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


Friday, December 30, 2016

Of Stillness and Storm Book Review


SUMMARY:  "I felt torn between two worlds.  Each with its own mystery.  One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing."
     It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream - reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal.  But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring.  For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family's undoing.
     At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren's past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aiden intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past.  It's thirteen-year old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.
     Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.

REVIEW:  This book was hard and raw at times.  It wasn't the subject matter but the intensity, the depth, and the wringing of the emotions that were hard.  The author doesn't hold any punches.  She shows the difficulties missionaries face in country and balancing faith, life and the struggles with they don't line up with others.  Sam is determined to live the way the Nepalis do: no cell phones, no personal vehicle or luxuries such as a WiFi, a better water filtration system or air conditioning or central heat.  It works for him when he is off visiting the remote mountain tribes but Lauren and their son Ryan really struggle with the reality of life and living among a people with whom they have trouble communicating.  The emotions Lauren goes through as she tries to reach her son, who is retreating and rebelling as far away as he can, are heart wrenching.  She struggles with her own faith when her son faces impossible odds but I love how the author shows her raw hostility and the strengthening of her faith as she pursues the God she knows is there with her.
     This is a wonderful book that really made me think about my faith and the struggles missionaries face within their own families and the people they are trying to reach.  This is one I plan to keep and reread to mine its depths even deeper.

This Advanced Reader's Copy was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group, Fiction Guild 
and Thomas Nelson Publishers for review without any compensation.

Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Miche'le Phoenix is a consultant, writer and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids.  She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission.  Miche'le travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group.  She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies, and paths to healing.  Learn more at michelephoenix.com or Twitter @frenchphoenix.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Newton & Polly Book Review

A Novel of Amazing Grace

SUMMARY:  "Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
                          That saved a wretch like me!
                          I once was lost, but now am found . . ."

     Now remembered as the author of the world's most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life.  His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father - until the night he hears Polly Catlett's enchanting voice, caroling.  He's immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.
     An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John's reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly.  When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever.  Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?
     Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe. 

REVIEW:  Jody Hedlund does an excellent telling the story of John and Polly's love for each other.  She made me feel like I was right there, watching them as they interacted.  There were times I wanted to reach out and grab John by the collar and shake some sense into him when he would make stupid decisions.  There were so many times he shirked his duty and risked his father's and his own good name to be with Polly that I wondered if he would ever change for the better.  I admired Polly for standing up for her commitment to Christ and not forsaking it to marry John.  She followed in her father's footsteps as he stood up for the principles he held and not giving them up when society made it difficult.  The way the author describes the depths of depravity John fell to and the heights he climbed to made it feel so real.  This is a book I want to keep on my shelf for a very long time.

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

Jody Hedlund is a CBA best-selling and award-winning author of more than a dozen books.  Among a variety of genres, she especially loves bringing long-forgotten women of history to life.  She is the author of Luther and Katharina, which was awarded the ECPA Book of the Year Award in fiction.  Her other novels have won the Carol Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christy Award.  She resides in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and their busy children.

Just A Kiss Book Review

Summer Harbor Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  Riley Callahan's plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are derailed when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.
     Watching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to book camp.  But over a year later, he's officially a Marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item.  When Riley's tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend's heart once and for all.
     But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee.  Now he's heading home, injured and troubled.  His plans to win Paige are a distant dream.  She deserves so much more than the man that's left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them.  But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.
     Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy.  By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability.  But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he's hiding.  To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy.  The animal shelter that she's poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it.
     As the weeks wear on, Paige's feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory.  Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners?  Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother?  And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

REVIEW:  This is the third book in this series but it can stand on its own with no problems.  This story tugged at my heart.  Paige has struggled with her family all her life.  Riley was there for her whenever she needed him.  But, with no explanation, he up and joined the Marine Corp when she started dating his brother instead of letting Paige know how he felt.  
     I love how Paige gives her all to her relationships and her job.  When she finds out the animal shelter she works out may have to close due to the lack of money, I admire how she puts everything she has into finding sponsors, revamp her budgeting and trying to find homes for her sweet babies.
When it comes to her dating relationships, she tries to make them work, even when things aren't going well.  Even though things are strained between her and Riley upon his return, she gives him her best efforts in caring for him and helping him through the difficult time of adjusting to his disability.
     There were a few times when I wanted to strangle Riley because of his lack of communication.  Lots of times, he assumed what would be the best for himself, Paige, or his family without talking to them first, and makes a mess of it.  As soon as life gets a little tough, he tucks his tail and runs.  But, I like how he redeems himself in the end with Paige.
     This is a great finish to the Summer Harbor series.  I look forward to reading more by Denise Hunter in the future.

This book was provided by Revell for review without any compensation.

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including Falling Like Snowflakes and The Convenient Groom.  She has won the Holt Medallion Award, the Reader's Choice Award, and the Foreword Book of the Year Award and is a RITA finalist.  When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums.  Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are rapidly approaching an empty neat.  Learn more about Denise online at DeniseHunterBooks.com; on Facebook: authordenisehunter, and Twitter: @DeniseAHunter.

Wild Montana Skies Book Review

Montana Rescue Series
 Book One

SUMMARY:  The last thing Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing needs upon returning home to Mercy Falls, Montana, is to run into her mistakes.  After a devastating crash during her recent military tour in Afghanistan, she is emotionally broken but ready to start putting her life back together.  She just wants to reconnect with her teenage daughter and spend the summer working as the new lead pilot of PEAK Rescue in Glacier National Park.
     But her mistakes aren't so easily forgotten.  Because Ben King is also back in town.
     Country music star Ben King abandoned his past when he moved to Nashville thirteen years ago to start his career.  He hoped to heal his broken heart, caused by losing the woman he loved,  But when his father is injured, Ben is called home to help manage PEAK Rescue during his recovery.  He doesn't realize his father has ulterior motives until his old flame, Kacey, walks into his house and back into his heart. 
     Now, with Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods.  Kacey and Ben will have to work together to save lives.  But when secrets are uncovered and old hurts rise to the surface, will they walk away again?  Or can they find a different ending to their country love song?

