is unexpectedly called home, he and Savilla must join forces to keep a family together.

Star of Grace by Mindy Starns Clark and Emily Clark
     Andy Danner left North Star to join a new Amish settlement in Mississippi.  His little brother devises a scheme to bring Andy home for Christmas and unwittingly unleashes the power of forgiveness in a reclusive widower's life.

REVIEW:  These stories were so enjoyable to read.  I love how they all fit together very well and especially loved the Epilogue at the end.  My favorite is probably Guiding Star.  Elle knew she was adopted but was surprised to find out about her birth family.  Chase's investigation and gentle assurance helped her when she met them and learned more about herself and them.  I love the forgiveness she had for her birth father and how her Amish family accepted her and loved her right from the start.
     Eden from Mourning Star was a sweet friend.  As she mourned for Isaac, when she found out about the questionable circumstances surrounding his death, she wanted to honor him and his memory and find out the truth.  My favorite part is how the identity of the true culprit was finally revealed.
     My heart went out to Savilla and all she had to endure.  Her part of the story was totally unexpected and surprising but I wished she would have told Kore and not hid what had happened.  I loved how she and Kore worked together to keep the Adler children safe and protected while their parents were away, even though it was very difficult for them.  Kore's taking his brothers to task for their treatment of Savilla was very admirable and welcome.
     The story of Star of Grace seemed more about Andy's brother Sam and Vincent and the grace and forgiveness that was found.  Andy and Nellie's story seemed secondary but I enjoyed it.  The changes in both Sam and Vincent shows just how far a little kindness, determination, and forgiveness can go.
     This book was very pleasurable and entertaining.

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books 
for review without compensation.
 
Katie Ganshert worked as a fifth-grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time.  She lives with her family in the Midwest.  Visit her website at http://katieganshert.com.
Amanda Flower, a three-time Agatha Award-nominated mystery author, also writes as national best-selling author Isabella Alan.  In addition to being an author, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.  Visit her website at www.amandaflower.com/.

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written seventeen works of fiction and one work of non-fiction.  Visit her website at www.cindywoodsmall.com/.

Mindy Starns Clark is the best-selling author of more than twenty-five books, both fiction and non-fiction.  She has received numerous honors, including two Christy Awards, an Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and RT Book Reviews Magazine's Career Achievement Award.  Visit her website at www.mindystarnsclark.com.

Emily Clark is currently an MFA Creative Writing candidate at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where she was awarded a merit-bases writing fellowship. She was also the recipient of Eastern University's Thyra Ferre Bjorn Creative Writing Award, which is given to the graduating senior "with the greatest writing potential."  She is the daughter of Mindy Starns Clark. 

The Bronte Plot Book Review


SUMMARY:  When Lucy's secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble.  But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her.
     Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach her goals.  When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy's secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend, James - leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt and trouble.  Something has to change: she has to change.
     In a sudden turn of events, James' wealthy grandmother, Helen, hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion.  Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own.  In fact, Helen understands Lucy's predicament better than anyone else.
     As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen's wisdom as Helen confronts ghosts from her own past.  Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters' beloved heroines who, with tenacity and resolution, endured - even in the midst of impossible circumstances.
     Now Lucy must face her past in order to move forward.  And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail - if only she can step into the life that's been waiting for her all along.

REVIEW:  Before reading this book, I had seen a lot of posts saying how much they enjoyed this book; the characters were engaging and they loved everything about it.  As much as I want to say the same thing, I can't.
     I did enjoy some of the story, like Lucy and James when they first met and dated, and Lucy and Helen's time at Haworth.  My favorite part was Sid's forgiveness of Lucy's "liberties" at work.  Even though he had to do damage control, I love how he still mentored and forgave Lucy and did what he could to help her.  Lucy taking responsibility for her actions and calling the people involved in her dishonorable exploits made me really admire her.  It took a lot of courage and determination.  The redecorating of the Inn in Haworth was another fun part.  I love the creativity Lucy had and how she tailored it perfectly for Bette's budget. 
    There were many times I felt the story fell flat.  The story references the literary works of the Bronte sisters many times.  Since I haven't read any of their stories and know only a very little about any of the story lines, I wasn't able to really pick up or understand the associations the way someone who is familiar with these things would.  When Helen returns a watch, I found it difficult to relate to her actions and reactions afterwards.  Lucy's plans to visit Bowness-on-Windermere and trick Helen into going just seemed odd.  I understand why she wanted to go, but it seems to me Helen would have understood if she would have just explained why.  The part that included Anthony, Lucy's dad, was difficult to read in that I could see exactly what he was doing and the trouble it would bring.  Lucy was so much like him but I'm glad she realized it and wanted to make a change.
    
This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers 
for review without compensation.

