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?

www.biblegateway.com


Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Return Book Review

Amish Beginnings Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  In a wild country, the true cost of love may be more than they can bear.
     Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family's rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans - but then she never had to.  Not until the night she's taken captive in a surprise Indian raid.  Facing brutality and hardship, Betsy finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the feelings she's developing for a native man who encourages her to see God in all circumstances.
     Greatly anguished by Betsy's captivity, Hans turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort.  She responds eagerly, overlooking troubling signs of Han's hunger for revenge.  But if Betsy is ever restored to the Amish, will things between Hans and Tessa have gone too far?
     Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of pre-revolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.

SUMMARY:  Sometimes God works in ways we don't understand to take us to places spiritually, physically and emotionally we would never go on our own.  Betsy soon finds out how God uses her time as an Indian captive to help bring her to an understanding of Himself and others around her that she wouldn't have otherwise had.  It also makes her stronger than she ever thought she could be and helps her when she needs to make difficult decisions.
     Tessa is like most of us; we want what we can't have.  When we finally get a taste of it, we want more, even if it isn't God's best.  Tessa makes decisions that come back to haunt her and influences others to make bad choices.  I like how she owns up to her mistakes and does what she can to make restitution.  
     The ending was different in that one character's story was left open ended while others were tied up neatly.  I liked how this novel closed with all kinds of possibilities that only God knows the ending.  This book is set about twenty-five years after the first and second ones.  Even though I read the first one but not the second, I was able to follow along without any trouble, especially since there was a Cast of Characters to help fill in any blanks.  This is a good book and a good series.

This book was provided by Revell for review without any compensation.
 
Susanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Anna's Crossing and The Newcomer in the Amish Beginnings series.  The Bishop's Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish.  She lives in California.  Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @susannewfisher.

A Name Unknown Book Review

Shadows Over England Series
 Book One

SUMMARY:  She's out to steal his name.  Will he steal her heart instead?
     Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins who helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets - instead they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to question whether she can continue in this life when she's offered the challenge of a lifetime - determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany.  After all how does one steal a family's history, their very name?
     As Europe moves ever closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein.  Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence.  But Peter can't help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crown - so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels.  When Rosemary arrives on his doorstep pretending to be a well-credentialed historian, Peter believes she's the right person to help him dig through his family's past.
     When danger and suspicion continue to mount, both realize they're in a race against time to discover the truth - about Peter's past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

REVIEW: The summary of this book drew my attention.  There were so many questions floating around  - how does someone prove they are a loyal citizen?  How does someone steal a name? Why did Peter keep his office locked up and why was no one allowed entry without his permission, not even his loyal housekeeper?  What did he do with the typewriter on his desk all day?  Where did Peter's father and grandfather put all the important paperwork about their immigration to England from Germany?  How was the Holstein family connected to the British royal family so that the men were advisors to the present and past rulers of England?  As I read, little by little these questions were answered, albeit, some quite slowly.  I liked the mysterious air attached to this story with the secretive Mr. V and the details Rosemary slowly discovers about the Holstein family.  Sometimes it was hard to keep the information together because each piece of the puzzle was very slowly revealed.  As I read, I wondered what Rosemary would do with the information she was gathering for Mr. V and about how was behind the attacks on Peter's house.  I like how the book ended because it was not what I expected and the way it sets up for another book in the series.
     This book was different from others I read in that it was slower in revealing the details need to absolve the problems Peter was facing but, not everything is answered quickly in real life either.  This is a good book and recommend it to someone wanting a little mystery.

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

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her.  When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself.  Roseanna is the author of over a dozen historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her series set in Britain.  She makes her home in the breathtaking mountains of West Virginia.  You can learn more about her and her stories at www.roseannawhite.com.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gathering the Threads Book Review

The Amish of Summer Grove Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  Finally back in the Old Order Amish world she loves, will Ariana's new perspectives draw her family closer together - or completely rip them apart?
     After months away in the Englisch world, Ariana Brenneman is overjoyed to be in the Old Order Amish home where she was raised.  Yet her excitement is mixed wit an unexpected apprehension as she reconciles all she's learned from her biological parents with the uncompromising teachings of her Plain community.  Although her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, hopes to help her navigate her new role amongst her people, Ariana's Daed doesn't understand why his sweet daughter is suddenly questioning his authority.  Will she sow seeds of unrest and rebellion in the entire family?
     Meanwhile, Skyler Nash has finally found her place among the large Brenneman family, but Ariana's arrival threatens to unravel Skylar's new identity - and her sobriety.  Both Ariana and Skylar must discover the true cords that bind a family and community together and grasp tight the One who holds their authentic identities closer to His heart.  
     Gathering the Threads is the third and final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

REVIEW:  Cindy Woodsmall does a phenomenal job bringing an end to Ariana and Skylar's stories and all the intricacies involved with these families.  There were times when I wondered what choices Ariana would make and how it would play out.  When I thought I might have it figured out, the author would throw something else in play to change my thinking.  Skylar was a hard one to love all throughout the series.  Her animosity towards the parents that raised her, her biological parents and Ariana was exhausting.  But, I love how she grew as a woman, when she let God work in her heart and learned from those around her to become a better person.  Ariana also had some difficult choices to make.  The decisions she made were ones that causes her some pain but I love how they were perfect for her. 
     This is an amazing series. The books must be read in order as each one builds on the previous story.  The details that the author goes into were difficult to follow at times because there were so many moving parts but all were very important to the end game and makes for a fantastic read.  I highly recommend this series.