REVIEW:  Susan May Warren's newest series starts with Kacey's return home to Montana while on medical leave from the Army after the crash of her helicopter in Afghanistan.  While trying to reconnect with her daughter, who has been living with her parents, Kacey is determined to be the mom she needs to be.  It is also interesting in how the author introduces the complexity of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the treatments available and how Kacey handles it.  Her reconnection with Ben is filled with emotions and baggage that neither know what to do with.  I like how Ben, after he realizes the truth about a lie that was told years earlier, steps up and becomes the man he needs to be.  I also like how he handled the dilemma regarding his career and caring for his family.  
     There were a few times when the crash that injured Ben's dad and grounded another PEAK Rescue helicopter pilot were mentioned.  It felt like I was missing something because it is only mentioned in passing.  I was left to wonder if it was covered in a previous book by Susan May Warren that is part of another series or if it will be detailed in a later book.
     This book was enjoyable.  I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.

This book was provided by Revell for review without any compensation.

Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels with more than one million books sold.  Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Reader's Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas.  She can be found online at www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

The Cottage Book Review

Secrets of the Shetlands Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Is the future of Whales Reef in the hands of an outsider?
     When Loni Ford is informed that she has inherited property in the Shetland Islands, she laughs.  She wants nothing more than to sell it and be done with it.  But when she arrives in the North Sea enclave, she is stunned to find that "the Cottage" is not at all what she expected, nor is David Tulloch, the man most of the islanders believe to be the rightful heir.
     The locals could hardly be more surprised that the heir is a woman - and an American.  Loni, in turn, finds the islanders quaint and a bit behind the times.  Expecting David to be as provincial as the rest of his clan, she discovers that there is far more to the man than meets the eye.  And there is something about the peaceful atmosphere of the place - and the character of its most prominent citizen - that soon gets under her skin.
     Beneath the peaceful surface, however, change is threatening the island of Whales Reef.  David's cousin Hardy Tulloch, whose claim to the inheritance now in Loni's hands was backed by oil investors, has not been deterred in his aim to control the island.  But his co-conspirators have plans of their own, plans that put Loni's very life in danger. . . .

 REVIEW:  This book was just as enjoyable as the first, if not more so.  This book picks up exactly where the first, The Inheritance, leaves off and carries the reader away to the Shetland Islands.  The author does a fantastic job keeping everything in the story line going, all the characters engaging, and the reader turning the pages until the end. He takes his time explaining details so that the reader feels like they are right there on site.  I like how this book goes into more detail about Loni's upbringing and her connection to Ernest Tulloch, the original owner of the island community.  I like how David keeps his connection to the island a secret while Loni gets her bearings and understanding of how everything works so not to overwhelm her or make her think he's after the inheritance, like Hardy.  Sometimes all the details and characters involved in this book were difficult to keep straight.  My favorite part is the ending.  The author takes his time working out all the intricate details, slowly unraveling all the secrets and underhanded dealings.
     This is an intriguing book that was very fascinating and enjoyable. 

This book was provided by Bethany House for review without any 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.macdonaldphillips.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where Two Hearts Meet Book Review

Prince Edward Island Dreams series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  In her kitchen at Rose's Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent.  But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen - an a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.
     Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island.  He's also on assignment to uncover a story.  Instead, he's falling in love with the island's red shores and Caden's sweets.
     When Caden discovers Adam isn't who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he's writing could do more than ruin the inn's chances for survival - it might also break her heart.

REVIEW:  Where Two Hearts Meet is author Liz Johson's second novel in this series.  She ties this book together with the first perfectly, making me even more enamored with this inn and the people who work there. 
    Caden is a woman after my own heart.  She is funny, has a huge heart, is giving, loves show tunes and singing loudly in her kitchen as she prepares her treats for the inn.  She is beautiful but doesn't think so because she has a little meat on her bones.  Even though showing Adam around the island of her birth is WAY out of her comfort zone, she knows a lot is riding on it and steps out in faith.  There were so many times I saw myself in Caden and wanted to hug her neck and encourage her to keep trying. 
     Adam suffers from PTSD after working in a war zone and seeing a friend mortally wounded during a firefight.  His sabbatical at the Red Door Inn is supposed to be a working on, finding closure for himself and his friend's family.  In doing so, Adam ends up uncovering a connection between the owner of the inn and his friend.  I like how, between Caden's sweets and trips around the island, Adam starts to find a peace he didn't know he could ever have again.
     The ending is one I didn't not see but thought it fit with the story perfectly.  I love how Adam's story about his friend ended and how is desire to be with Caden works out.  The whole book was enjoyable and made me laugh and smile quite a bit.  This novel and series is fantastic and one I plan to keep on my shelves for a long time.

This book was provided by Revell for review without any compensation.

Liz Johnson fell in love with Prince Edward Island the firs time she set foot on it.  When she's not plotting her next trip to the island, she works as a full-time marketing manager.  She is the author of several novels including The Red Door Inn, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories.  She makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Catching Heat Book Review

Cold Case Justice Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart's parents, she's desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind - the governor's wife - behind bars.  When she joins a newly formed task fore and teams u with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student.  Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where California's first lady, Alyssa Rollins, grew up, Abby decided to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.
     Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in.  But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

SUMMARY:  Catching Heat picks up where the second book, Burning Proof, leaves off.  There are two cold cases Abby's team is working on plus the side case of her parents' murder.  Between all the different suspects, locations, and details of each case, sometimes I got lost as to what belongs to which case.  Throw in all the details from the two previous books that are repeated referred to in regards to previous cases and the Triple Seven murders, sometimes it was hard to keep track of everything. That said, this book kept my attention along the whole roller coaster ride until the very end.  The ending was a surprise and fit the story line perfectly. 
     Abby's obsession with solving her parents' murder mirrored one of her cold cases.  I like how in solving the case, she finally realizes the problem she is having letting go and does what she can to stop.  The twists and turns of all three cases will keep you on your toes. You may even need a cheat sheet to keep track of everything. 
     All in all, this is a great book and the perfect ending to the series.  I really enjoyed this book and series and look forward to reading more by Janice Cantore.