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a lifelong affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries.  After earning degrees in history and marking from Northwestern University, she worked in not-for-profit development before returning to school to pursue her MTS.  Katherine lives with her husband and three children in Chicago, Illinois.  Visit her website at www.katherinereay.com, on Twitter at @Katherine_Reay or on Facebook at katherinereaybooks.

The New Vintage Family Book Review

A Vintage Look for the Modern-Day Family

SUMMARY:  FAMILY IS NOT OUTDATED! BUT CAN IT STILL BE DONE WELL?
     In The New Vintage Family, Drenda shows you how to embrace God's design for family and how to refashion your family while pursuing your destiny together.  In a world that has traded the ability to mentor children God's way for a world of fast-paced instant gratification, we need real answers to the modern day struggles we face as parents.
     Drenda combines her wit, humorous stories, and dynamic teaching to equip you with the tools you need to make parenting fun again.  Learn to use the four pillars of family, to effectively communicate, and to fit the pieces of family mentorship, business, and home life together for success.

REVIEW:  Family is not just something you do on the weekends and holidays, but every part of every day.  Drenda includes stories from her husband and five kids about how they did life and business together.  She and her husband, Gary, included their children in their business ventures, traveling across the United States in a camper when Gary had business trips.  They home-schooled their children and had them help around the office, using each child's talents and strengths.  She shows you that struggles are real but they can be weathered and overcome, whether it is a lost job, health issues or a wayward child when they are faced together.
     As a parent of grown children, Drenda offers advice for all stages of life: from newlyweds to new parents, toddlers, pre-teens and teens, and empty nesters to grandparents.  She shares bible verses and stories of how God works in your life, your family's lives and those around you, encouraging you to keep striving for a God-centered family.
     If you are longing for the "good ole days" of close families and were wondering how to try to recapture those times, this book is a good place to start.

This book was provided by SON Studios for review without compensation.
 
Drenda Keesee is a television show host, author, speaker, entrepreneur, and pastor whose mission is to bring people into spiritual, emotional, and relational wholeness.  Drenda and her husband, Gary, have created several successful businesses, and are the founders of Faith Life Now, which produces two television programs - Drenda and Fixing the Money Thing, as well as worldwide conferences, and practical resources.  They also pastor Faith Life Church near Columbus, Ohio.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Whispers in the Reading Room Book Review

 
Chicago World's Fair Mystery Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  Lydia's job at the library is her world - until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.
     Just months after the closure of the Chicago World's Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyes patron.  He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person.  All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
     Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks.  She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
    Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn't merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
     Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder.  She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks - the man so many people fear - is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

REVIEW:  Everything is not always what it seems or looks like.  Appearances and actions can be deceiving.  Lydia is believed to be a wealthy debutante, but in reality her father's death left her and her mother penniless and destitute.  Sebastian looks to be the finest of gentlemen, well educated and refined but he was raised on the wrong side of the tracks and learned everything he knows from reading anything and everything he can.  
     I like how Lydia doesn't accept society's "norms" and kinda does what she wants. She wears her glasses all the time, when society thought such practice was very unacceptable and frowned upon.  When she realizes her fiance Jason has a very bad temper and he hurts her in public, Lydia does not sit back and take it but refuses to marry him.  She is willing to do what it takes to make sure her mother is taken care of and feels secure.  
     Sebastian struggles with getting close to anyone, even Vincent and Bridget, who work closest to him constantly.  I like how they stick by him and support him when it looks like Sebastian is being arrested.  Bridget risks her life to help Sebastian when he is followed into a bad part of town by a disreputable and dangerous man.  
     This was an engrossing book, capturing my attention at the beginning and keeping it until the very end.  Even though it is the third book in this series, I did not feel like I was missing anything since I had not read the first two.  The story flowed seamlessly.  It is one I would highly recommend.

This book was provided by The Fiction Guild for review without compensation.

Shelley Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers' prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner.  She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail. She also spends a lot of time online.  Please visit her website at www.shelleyshepardgray.com.  Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/ShelleyShepardGray.

The Tears of Dark Water Book Review


SUMMARY:  Daniel and Vanessa Parker are an American success story.  He is a Washington, DC, power broker, and she is a physician with a thriving practice. But behind the gilded facade, their marriage is a shambles, and their teenage son, Quentin, is self-destructing.  In desperation, Daniel dusts off a long-delayed dream - a sailing trip around the world.  Little does he know, the voyage he hopes will save them may destroy them instead.
     Half a world away on the lawless coast of Somalia, Ismail Adan Ibrahim is living a life of crime in violation of everything he was raised to believe - except for the love and loyalty driving him to hijack ships for ransom and plot the rescue of his sister, Yasmin, from the man who murdered their father.  There is nothing he will not do to save her, even if it means taking innocent lives.
     Paul Derrick is the FBI's top hostage negotiator.  His twin sister, Megan, is a celebrated defense attorney.  They have reached the summit of their careers by savvy, grit, and a secret determination to escape the memory of the day their family died.  When Paul is dispatched to handle a hostage crisis at sea, he has no idea how far it will take him and Megan into the past - or the chance it will give them to redeem the future.
     Across continents and oceans, through storms and civil wars, the paths of these individuals converge in a single, explosive moment.  It is a moment that will test them and break them, but it will also leave behind an unexpected glimmer of hope - that out of the ashes of tragedy and misfortune, the seeds of justice and reconciliation can grow.