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah for review without any compensation.

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of early twenty works of fiction and non-fiction with more than a million copies sold.  Her connection with the Amish community has been featured in national media outlets such as ABC's Nightline, the Wall Street Journal, and a National Geographic documentary on Amish life.  Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Season to Dance Book Review


SUMMARY:  Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House all figured out until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, returns to Georgia to win her back.  Despite a promising start towards her ballet career and pending marriage to landscape architect, Peter Engberg, Ana wonders if her dreams of dancing at the Met are as impossible as her previous romantic relationship with Claus.
     Then, an on-stage kiss between Ana and Claus changes every thing.
     Convinced the kiss is more than a one-time mistake, Peter breaks off their engagement.  With an old dog crippled by arthritis and dreams deferred but not left behind, Ana moves to Germany to be with Claus.  But the ghost of his late wife, Ana's own feelings for Peter, and the pressure of earning a spot in a large ballet company are a high price for a shot at success.  Ana seems on the verge of having everything she ever dreamed of, but will it be enough?

REVIEW:  I'll be honest.  There were many times while reading this book that I thought about putting it down and not reading any more.  It was not the story line. I found it engaging and captivating.  The problem I had was the actions of Ana.  This is not your typical clean Christian fiction.  While it doesn't go into details, Ana makes some bad decisions, which in turn leads to more bad decisions, and on and on.  But, as I continued to read, I realized this novel is a story of Ana's faith journey.  It is not neat, clean or quick.  It is messy, complicated and takes a long time for her to realize her need for a personal savior, Jesus.  God doesn't forget Ana while she is in the midst of her mess but sends people, events, and "coincidences" to let her know she is not far from His thoughts.  Even when life is looking its bleakest, God reminds her that He is right there with her. 
     This is a book that should be read by anyone who wants to see how Jesus loves us even when we don't deserve it and those who just want to experience God's grace again.

This book was provided by the author for review without any compensation.

Patricia Beal has danced ballet since her childhood and has performed with pre-professional companies in South America, Europe, and the United States.  She graduated magna cum laude from the  University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English literature and worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S.Army for seven years.  Her feature story on a day in the life of "Bad Luck Squad" in Iraq won a Keith L. Ware award in print journalism.  She's an army wife for life, an army editor, and forever a ballerina.  Patricia writes from El Paso, Texas, where she lives with her husband and two children.  A Season to Dance is her first novel.  Visit her website at www.patriciabeal.com.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Legacy Book Review

Secrets of the Shetlands series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  The dramatic conclusion to the Secrets of the Shetlands.
     Loni Ford's unexpected inheritance of substantial real estate - not to mention a title - in the Shetland Islands has caused more than a stir in the quiet fishing hamlet of Whales Reef.  How can life ever be the same with an outsider - and a woman at that - playing such a pivotal role in the life of this traditional community?  But it isn't just the locals who have deep misgivings about the current situation.  Loni herself never imagined this in her wildest dreams and wonders whether she's cut out for it.
     Loni would hardly let herself acknowledge that she's falling in love - with Whales Reef, with its hardy people, and with local chieftain David Tulloch, whose inheritance she has usurped, at least in the eyes of some.  Or has she merely been seduced by the simple, peaceful way of life that exists here?
     Yet life in Whales Reef is rarely without drama.  Deeps rifts exist between certain lifelong neighbors, and when a dead body is discovered, suspicion is cast in the direction of the Tulloch family.  How Loni and David face up to this challenge will profoundly shape their relationship, as well as the future of the island.

REVIEW:  This book was a satisfying conclusion to this Secrets of the Shetlands series.  I like how everything was wrapped up neatly, with quite a few surprises, by the end.  The author goes into great detail within Emily and Brogan's story, tying it together with Loni, David and their friends stories.  How he kept everything straight is amazing.  Now, I don't know if I would call it a dramatic conclusion to the series but this novel answered questions about Loni's family's past and solves a mystery.  Probably my favorite part is the change in Hardy.  I also like how each person's faith is subtly woven throughout their lives and actions.  Their faith is not flimsy but strong, vibrant, and growing.  You can see Christ and His teachings through the behaviors of the characters. 
     When you read this series, you need to read the books one after another.  Each book picks up where the one before left off and they refer to incidences and characters mentioned throughout the stories quite frequently.  A "Cast of Characters" was really needed since some characters are only mentioned a few times but become an important part the memories and saga.  