This book was provided by Tyndale House for review without any compensation.

Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired.  Her twenty-two year of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories.  She has penned eight novels: the Pacific Coast Justice series, Visible Threat, Critical Pursuit, Drawing Fire, and Burning ProofCatching Heat is the third book in the Cold Case Justice series.

Tangled Webs Book Review

 Men of Valor Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  Finn has packed away his combat instincts - but he may need them again when danger begins to stalk his quiet hideaway . . .
     After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime.  A peaceful month in the woods sounds like the perfect way to decompress.  But peace isn't on the agenda once he crosses paths with publishing executive Dana Lewis, a neighbor who is nursing wounds of her own.  Someone seems bent on disrupting her stay in the lakeside cabin she inherited from her grandfather.  As Finn and Dana work together to discover who is behind the disquieting pranks, the incidents begin to take on a menacing tone.  And when it becomes apparent Dana's foe may have deadly intent, Finn finds himself back in the thick of the action - ready or not.
     Bestselling author and three-time RITA Award winner Irene Hannon draws readers into a web of psychological suspense where danger lurks in dark corners. . . and keeps them captive until the very last page.

REVIEW:  Another wonderful book from Irene Hannon!!!  This story starts out with a bang and just keeps the readers attention to the end.  There are three different points of view, with sometimes a fourth thrown in, but I was never confused or turned around.  I love how the stories and points of each main character are woven together in a seamless stream of intrigue.  At times, I thought I had the ending figured out, but then the author would throw something else in and I would have to change my thinking.  The conclusion of the conflicts was exciting, although a little sad, with how everything worked out.  This book is another keeper for my ever-growing collection!!
     Being the third book in the series, you don't have to read the other books to follow the story, but they do add information and background to Finn's brothers.

This book was provided by Revell for review without any compensation.

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Buried Secrets, Thin Ice, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series.  In addition to many other honors, she is a seven-time finalist for and three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America.  She is also a member of that organization's elite Hall of Fame.  Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.

The Courtship Basket Book Review

Amish Heirloom Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Years ago, a picnic basket brought two hearts together.  For Rachel and Mike, history may be about to repeat itself.
     Rachel Fisher is devastated when the young man she's loved for years leaves her to date her best friend.  Her heart is broken, and she has all but given up on love.  Determined to keep her mind off the pain, she starts teaching at an Amish school for children with learning disabilities.
     Since his father became ill, Mike Lantz has been overwhelmed with the responsibility of providing for his family and caring for his six-year-old brother, John.  When John joins Rachel's class and she learns that his mother is deceased and his father sick, she desperately wants to help the family, even with something s simple as a meal. 
     With her parents' old picnic basket, Rachel begins sending food to the Lantz family.  As the weeks go by, John's grades start to improve, and the attraction grows between Rachel and Mike.  They can't deny that their friendship is growing toward something more, but both of them are hesitant to risk a more serious relationship.
     The last thing Rachel wants is another heartbreak, and Mike is worried about providing for his loved ones.  Will the two be able to reconcile their past hurts with new hope for the future?

REVIEW:  The story of Mike and Rachel full of encouragement when times are difficult.  I like how Mike steps up to take care of his family after his dad gets really sick and can no longer work.  John, Mike's much younger half-brother struggles with his dad's illness and it shows in his school work.  The way Mike encourages John when he is down and Rachel helps him overcome difficulties in his classwork is inspiring.  They don't embarrass him or make him feel bad because he is sad but encourage him along the way.  Rachel's offering of food was very sweet for a houseful of men who did not cook.  It also opened doors for Rachel to tutor John with his homework.
     In regards to Mike and Rachel's attraction and courtship, sometimes it was frustrating watching (or rather, reading) their assuming the wrong things without talking to the other.  Instead of discussing John's schoolwork, cousins that are helping out around the house or just things in general, they would get worked up over nothing and get mad at the other one. 
     All in all, this book was really enjoyable.  I look forward to reading more by this author.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers
for review without compensation.

Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Kauffman Amish Bakery series and the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series.  Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA.  Amy holds a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full time for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats.  Visit her website: amyclipston.com; on Facebook: Amy Clipston; on Twitter: @AmyClipston or on Instagram: Amy_Clipston.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Devoted Book Review

The Bishop's Family Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  The Amish life is all she's ever known - but will it satisfy her soul?
     Restless and adventurous, Ruthie Stoltzfus is right on the cusp of leaving her Amish home.  Secretly, she's earned her GED, saved her money - but she can't quite set her journey into motion.  Just as everything falls into place, along comes Patrick Kelly.
     Patrick is a young man on a journey of his own.  He's come to Stoney Ridge to convert to the Amish and has given himself thirty days to learn the language, drive a buggy, and adapt to "everything Plain."  Time is of the essence and every moment is to be cherished - especially the hours he spends with Ruthie, his Penn Dutch tutor. 
     Ruthie's next-door neighbor and cunning ex-boyfriend, Luke Schrock, is drawn to trouble like a moth to a flame.  Rebellious, headstrong, defiant, Luke will do anything to win Ruthie back - and Patrick Kelly is in his way.
     Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Stoney Ridge for a story of dreams deferred - and the promise of hopes fulfilled.