REVIEW:  When this book first arrived, I was very hesitant to read it.  While the description sounded interesting, I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about hostages, pirates and families falling apart.  But, after opening its pages and reading the first chapter or two, my interest was cautiously peaked.  The author does a marvelous job keeping all the characters and stories engaging.  The depth of the characters and the story lines still reverberate through my mind, weeks after the book was finished.  Hope and restoration are the recurring themes throughout the book.  Each character is holding on to hope that their families can be restored and that the situation will resolve itself.  They also believe restoration will occur, even very slowly in most predicaments, in their families and their own lives.
     Now, I do need to state that this is not a Christian faith-based novel.  A couple of characters pray at different times but it seems to be a last minute "Oh, I should pray" but not looking to God for direction or peace.  Ismail and his family are devout Muslims.  Their practice of Islam is prominent and at times central to their story.  There are a couple of curse words and, towards the end of the novel, a character mentions sleeping with another without the benefit of marriage.
     This novel is gripping and very intriguing, one that I recommend cautiously but without hesitation.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild for review without compensation.

Corban Addison is the author of two international bestselling novels, A Walk Across the Sun and The Garden of Burning Sand, which address some of today's most pressing human rights issues.  An attorney, activist, and world traveler, Addison is a supporter of numerous humanitarian causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS.  He lives with his wife and children in Virginia.  He can be found online at corbanaddison.com, Facebook: Corban Addison and on Twitter: @CorbanAddison.

At Love's Bidding Book Review


SUMMARY:  She sells priceless antiques. He sells livestock by the pound.  Is he really the man to made a bid for her heart?
     After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder.  Desperate to appeases the people who could ruin them forever, they track it to the Missouri Ozarks and make an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house and all its holdings before the painting can move again.
     Upon crossing the country, however, Miranda and her grandfather discover their new auction house doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock.  And its frustratingly handsome manager, Wyatt Ballentine, is annoyed to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat.  Faced with more heads of cattle than they can count - but no mysterious painting - Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

REVIEW:  This book has it's ups and downs.  I love how Miranda stays by her grandfather's side, looks after him and defends him when his memory takes a turn for the worse and he starts to alienate the people in Pine Gap.  Her concern and care for him is always in the forefront.  Even though Wyatt is not happy that the new auction house owners haven't the first clue on how to conduct livestock auctions, he tries to help them the best he can.  He does a good job trying to balance their big-city ideas with the reality of small town living.  I like how Wyatt doesn't give up easily.  His determination to work hard without taking advantage of people plays out in his favor at the end of the book.
     Sometimes it was hard to figure out who the "bad" guy was.  There were four different people looking for this portrait.  At times, it was difficult to follow who was trying to help the LeBlanc family (the owners of the portrait) and who was trying to steal it away to hurt the Auction House.  Throw in the possibility of a missing heir and it took some effort to keep things straight.
     The ending was delightful.  I loved how things worked out for Wyatt, Miranda, and the auction houses.  All in all, it was a pleasant read.

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group and Bethany House
for review without compensation.

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English.  She is the author of Sixty Acres and a Bride, Love in the Balance, Caught in the Middle, A Most Inconvenient Marriage, and she contributed a novella to A Match Made in Texas.  She and her family make their home in Oklahoma City.  Regina can be found online at www.reginajennings.com.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Wedding Chapel Book Review


SUMMARY:  A lonely wedding chapel.  Build as a tribute to lost love just might hold the long-awaited secret to hope and reconciliation.
     For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty.  Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy "Coach" Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago.  The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.
     Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart's Bend, Tennessee, to make a new life for herself in New York.  She had lots to run away from, not least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams.  Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement - then to second guesses.  Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her.
     Taking a photography assignment in Heart's Bend, Taylor is thrown back into a past of family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time.  When Taylor and Coach's journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth the wait.

REVIEW:  Rachel Hauck's latest novel is phenomenal!!  There are four main characters whose stories flow seamlessly together.  The novel moves from current day to the late 40s/early 50s without causing confusion or without any lag.  My heart grieved when the characters went through their trials and separation.  It cried when the characters faced the hurts and secrets of the past and rejoiced when they found acceptance and love.  It is a story of loss, hurt, and secrets but also of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.  Excellent and incredible story!!  This is will be one I recommend to everyone!! 

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group, Zondervan, and Fiction Guild 
for review without compensation.

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author.  She is a RITA and Christy Award finalist.  Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times.  Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and two pets and writes from her ivory tower.