This book was provided by Bethany House for review without compensation.

Michael Phillips is a bestselling author who has penned more than seventy books, both fiction and nonfiction.  Michael and his wife, Judy, spend time each year in Scotland but make their home near Sacramento, California.  Visit Michael's website at www.fatheroftheinklings.com.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grounded Hearts Book Review


SUMMARY:  A brave midwife.  A wounded pilot.  A risky secret.
     In the midst of World War II, Ireland has declared herself neutral.  Troops found on Irish soil must be reported and interned, no matter which side they are fighting for.  When midwife Nan O'Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she's taking a huge risk by letting him in. Not only is she a widow living alone, but if caught harboring a combatant, she'll face imprisonment.
     Still, something compels Nan to take in "flyboy" Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare.  While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection - and an unbreakable bond.
     But Nan has another secret, one that has racked her with guilt since her husband's death and made her question ever loving again.  As Nan and Dutch plan his escape, can he help restore her faith?

REVIEW:  While parts of this book was interesting, there are quite a bit that I found a little disheartening and concerning in a book that was supposed to be Christian fiction.  While reading, I learned about Ireland's neutrality during World War II and how difficult life could be for those who were found helping anyone involved in any way with the action.  In Grounded Hearts, the militia groups, and their affiliates, would arrest anyone thought to be harboring, in their eyes, a fugitive.  When Nan took in Dutch after he crashed his airplane in a nearby bog, she decided to hide him while he healed from his injuries.  Doing so, she took a great risk to her reputation as the local (and only) midwife for the area.  Also, reading about the treatment of the arrested fugitives in Ireland was eye-opening and shocking, in a good way.  The adventure Nan and Dutch had trying to get him across the border to Northern Ireland was funny at times.  I also liked how Nan steps out of her comfort zone and finds there is more to life when you just take a little risk.
     One disheartening and concerning part was how the local Irish men were portrayed.  They were shown to be ignorant, overbearing, and totally clueless about the actions of their wives.  All they were concerned about was having the house taken care of and their needs met.  They were portrayed as being drunk as soon as it was "socially acceptable."  As their wives took control of the situation Nan found herself in, the men of the village didn't have a clue about what was happening.  While I like having strong women characters, I don't like it at the expense of the men.
     Another concerning part was how the attraction between Dutch and Nan was illustrated.  There were times when I became a little uncomfortable reading about how they felt and what each other found attractive.  It was more descriptive than I usually find in Christian novels and was mentioned at every turn.

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group and Waterfall Press 
for review without any compensation.

Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four brothers.  Her grandmother lived with them and was a constant source of stories about life in Ireland and about saint and ancestors long gone from this earth.  Jeanne credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother for her love of storytelling.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jane of Austin Book Review

A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility

SUMMARY:  Just a few years after their father's business scandal shatters their lives, Jane Woodward and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop.  The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister, Margot, and Jane's tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
     But life in Austin isn't all sweet tea and breakfast tacos.  Their unusual living situation is challenging, and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia.  When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the charm grows deeper.
     While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune - retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett.  Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected - Texas.
     In this modern spin on the Austen classic Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn't so far away.

REVIEW:  When I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen the first time, I found it difficult due to the 18th century writing and language.  Throw in some dry British humor and it took me MUCH LONGER to finish than usual.  After watching the movie staring Kate Winslett, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman about a thousand times :-D I understood it a lot better the second time.  So, when I got the opportunity to read this modern retelling of one of my favorite movies, I couldn't resist.  It also helped that it was written by one of my new favorite authors.
     Jane of Austin was a delight to read!!!  I didn't want to put it down but my boss and family insisted I do the jobs I'm supposed to do.  It was MUCH easier to read and comprehend than the original.  I fell in love with the characters, cried when they cried, laughed when they laughed, and smiled at all the happy parts.  Jane, or Marianne, is the main character.  I liked seeing everything from her point of view.  It helped me understand the original character's actions, reactions and responses a little better.  There were so many things that I enjoyed about this book.  I like how the author used local southern (and Texas) cuisine, tea shops and scones (as well as wonderful recipes) as a part of the story.  The flow of the action and dialog flowed easily.  I found myself excitingly turning pages and disappointed when it ended.
     Whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen or the movies based on her books, this is one book that you need to read.  I promise, you will NOT be disappointed. It's amazing!!

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah for review 
without any compensation.

Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of the critically acclaimed Two Blue Doors series and the Plain and Simple duet.  Jane of Austin is her sixth novel.  In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, graphic design, and finding new walking trails.  She resides outside of Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and two pups.  She can be found online at www.hillarymantonlodge.com.