REVIEW:  Everyone has struggles.  Some are know to others, but there are many we keep locked inside, afraid to let them be known for fear of repercussions.  Ruthie longs to further her education but is limited within the Amish community.  Patrick is sick but wants to live life to the fullest.  Luke is fighting demons from his past and doesn't know how to beat them, or if he wants to.  Each one is determined to do what they think is necessary to accomplish their dreams and desires, sometimes to the detriment of others.
     This is a good read.  While reading, there were many times I was aggravated at Luke's irresponsible actions and encouraged by Ruthie's stance on issues. I like how Dok (Ruthie's Aunt Ruth), Birdie, and David's stories are interwoven throughout, continuing from previous books.  As in my previous reviews, David and Birdie are two of my favorites.  The strength and wisdom David shows in response to David and Goliath problems within the community are encouraging for someone who may be facing the same situation.  Birdie's faith and outlook on life is a breath of fresh air.
     To completely understand the relationship of Ruthie and Luke, plus the problems David encounters within his little Amish community, you must read the other two books in this series.  For a complete understanding of the relationships of this community and how they intersect, you can read the author's Stoney Ridge series, or most of her previous novels.  They each overlap and crisscross the others, almost like a real small town.
     I look forward to other books by Suzanne Woods Fisher and the continuation of the lives of these characters.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Imposter, The Quieting, 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 @suzannewfisher and Facebook at www.facebook.com/SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating Book Review

 
Truths your daughter needs to know to 
date smart, avoid disaster, and protect her future

SUMMARY:  Your daughter is ready to date.  You need help!
     There is no moment of greater panic in a parent's life than when his or her daughter begins to date.  But many parents feel ill equipped to guide their daughters through the minefield that is teen dating.   And by the same token, teenagers crave genuine information about dating and relationships.
     So how do you talk to your daughter about relationships and her future happiness?  Expert educator Daniel Anderson and his daughter Jacquelyn help you navigate the biggest dating myths, including: a boyfriend will make your daughter happy, she should trust her feelings, and sex will enhance her relationship.  Combining scientific research with poignant personal stories and practical application, this book will equip you to teach your daughter how to date smart for today . . . and tomorrow.

REVIEW:  While I was reading this book or anytime she would spot it laying on the kitchen counter, my teenage daughter would roll her eyes and just make a disgruntled noise.  Hannah was embarrassed because I received this book after she started dating her boyfriend.  Since I very rarely dated in high school, I want to help my beautiful daughter safely navigate her through the teenage dating years and beyond.  This book was very helpful in giving me insight to current teenage dating practices, thoughts and ideas.  The authors discuss ten common myths, such as "a boyfriend will make me happy," "love and sex are the same," "he will never hit me again," and "serial dating and living together will make my marriage better" and shows examples, along with data and research, on why these myths are false and tools to use to avoid falling in these traps.  At the end of each chapter, there are questions to reflect on and ones to discuss with your daughter.  These questions will give you a place to start discussions and help you when you talk to your daughter.  Some are difficult and may make you feel very uncomfortable but, unfortunately, are necessary in today's teen scene.  Even though some myths build on the previous one, they each provided information that is very helpful for both teenage boys and girls, along with adults finding themselves on the dating scene. 
     The authors are both teachers in the public schools in Oregon.  Daniel has been teaching for over twenty years and has learned from his students as well as helped them in difficult situations.  Jacquelyn is Daniel's daughter, also discusses her dating experiences as a teen, as well as those of friends and classmates she knew in school.
     This book has been very helpful and is a great tool to have during these crazy years.

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group and David C. Cook
for review without compensation.

Daniel Anderson is a former college All-American basketball player and a father of two grown daughters and one son.  As a veteran high school teacher in the public school system, Daniel was troubled by how his students approached dating and relationships.  He and his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson, a twenty-something high school teacher, decided to address this need by equipping parents with The 10 Myths of Teen Dating, their first book together.  Daniel and Jacquelyn both make their home in Portland, Oregon. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Raven Book Review

Coffey & Hill Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  As part of his street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience's pockets while they watch.  It's harmless fun - until he decided to keep the wallet of a prominent politician, hoping for a few extra bucks.  When he finds compromising photos of the councilman and his "personal assistants," The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man.  However, he quickly finds himself in over his heard with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life threatening plot code named "Nevermore."
     Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues to rescue The Raven from a wild card bent on revenge.

REVIEW:  This story kept me on my toes, trying to keep everyone straight and remember details about each character.  At times, it moves at a slow pace then will quickly escalate then slow back down.  There were times when scenes seemed to drag.  But, the author kept me trying to figure out if "Nevermore" was real or just a rumor that had been started.  The details involved in the story that leads up the the finale were many and, at times, hard for me to keep straight, but oh so worth it.  The twists, turns and switches kept me from guessing how everything would play out.  The ending fit everything so well.
     The only draw back was innuendos to events that occurred in the first book in the series, Annabel Lee.  It was confusing to me trying to understand the references made and how they impacted this novel since I had not read it.  Sometimes they were about characters and relationships pertinent to The Raven and others that were not as important.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at PopFam.com, as well as a bestselling and award winning author with more than one million books sold worldwide.  When he was a kid, the stories of Edgar Allen Poe scared him silly.  Today he owns everything Poe ever wrote.  A former fiction acquisitions editor, Mike earned his MA in English literature and now writes full time.  He is the author of Annabel Lee

The Christmas Angel Project Book Review




SUMMARY:  Abby Wentworth is the glue that holds her book club together.  So when she unexpectedly passes away on the cusp of the Christmas season, the rest of the women in the group are stunned, saddened, and sure that, without her, the group can't continue.
     They gather "one last time" to open gifts Abby left behind, little knowing how it will change each of their lives - forever.


REVIEW:  This is a relatively short book, only 166 pages long, but packed full of insight, inspiration and love.  I like how each woman used Abby's gift to inspire themselves and each other to do things out of their comfort zones.  In turn, they found friendships and great blessings along the way.  Realizing that God brought them together, I like how they encouraged each other in their various endeavors and developed deeper relationships with each other, family, and those around them.  This is a great book for the Christmas holidays or anytime you would like a little inspiration and encouragement.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with combined sales of more than six million.  She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, Christmas at Harrington's, The Christmas Cat, and The Christmas Joy Ride.  She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice.  She and her husband live in central Oregon.  Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fraying at the Edge Book Review

The Amish of Summer Grove Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Family, community, faith, and love.  These "quilt blocks" sewn together made Ariana's beautiful life.  When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?
     The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago.  Now she's immersed in the Englisher world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana's worldview.  Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living English, can steady the tilting ground between Ariana's two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?
     At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spending several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life - no electricity, no technology, no fun.  What the young woman can't leave behind is her addition to illegal prescription drugs and a deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn't belong in either family.
     New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have.  Can they find the wisdom and strength they'll need to follow God's threads into unexpected futures?
     Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in the Amish of Summer Grove series.

REVIEW:  This book picks up where the first, Ties that Bind, ends.  The chaos Ariana is thrown into felt very real: parents arguing, strange technology like using an electric stove and disarming an alarm system, driving, and a father demanding she change her worldview 180 degrees almost immediately.  I like how Brandi, her biological mother, tries to gently help Ariana adjust and doesn't make any demands on her.  I like how Ariana finally stands up to Nicholas, her biological dad, and how he finally backs off some, but still pushing Ariana way beyond her comfort zone.  This "pushing" starts her seeing the world not as only black and white, but with a lot of greys in between.
     Skylar irritated me some.  She doesn't want to even try to help out or get to know her biological family.  The Brennemans are very patient with Skylar, trying to love her from afar, even though their efforts are often rebuffed.  I like how she finally finds her niche at the coffee shop.  I would have liked to have seen more happen with Skylar in regards to changes and her time with them, but I was pleased with how the character has developed.
     The ending was a bit of a surprise, setting up the third book in this series.  I can't wait to see the journey Skylar and Ariana take and where God (and the author) leads them.
     This is a wonderful book and series.  You must read Ties that Bind first as it sets the foundation and first floor for the second book.

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books
for review without compensation.
 
Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of eighteen works of fiction and nonfiction 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.  She can be found online at cindywoodsmall.com.

Prince Noah and the School Pirates Book Review


SUMMARY:  Prince Noah may be a little slower than others, but he has no less joy in living and learning.
     It's time for young Prince Noah to go to school.  In his kingdom, children go to school on sailing ships.  There is a ship for girls and one for boys, one for children with an eye patch and one for children with one leg, and one for children who don't learn as fast.  No one knows why there are so many different ships, but it has always been that way.
     Then a terrible storm drives the ships into the hands of pirates.  The boys and girls realize that they will only escape if everyone does what he or she does best.
     This delightful fairy tale instills appreciation for children with developmental challenges.

REVIEW:  This is a sweet children's book.  No one is alike; we all are different.  Some of those differences are just more noticeable than others.  In this book, Prince Noah shows the other kids that everyone has a place and to use what we know to benefits those around us.  By working together, all of the children make a difference and change the perceptions of "this is how it's always been done" to "let's start something new." This book is geared towards children but I think even adults can take away something positive and uplifting.

This book was provided by Handlebar and Plough Publishing House 
for review without compensation.

Silke Schnee is a journalist and works as a television producer for a public broadcaster in Cologne, Germany.  She is married and has three sons.  Her youngest son Noah was born with Trisomy 21 (Downs syndrome).

Heike Sistig studies special education and art and is a trained art therapist.  She works as an editor for children's television programming.  She has illustrated several children's books, and has exhibited her collages in several art galleries.  She lives with her family in Cologne, Germany. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Temple and the Tabernacle Book Review

A Study of God's Dwelling Places 
from Genesis to Revelation

SUMMARY:  Grasp the Majesty, Beauty, and Significance of God's Dwelling Places
At various points in Israel's history, God dwelt in specific, significant places, most notably in the tabernacle and the temple. These structures, meticulously planned, extravagantly furnished, and regularly frequented by the devout, were more than just places of worship and sacrifice. They were pictures of God's relationship with his chosen people and of the atoning work that would be done by the Messiah. To understand the tabernacle and the temple, then, is to understand how we are brought into God's family through the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus.

Visually stunning and theologically rich, this full-color resource brings together the latest scholarship and archeological discoveries to bring God's dwelling places alive for modern believers. It places these important structures in their historical and theological contexts, connects them with the overall biblical story, and shows how they bring meaning and depth to the faith of Christians today.
 
REVIEW:  This book is a wonderful reference book focusing on the tabernacle constructed by Moses, the first temple built by Solomon, the reconstructed temple after the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, the expanded temple built by Herod and the temple in heaven mentioned in Revelation.  The author does an excellent job explaining each detail and comparing the temples to the tabernacle.  There were things I had never considered or even thought about such as the different building materials used, the men in charge of each building projects and the events surrounding each one.  Sometimes the author was repetitive but it helped keep me from forgetting facts and information mentioned earlier.  The drawings and pictures included were very helpful in getting a visual of what each item and structure looked like and where they were placed.
     If you are interested in learning more about God's tabernacle and temples, or just getting a better understanding of the meaning behind them, this book would be a tremendous asset.  It was very easy to understand, written for the common man not just biblical scholars.
     I really enjoyed this book and plan to keep it in my library.

This book was provided by Baker Books for review without compensation.
 
J. Daniel Hays  (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is dean of the School of Christian Studies and professor of biblical studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He is the author or coauthor of many articles and books, including Grasping God's Word and The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook.

Monday, August 29, 2016

There Will Be Stars Book Review


SUMMARY:  "In a life full of lies, he finally settled for the truth."

     No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age.  Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides.  Although Bobby believes such an end possible - and even likely - it doesn't stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night.  A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons' screams.  Bobby's final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one - There will be stars.
     Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil.  Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world.  Six others are trapped with him.
     Bobby soon discovers that this supposed place of peace is actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers.  Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble.  The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

REVIEW:  It's not often I don't finish a book or like one.  Usually, even if I don't like the story, I will finish it just to see if it gets any better.  No matter how many times I picked this novel up, I just couldn't finish it.  There were so many things I did not agree with in the author's writings that it just made it impossible to get very far.
     In There Will Be Stars, Bobby Barnes gets drunk, takes his sons with him on a midnight drive on a curvy mountain road looking for more alcohol when he crashes and dies.  But, instead of passing into either heaven or hell, he is in a purgatory of sorts where he relives his last day on earth, over and over again.  In this time in purgatory (or before the Turn), he gets the chance to make changes in his life, and possibly accepting Jesus as his Savior before his time there is over.  Hebrews 9:27 says "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (ESV).  As this verse states, we don't get a do-over.  Once we die, we face our judgment, whether in heaven or in hell.  Also, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about Lazarus the beggar and the rich man.  The beggar had nothing and begged for crumbs off the rich man's table, getting none, while the rich man had everything he ever wanted.  When he talks about their deaths, Jesus says the beggar is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom and the rich man goes to hell, each getting what they deserve.  There is no time to change your mind after you die.  The choices you make here on earth will determine your lot in the hereafter.  Jesus, Paul, Peter and other New Testament authors pleads with their readers to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior before it is too late.  None of them ever talk about getting a second chance after death.
     As much as I wanted to finish this book, this idea of a do-over after death just bothered me so much it was all I could see.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers 
for review without compensation.

Billy Coffey's critically acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm wiht a vision far beyond the ordinary.  He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life.  Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  Visit him at www.billycoffey.com, on Facebook at billycoffeywriter, or on Twitter at @billycoffey.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun Book Review

 
Divine Private Detective Agency 
Mystery Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  After a murder at the monastery, Sister Eve may need a miracle if she is to prove a dear friend isn't a cold-blooded killer.
     Sister Eve, a motorcycle-riding nun with a natural (or is it supernatural?) gift for solving murders returns to teh enclave she once called home and quickly finds herself confronting yet another mysterious death.
     Someone has poisoned Dr. Kelly Middlesworth - a researcher on the life and ministry of 17th-century's revered "Blue Nun" - and a set of irreplaceable historic documents have disappeared before they could even be examined. 
     When all evidence seems to point to the victim's brother, Sister Eve sets out to expose the killer and learn the explosive truth those missing manuscripts might contain.
     Chasing a killer is dangerous work, and as her two worlds collide, Sister Eve may need some heavenly help simply to survive.

REVIEW:  This story was an intriguing one.  The murder of a professor about to show the world some missing manuscripts that could help "The Blue Nun" finally achieve sainthood was a new one for me.  When the evidence seems to point to the victim's brother, a monk who lives at the enclave, I like how Sister Eve does what she can to help clear his name.  I like how she was determined to find the real murder by risking her own life.  Sometimes the story seemed to drag and at others, repeat the same information. The discovery of the actual murderer seemed a bit of a stretch but, I like how the author tied in the stories of the Blue Nun with Sister Eve and the end of the story.
     This is the third novel about Sister Eve.  It does okay standing alone but sometimes I wondered if reading the other books would help fill in some of the gaps of her personal backstory.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers
for review without compensation.
 
Lynne Hinton is the New York Times bestselling author of Friendship Cake and The Art of Arranging Flowers, along with sixteen other books.  She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.  She has served as hospice chaplain, church pastor, and retreat leader.  Lynne is a regular columnist with The Charlotte Observer.  A native of North Carolina, she lives with her husband and dog in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Visit Lynne's website at www.lynnehinton.com or on Facebook at Lynne-Hinton-Books.

Without Warning Book Review

Elite Guardians Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Intensity.  Skill.  Tenacity.  The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.
     Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident.  Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.
     Daniel might be concerned, but he's not convinced that a bodyguard - and a female one at that - is necessary.  A new attack and his niece's urgings are enough to make him reconsider.  He and Katie must figure out who's behind the intimidation and threats - before a would-be killer strikes again.

REVIEW:  Lynette Eason keeps up her winning streak with the second book in the Elite Guardians series.  This book starts off with a bang and keeps running until the end.  There is a lot of back and forth action that you can't just skim over.  You must take your time reading or you will miss something needed to solve the puzzles.  I like how both Katie and Daniel face their PTSD triggers and are able to work through the incidences where they occur.  The ending of this book was a surprise.  I thought I had the culprit figured out but was not expecting the final conclusion. 
     This is a fabulous book.  It is a great story that can stand alone.  Reading the first one in this series will help you understand this protection agency and some of the relationships better, though, it is not necessary.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching in the Elite Guardians series.  She is the winner of an ACFW Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award.  She lives in South Carolina.  Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Deadly Encounter Book Review

FBI Task Force Series
Book One

SUMMARY:  Is it mere coincidence, or part of a carefully orchestrated plan?
     Airport ranger volunteer Stacy Broussard expected a peaceful Saturday morning ride around the perimeter of Houston's airport.  What she encounters instead is a brutal homicide and a baffling mystery.  Next to the body is an injured dog, the dead man's motorcycle, and a drone armed with a laser capable to taking down a 747.
     Though FBI Specialist Alex LeBlanc sees a clear-cut case of terrorism, his past has taught him to be suspicious of everyone, even witnesses.  Even bleeding-heart veterinarians like Stacy.  But when her gruesome discovery is only the first thing in a string of incidents that throw her life into a tailspin, Alex begins to wonder if Stacy was targeted.  As a health emergency endangers Stacy's community and the task force pulls in leads from all directions, Alex and Stacy must work together to prevent another deadly encounter.

REVIEW:  This story kept me on my toes.  Trying to figure out how all the parts fit together to form an answer to the many problems was thought provoking and stimulating.  There were a few times I had to reread sections to remember what had happened, who was involved and why.  It was fascinating reading all the different ways the antagonist(s) plotted and schemed to get the results they wanted.
     Stacy's love for Whitt, her neglected and abused neighbor, was admirable.  She did what she could to show him not all adults were horrible people. I also like how she pursued trying to become his foster mom, and hopefully mom, and encouraged him to not let the past dictate his future.
     This was a marvelous story that kept me turning pages right to the end.

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

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author whose novels have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards, and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, and Carol Award contests.  When she's not writing, DiAnn is buy teaching and doing research through the FBI Citizens Academy.  She and her husband live in Houston, Texas.  Visit her online at www.diannmills.com. 

Fetching Sweetness Book Review


SUMMARY:  Standing between Stephanie and her dream is one hundred pounds of lovable trouble.
     It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink:  Meet up with Agnes Wharton in a small town in California, retrieve the reclusive author's valuable new manuscript, and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent.
     But Agnes's canine companion, Sweetness, decided to make a break for it before Stephanie can claim her prize.  Until Agnes has Sweetness safely back at home in Eagle Cliff, Washington, Stephanie will never set eyes on the manuscript she needs to make her dreams come true.
     When Stephanie tracks the runaway mutt to a campground, she meets Rhett Hastings - a man also on the run from a different life and a costly mistake.  Rhett agrees to help Stephanie search for the missing dog . . . thus launching a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.
     Once Sweetness gets added to the mix, it's a recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest.

REVIEW:  Fulfilling dreams is wonderful, but trying to fulfill the dreams of others will not end in the way you think.  Both Rhett and Stephanie are perfect examples.  Rhett broke his sister's heart after having her fiance' deported.  Stephanie's brother dreamed of having their own publishing company.  As each one tries to correct past mistakes and do what they think will make everything perfect, everything just falls apart. 
     I like Rhett.  His change from a "take no prisoners" mentality to one who prays over decisions and looks for direction from God is admirable.  I love how he sticks to his plan and doesn't run back to his company at the first sign of trouble with each.  His reliance on scripture is pleasing, too and his integrity, after leaving his business, is top-notch.  A person can change and Rhett is a great example.
     Stephanie seems to barge through without thought of the aftermath.  She assumes things, which wind up being wrong, and doesn't think about how it will affect herself or those around her.  I do like how she takes care of Sweetness and tries to take responsibility for him. 
     This was a decent story with some great parts but for some reason, I just had a harder time getting a feel for it.  Agnes's actions all the way around irritated me.  That, along with the ending, just made it more difficult for me to enjoy.  Sorry.

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

Dana Mentink is a multi-published, award-winning writer.  When she's not clacking away on the keyboard, she busies herself teaching third grade.  Mostly, she loves to be home with her husband, two daughters, a rascally rescued terrier, a chubby box turtle, and a feisty parakeet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Flight of Arrows Book Review

Pathfinders Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Hearts are divided.  Loyalties will be tested.  The fates of two families hang in the balance.
     Twenty years ago, during the devastating fall of Fort William Henry in 1757, a young Redcoat named Reginald Aubrey stole a newborn boy - the lighter-skinned of Oneida twins - and raised him as his own.
      No one connected to Reginald escaped unscathed from this crime.  Not his adopted daughter Anna.  Not Stone Thrower, the Native American father determined to get his son back.  Not Two Hawks, William's twin brother separated since birth, living in the shadow of his absence and hoping to build a future with Anna.  Nor Lydia, who longs for Reginald to be free from his self-imposed emotional prison and embrace God's forgiveness - and her love.
     Now William, whose identity has been shattered after discovering the truth of his birth, hides in the ranks of an increasingly aggressive British army.  The Redcoats prepare to attack frontier New York, and the Continentals, aided by Two Hawks and the Oneida warriors, rally to defend it.  As the Revolutionary War penetrates the Mohawk Valley, two families separated by culture but united by love and faith must find a way to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.

REVIEW:  Lori Benton does it again and knocks the ball out of the park with this novel.  Having read all her other novels except for Book One in this series, The Wood's Edge, she carries on her distinct style and, with it, her readers.  The research she puts into each one comes out as you read about the battles, locations, lifestyles of both Native Americans and colonialists and the mindset of times.  I felt like I was right there beside the characters and could feel the depth of hurt, love, anger and other emotions each one went through.  There were times I was so caught up in the story that I had a hard time adjusting when I had to set my book down.  This is a novel you will want to read.
     This is the second book in this series.  I did not have the opportunity to read the first one.  The author did a great job explaining the first novel as she went along so that I did not feel I missed anything.  Some time in the future, I hope to read the first just to fill in the gaps and have a complete understanding of the events.
    This is one author that you need to keep on your radar.

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books 
for review without compensation.

 Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, where she was surrounded by three hundred years of American history.  Now her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of our nation's history.  She is the multiple award-winning author of numerous books including Burning Sky, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, and The Wood's Edge (Book one in the Pathfinders series).  Lori makes her home in Oregon.

Dawn at Emberwilde Book Review

Treasures of Surrey Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers.  Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.
     For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father's death.
     The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel's small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.
     At her new family's invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore - along with whispers of something far more sinister.  Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.
     At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security.  But first she must find it - in the depths of Emberwilde's Forest.

REVIEW:  This is a wonderful period piece set in England in 1817.  Isabel is a person to be admired.  She takes care of her half-sister Lizzie like a daughter.  She is protective of her and insists Lizzie be included when invited by distant relatives to come live with them.  She is not afraid to speak her mind and tries to think good of everyone. 
     The Emberwilde estate and people in the surrounding area are contradictory.  Everything is not always was it seems.  The state of disrepair around the house and grounds is conflicting in regards to the money being spent on a new wardrobe for Isabel and Lizzie.  While her aunt insists on a lavish lifestyle and elaborate parties, you wonder where the money is coming from to pay for it. The woods that surround Emberwilde is said to be haunted and none of the locals will enter but the local sheriff finds evidence of a recent smuggling operation there.  The young man who her aunt arranges for her to court is in charge of the local orphanage but doesn't seem to care about children or worry when they might be in danger.  The local sheriff lives in a boarding house in town but has a large estate that he doesn't know what to do with.
     The twists and turns the story and characters take kept me trying to figure out who all was involved in the smuggling ring and how events would play out.  I only figured out a portion and was pleasantly surprised with the ending.  Great book!
     This is the second book in the Treasures of Surrey series but it is a stand alone novel.  You don't even need to read it to fully understand this one.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers 
 for review without compensation.

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The  Heiress of Winterwood.  She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience.  Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky golden retriever.  Visit Sarah online at www.sarahladd.com; on Facebook at SarahLaddAuthor or Twitter at @SarahLaddAuthor.

Sister Dear Book Review


SUMMARY:  All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?
     Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish - time that can never be recovered.  Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.
     But Allie's return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia.  Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie's claims of innocence.  Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already fragile bond with family.
     As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined.  Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret - one that holds the key to Allie's freedom.

REVIEW:  This book was really intriguing.  The first draw was its setting in Brunswick, GA.  Having been there once and having friends that live there, I found myself looking for familiar places as I read.  Second draw was the story lines.  Would Allie be able to find out who murdered the coach?  What would her relationship be like with her daughter after being separated so long?  Would they be able to reclaim the time lost?  Would Allie be able to clear her name and, if so, how would she do it? 
     The book is written from three views:  Allie, the convicted murderer; Caroline, Allie's teenage daughter; and Emma, Allie's sister and Caroline's caregiver while Allie was incarcerated.  The characters became more real to me as I read their thoughts about situations and why they did what they did in response to events or problems.  Caroline was probably my favorite character.  Her life was turned upside down when her mother was found guilty and again when she was released from prison.  You see her trying to fit in with the popular crowd and how she reacts when she is suddenly rejected by them.  She is torn between getting to know her mom again and loving her aunt because she has a difficult time understanding she can do both. 
     The author does an excellent job weaving the past with the present and all the different characters together.  I loved how the story slowly unfolded and how circumstances from the past are catalysts for current events.  The detail and depth of each character was impressive.  Ms. McNeill did a wonderful job keeping you guessing about how the story would end.  Even though I thought I knew who killed the coach, there were details I hadn't figured on that showed up in the finale.  It was an excellent book that I really enjoyed reading.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers 
for review without compensation.

Laura McNeill is a writer, mom, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker.  In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama.  Laura holds a master's degree in Journalism from the Ohio State University and it completing a PhD in Instructional Leadership at the University of Alabama.  She lives in North Alabama with her family.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Beauty Refined Book Review

Sapphire Brides Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  What does it take to reveal the true beauty of a hidden gem?
     Phoebe Von Bergen, the daughter of a German count, is excited to visit America for the first time while her father purchases sapphires in Helena, Montana.  Little does she know, however, that her father's intentions - both for her and the gemstones - are not what she thinks.
     Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the dignified young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing.  Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realized that her family story is based on a  lie - a lie she has no knowledge of.  And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.
     Meeting Ian has changed everything for Phoebe, and she begins to consider staying in America, regardless of her father's plans.  But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger that results when her family's deception begins to unravel.

REVIEW:  This story is different from others I've read because the main "secret" is revealed to both the reader and main characters fairly early.  I like this because it helped me be less frustrated with the characters and their actions, or the lack there of.  Now, there are other problems and difficulties that Phoebe is not aware of and the eventual discovery of these helps move the story along very well.  It also makes for interesting reading as you come to understand each character better and try to figure out how everything will end.  
     Phoebe's willingness to stand up for what she believes, even though it costs her everything she knows, is awesome!!  I love how, after a very unfortunate event, she doesn't give excuses for another person's actions, even though she loves them dearly.  Even though many lies were told, the truth is revealed in the end, for the betterment of each situation and for most people.  Ian's stance on truth telling causes some potential problems but I like how he sticks to his beliefs.  Because of this, even though it looked impossible, the events worked out for the good of most everyone involved.  
     Even though this is the second book in the series, each one looks to stand well on its own. There was no time when I thought I might be missing something by not reading the first novel.  This is a remarkable book.  Check it out and see for yourself.

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group and Bethany House 
for review without compensation.
 
Tracie Peterson's loves for history and research fuels the bestselling stories she writes.  She is the author of over one hundred novels and the recipient of the 201 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award.  Tracie and her family live in Montana.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Honor Redeemed Book Review

Keys of Promise Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Her future - and her heart - hang in the balance.
     Two year ago, Prosperity Jones waved farewell to her beloved David as the army sent him to faraway Key West.  Now with her parents gone, she has but one prospect for the future:  make the dangerous journey from Nantucket to Key West to reunite with David and secure a happier life.
     But when Prosperity arrives penniless in the South, she is dismayed to find David has not been eagerly awaiting their reunion.  In fact, he is married to someone else.  Scrambling to survive and nursing a broken heart, Prosperity gains the friendship - and the affection - of a kind doctor.  Could he be the answer to her loneliness?  Or will her life be upended by circumstance yet again?
     With a deft hand, Christine Johnson fills the senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of Key West in this heartwarming story of honor lost, honor redeemed, and a love forged in adversity.

REVIEW:  Prosperity is at a crossroads. Her parents are dead and she has nowhere to live.  For the last two years, her fiance David has been stationed in Key West with the Army and has at least another six years before he can return home.  So she makes the only decision she could, which goes against convention of the day: she must join David in Key West. 
     Even though she doesn't necessary believe it, Prosperity is a strong person.  After the death of her father, she supports and nurses her sick mother until her death.  Prosperity knows the trip to get to David is long and dangerous but she takes it anyway.  After learning of David's marriage to someone else, she does what she can to stand on her own two feet, finding a job and a place to live in a strange place where she knows no one.  Not many people I know nowadays could do what she does. 
     David's sense of honor is one to be admired.  After some horrible truths come to light about his wife, he is determined to still honor her, in spite of his hurt.  He faces many tribulations and trials because of it but does not give in.  In the end, his efforts do not go unnoticed and helps him overcome many problems.
     This is an interesting book which I enjoyed reading.  It is the second in the series but the author does a good job of briefly describing key characters and their relationships.  But, to fully understand how they relate to David's situation and final solution, you should read the first book, Love's Rescue

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Christine Johnson is the author of Love's Rescue, as well as several books for Steeple Hill and Love Inspired.  She was twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award.  When not writing, she loves to hike and explore God's majestic creation.  These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys.