Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Light in the Window by Julie Lessman

  Amazing story!  For those who have read Julie's two series' about the O'Connor family, The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change, you will not want to miss this prequel about the parents' love story.  For those who haven't read her other books, you can read this first and be surprised about who she ends up with!

More than anything Marcy wants to find a man who loves God as much as she does.  She's always had  a crush on her best friend's brother Sam and when she moves back to town, both he and his best friend Patrick are interested in her.  However, they both have reputations as rogues and she wants nothing to do with them.  They end up volunteering at the local parish where Marcy is running the fundraising program for the Christmas season.  She's directing a play about the Irish tradition of putting a light in the window starting on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family.  As the two men build sets and help at the soup kitchen, she starts to see who they really are and wonders if she might have been wrong about them. For one of them, getting to know her and the God she loves will change his life forever.

This is a great story about the start of the O'Connors!  I loved the redemption, the importance of forgiveness, and reserving judgment.  One thing that bothered me is instead of saying a character cursed, it actually shows a character taking God's name in vain.  I would have preferred it to say he did that instead of spelling it out.  Julie does an amazing job of showing her characters' flaws and making them seem extremely real.  I also loved the romance.  This is definitely a must-read!

Only available as an e-book.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Lady in Defiance by Heather Blanton

A Lady in Defiance (Romance in the Rockies)This is a suspenseful romance set during the late 1800's in which Naomi, her husband, and her two sisters were making their way to California in their wagon when her husband dies and she feels led to put down roots in Defiance.  Defiance is a lawless town built on gold mining and the only women there are prostitutes.  Needless to say, it's pretty shocking for these three upstanding women with the looks and comments they get.

Naomi strikes a deal to run a restaurant and hotel with Charles, the wealthiest local saloon and brothel owner who pretty much owns the town.  The sisters try to befriend the prostitutes and show them God's love, but there is one who's incredibly hateful and threatening to Naomi.  Rose is pretty unpredictable and that's where the suspense comes in because you're not sure what she'll do next.  Naomi is grieving, but soon finds herself feeling attracted to Charles, a man she despises.  Not only does she hate his profession, but he also has no use for God.  He delights in getting a rise out of her and she has a hard time being civil to him.  There's also a bit of romance for one of her sisters.

I enjoyed this story about three sisters trying to change a town with God's help.  We get to see the different character's points of view and I really liked all three sisters, especially Naomi.  She's a feisty character who struggles with showing God's love and not being judgmental.  I liked the darker aspect to it that the Rose character lent.  The story's gritty without being graphic.  There were also some great humorous moments.  Overall, an enjoyable story for historical fiction lovers!

This is only available as a kindle e-book.

I received the e-book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Real Life, Real Miracles by James L. Garlow & Keith Wall

Real Life, Real Miracles  I have only one word for this book: Wow! Some of these stories blew me away.  I found myself getting chills and my eyes filling with tears several times as I read this amazing book.

This is a compilation of thirty stories of about ten pages each, along with a chapter of a lot more shorter stories.  The first one immediately grabbed me as it told the story of a woman on an airplane.  She wasn't able to sit in her assigned seat and had just loosened her seat belt when she heard a voice behind her telling her to tighten it and that she was in for the ride of her life, but no one was there. She did, and within a minute there was a loud POW and the right side of the plane disappeared! You'll have to read the story to find out what happens to her and the rest of the passengers, but it was amazing.  The miracles vary from lives being saved from some kind of physical trauma to being healed of various diseases to food showing up in the nick of time when someone didn't know where their next meal was coming from.

This is an incredibly encouraging book.  If you question whether God gets involved in our daily lives, just read this and question no more.  If you think that miracles only happen to special people, these stories show they can happen to anyone.  Time after time, the recipients say they don't know why God chose them; they're just grateful He did!  I highly recommend this book to everyone!

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias

  This was an interesting story about a homeless family trying to survive on the streets of Riverview, Washington and a fellow homeless man they meet that ends up changing their lives. Josie and her two children have been homeless for several months and she struggles every day with making sure they have food in their bellies and shelter for the night.  They used to live in a nice home and have all of the luxuries most people take for granted.  She thought everything was great, but her husband hadn't told her he lost his job or of the bad decisions he made afterwards.  He still didn't tell her anything after he got sick, and when he died, she was in for a shock. 

Josie had turned her back on God long ago and doesn't believe He cares or answers her prayers.  Then they meet Rick, a Vietnam veteran and follower of Christ, who looks out for them, along with Karen and the Lunds, other people who God puts in their path. Will the love of God they show melt Josie's hard heart? And how will Rick become her unexpected Christmas hero?

I liked the unique storyline and the interweaving of the stories of Josie, Rick, and Karen.  Sometimes it was a bit repetitious when Josie was trying to figure out where they should sleep and where to get food, but I'm sure that reflects the real day-to-day struggle when you don't know where your next meal will come from or where you'll sleep, especially during the winter.  This book especially shows the importance of being grateful for what we have and Rick was a great example of having nothing yet truly being rich because he has Jesus.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Postmark Christmas by Paige Winship Dooly, Darlene Franklin, Kathleen E. Kovach, and Paula Moldenhauer

These are four cute contemporary love stories about life in Christmas, Florida!  Home for Christmas is about Stella, an event planner who comes to Christmas, FL to organize their Christmas festival.  She's hired by Brick, a local contractor, and as he helps her with the planning, they start to fall for each other.  Brick's family also make her feel welcome and she wonders if it's time to give up her life on the road and put down roots.  Will Brick give her a chance or protect himself before she leaves for good?

Merry Christmas, With Love focuses on Randi, a war widow with a rebellious teenage son.  She's involved in her church ministry of sending cards to soldiers overseas and she and a soldier have been corresponding back and forth. But when he shows up in Christmas, she doesn't want him to know who she is. Will she ever be ready to risk her heart again?

A Blessed Angel Came is the story of Gabi, a shy store clerk who lets out her zany side when she dresses up as a reindeer for the Christmas festival.  When her little sister was seriously injured in a car accident years ago caused by a drunk driver and confined to a wheelchair, she put her first and her life on hold.  Photographer David Levine arrives in town for some time off and donates his time to help out at the festival.  She notices his tender care of a child in a wheelchair, but little does she know about his rebellious teen years.  Could she ever get past it to see the changed man he's become?

You're a Charmer, Mr. Grinch tells the story of Randi's mother Edie, the postmaster of Christmas, FL.  Rick, a retired police officer who dons a Grinch costume to promote the festival, has been trying to get her attention for years.  She doesn't trust charming men, however, after what she went through with her husband.  Will Edie learn to trust and open her heart before his patience runs out?

These were all fun light reads centered around a Christmas festival.  Some of the characters appear in other stories and it's fun to see the crossover that ties them all together.  These stories will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit!

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

A Wreath of Snow  A charming story about forgiveness and second chances, not to mention love, set in late 1800's Scotland! Meg Campbell is trying to get back to her home in Edinburgh after a disastrous Christmas Eve day at her parents' home.  Her brother was hurt in an accident many years before and he's incredibly bitter and angry. She had to get out of there after he verbally attacked her and catch the next train, even in a snowstorm and even on Christmas Eve.

Gordon Shaw was just in town to cover a story and he had to leave as soon as he could. He couldn't show his face after a huge mistake he made years ago and was glad to catch the train on Christmas Eve. But when their train is trapped by snow and they're thrown together to care for fellow passengers, it may be time for forgiveness and love after all.

I love the setting and time period of this story. Liz makes Scotland come alive and her love for the country shows through on the page. All of the little details really make you feel like you're there on a freezing cold Christmas Eve night.  She writes beautifully and it is a very satisfying story.  This is one train ride you won't want to miss!

I received a copy free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.  Please rate my review; I'd appreciate it!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wild Goose Chase Christmas by Jennifer AlLee

A cute love story about the importance of family and legacy!  This is part of a series called Quilts of Love, written by different authors and all featuring quilts. 

Izzy Fontaine's grandmother has just died and she has inherited a Wild Goose Chase pattern quilt passed down through generations of her family, along with a cryptic message about a possible treasure.  Her mother and brother normally drive her crazy and their interest in the treasure only makes her relationship with them more strained. But someone has a prior claim to it, Max Logan, a museum curator who was promised the quilt by her grandmother for an exhibit.  He was told there were diaries from the women who worked on the quilt and as they try to figure out where her grandmother hid them, they start to fall for each other. But can she really trust his interest in her or is he just after the quilt too?

This was a light read about knowing what a real treasure is and loving your family no matter how they act.  Izzy had to put up with quite a lot and I liked her character and the way she depended on God to deal with her family.  I also liked that we saw what the underlying reason was for the strained relationship between her grandmother and mother, and her mother and herself.  A satisfying ending and a cute Christmas story!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

The Christmas Star Interesting story about Jimmy Reed, a teenager still grieving over the death of his father in World War II.  Now a few years later, the troops are coming home and everyone is thrilled except for him.  He's angry about his father's death and not even the fact that he died a hero and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor can make him feel any better. 

This story's about Jimmy growing up and choices he will make that will change the course of his life.  What kind of person, man, does he want to be? This Christmas, he learns more about who his father really was and the life he led.  A letter his father had left for him in his Bible along with a couple surprise visitors will change everything.

This would be a good book for men, as it's told from a male perspective and focuses on the coming-of-age of a teenage boy immediately after World War II, but I also enjoyed it.  I got a little frustrated with some of Jimmy's choices, but that led to more tension in the story so I could see why it was needed.  It also seemed like for Jimmy to have grown up in the church and for his dad to have this strong faith, he really didn't know much about God or faith throughout the story, then suddenly understood without much explanation what it's all about.  I would have liked a bit more to that part of the story. There's action, a bit of romance, and important life lessons. Overall, a heartwarming story focusing on the importance of choices and the true meaning of Christmas!

I received this book free from Abingdon Press  in exchange for an honest review.

A Merry Little Christmas by Anita Higman

New Orleans, Louisiana  This was a charming love story about a couple from two different worlds.  It's the early 1960's and Franny Martin still lives on the farm she grew up on in Oklahoma, but dreams of being a radio deejay in the city so she can be near the music she loves.  She's always been happy with her life on the farm and the warm memories of her parents, but she jumps at the chance to move when wealthy Charlie Landau offers her the asking price.  The only problem is he has no idea how to farm!

Franny agrees to teach Charlie about his new life before she heads to the city and they find they have a lot in common, including their love of music.  Will Franny give up her dreams now that she's found someone who interests her? Could they ever make it work when they come from such different backgrounds?

This was an enjoyable story about following your dreams and standing up for what's right. I haven't read a lot of books set during this time period and I liked learning more about what life was like then.  The attitudes about civil rights were interesting to see and I loved the focus on music, especially the classic Christmas songs.  Definitely a book worth checking out!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens-Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

  I just love the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre productions!  I have listened to the whole series of the Chronicles of Narnia, which was amazing, so I was excited to see Oliver Twist become available.  It did not disappoint.  Each character is voiced by a different person, with music and sound effects.  It's like watching a movie; you just can't see the picture.

For those who don't know the story of Oliver Twist, it's about a boy whose mother dies giving birth to him and he is sent to an orphanage.  This is where the famous phrase, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" is said asking for more food because they are fed very little.  The treatment of the children is horrible, with beatings and verbal abuse besides the starvation.  It's truly horrible how children were treated in those days.  He ends up running away to London and falls in with Fagin and his band of thieves.  Oliver is always trying to do the right thing, but it seems like he keeps getting into trouble, and we find out later people are after him for a reason.  He meets some nice people who try to help him at different periods and I like how the pieces come together as we learn who Oliver really is and his family's story. 

I really enjoyed this story! There are 5 cds and 1 DVD, with a couple features about modern-day Oliver's and behind the scenes of the making of Oliver Twist. The production is excellent and you feel like you're in the story as you listen. I would recommend it for older children to adults because of the tough subject matter. 

I received a free copy of this audio from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Soul's Gate by James L. Rubart

This book was amazing!  It blew my mind, made me think about things differently, and opened my eyes even more to the real world.

Reece Roth has invited four people to his mountain hideaway to fulfill a prophecy he received years ago.  He is going to teach them how to see more of the real, supernatural world around them.  They are going to battle for people's souls, from the inside.  They are going to let Jesus use them to bring healing and freedom.  Reece will have to face his deepest regret if they are to succeed.  However, the enemy is not happy about that and will do all he can to stop them.

I loved everything about this book! I liked all the characters, who were very different from each other and brought unique perspectives to the table.  The writing and dialogue flowed smoothly.  Scenes were descriptive enough to make you feel like you were there, but weren't overly wordy.  The story was very suspenseful, with the spiritual warfare parts getting my blood pumping.  I also loved the scenes where they had to face regrets and hurts from their pasts and let them go in order to be healed.  It made me examine my own life for things I've been holding on to that I should let go.  I loved his book Rooms and I could see some similarities in places.  I was excited to see a sequel is planned for August 2013! One thing I was bothered by was the use of "hell" as a swear word once in the book. Other than that, this story was amazing and I highly recommend it!

I received this book free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Soul's Gate info

Read the first three chapters!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Healing Love by Laura V. Hilton

No Picture  Enjoyable romance about an Amish woman and an English man who fall in love, but can they ever be together?  This is book one in a new series called "The Amish of Webster County."

When Shane Zimmerman saves Kristi Lapp after she's in a buggy accident, he never could have predicted how his life would change.  Their friendship quickly blossoms into attraction, but can they have any hope of  a future together? Besides their obvious lifestyle difference, they have many more obstacles to overcome.  Shane still blames the Amish midwife who was watching over his wife for her death and that of their child; though the doctor said cause of death was an aneurysm, he believes the herbs she gave her contributed to it.  When he discovers Kristi is a midwife, he doesn't know if he can trust her or live with her career choice.  Kristi now has a limp from the accident and doesn't know if any man will want a wife who has trouble performing daily tasks.  She wonders if she will have to settle for an arranged marriage. Though Shane tries to keep his distance, they keep getting thrown together. What do their futures hold?

This was an interesting story that had unique aspects to it.  I learned some about midwifery and more about shunning and how it might work.  I've only read a couple of other Amish books and the story of people from different worlds and how they might bring those worlds together made for an interesting read.  I liked that she used Amish terms in the story and that she had a short glossary of them so you knew the meanings.  Sometimes it did seem like there was a bit of confusion over what a character was thinking, with Shane and Kristi each flipping back and forth quickly on an opinion.  I was also a bit frustrated with Shane sometimes for not talking to Kristi about what was going on.  The author does a good job of showing how different their lives are and the feelings they have for each other.  I wasn't sure up until the end how they could possibly make it work and who would have to give up their lifestyle to be together. Anyone who likes Amish or romance stories will like this book!

I received a free copy of this book from Whitaker House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Against the Tide  This is an interesting book dealing with the opium trade in the late 1800's. I hardly knew anything about this subject and I found it fascinating to learn about the effects of addiction and that there were even medicines containing opium that were given to children and babies!

Lydia is a translator of many languages working for the U.S. Navy when she is hired by Alexander Banebridge to translate documents for him on the side. He is on a mission to end the opium trade and can't afford to let their blossoming love put her in danger from the man he's trying to stay one step ahead of.  But when she's the only one who can save someone from a life and death situation, he must ask for her help no matter the cost.

This works well as a stand-alone novel, but I realized after finishing it and seeing the ad in the back, that it's a sequel to "The Lady of Bolton Hill," which is actually about Banebridge when he was a criminal years ago. I found the topic of the opium trade interesting to learn about and the story was suspenseful.  I really liked Lydia; she was very tough and had some interesting characteristics. I wished the love story had been more drawn out and there were parts that were a bit repetitive. There also wasn't much to the Christian content. I liked that this was a different topic than you see in most historical novels, but I ended up being a bit disappointed overall.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner

The Girl in the Glass by Meissner, Susan  An interesting and unusual story that will sweep you away to Florence! You'll feel like you're there and if you hadn't wanted to go before, you will now!

Meg is an editor for travel books who has been waiting to go on a promised trip to Florence since she was a child, first with her grandmother and now with her father.  Finally, in her 30's, her father finally follows through with a ticket.  Meg expects to meet him there, but he is nowhere to be found.  Luckily, Meg knows a brother-sister team of writers and Sophia, a memoir writer who claims to be a Medici descendant.  Sophia also claims to hear the voice of a Medici princess speaking to her through the paintings and sculpture of the Renaissance.  Could her claims be true? As Sophia shows her Florence and Meg reads her chapters, she starts to wonder about possibilities.  Is life what you make it or what happens to you?

The descriptions of Florence and the art were beautiful.  I got lost in the book just picturing the beauty described.  I want to visit there more than ever.  I found the parts where Sophia claims to hear the princess to be quite odd, though she claims she's not hearing a ghost.  I liked that diary entries were included for the Medici princess, so there was an intertwining of all three women's stories.  "Hell" is used once as a swear word, which I didn't like and isn't needed. There are other words and ways to show a character's frustration.  Faith is more of a background element to the story, which is something I'm not used to when reading Christian fiction. Overall, the book has more of a literary feel to it and I did like the story.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review. Please rate my review!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

A Passion Redeemed  I enjoyed this story, but I did feel like it was a lot tougher to read emotionally than book one of this series. Charity's made some bad choices and there are some harsh consequences for her to deal with.  I ended up liking Charity more in this book because we see some of the reasons she is the way she is.

This picks up where book one left off and then jumps a year, to Charity trying to win Mitch no matter the cost and Mitch trying to get over his love for Faith. Even though Mitch is very attracted to Charity, he can't trust her and after the way he's been burned before, he can't risk it.  Mitch needs a woman who loves God as much as he does, not someone who lies and flirts to get what she wants.  However, he can't stop thinking about her.  Can Mitch forgive her?  Will Charity finally surrender to the love of God, the love she's been looking for all along? 

I love the O'Connors! Charity's story was very interesting and a roller-coaster ride, and I can't wait to read about the rest of the family!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

A Passion Most Pure  This is an amazing book! I loved the romance and redemption in this story and I fell in love with the O'Connors.

The O'Connors are a big Irish Catholic family living in Boston in 1916. The first book focuses on Faith, a girl perpetually in the shadow of her younger sister Charity because of her beauty and who's secretly had a crush on Collin McGuire for years.  Collin's nothing but trouble and forbidden by her father.  Faith and Charity are opposites; where Faith tries to do what's right and please God, Charity thinks mainly of herself and what she wants. When Faith finds out Collin is secretly dating her sister, she accidentally sets things in motion that will change their lives forever. Who will Collin choose? What will happen when America enters World War I?

Faith is a great character! I could really identify with her, but Charity made me so angry! There's a lot of drama involving them and I don't think I've ever seen so many fights!  Each of the characters felt so real and had flaws aplenty.  I like that we see the tough choices Faith has to make and her struggles with temptation and choosing God's will or her own.  I loved Faith's parents, Marcy and Patrick.  They have an amazing love story and Julie just released it as an e-book called "A Light in the Window." I'm reading the next book in the series now and will post a review of it in the next day or two.  I can't wait to read about all of the O'Connors!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus: Pure and Simple by Wayne Cordeiro

Jesus  This is an amazing book! It has so much insight and clarified some things for me that I hadn't realized about life and myself.  I found myself wanting to underline passages to re-read later.

The whole purpose of this book is that we need to get back to Jesus. Cordeiro points out that the devil wants us to think following Jesus is complicated so that we will get discouraged and give up.  We start to worry about rules and to-do lists instead of focusing on Jesus and our relationship.  He shows us ways in which we get distracted or off track and how to recognize this and correct back.  Satan likes to mix his deception with truth, and the only solution is to correct back to Jesus' teachings and the spirit in which He taught. If we correct back to another person or time period, it becomes too easy to be just a little off the mark and so become a modern-day Pharisee. 

Some of the topics are being in the world, but not of it; focusing on Jesus and not our problems; serving in secret; the importance of spending time with Jesus by reading the Bible; being available; and contentment.  He continuously points back to Jesus and that if we focus on Him, everything else will fall into place.  Cordeiro uses a lot of examples from history and his own life to illustrate his points, which makes for very interesting reading.  He also uses a lot of Scripture so we can read for ourselves the truths he's pointing out. There are also questions at the end of each chapter that can be used by an individual or in a group setting.

I would highly recommend this book to any Christian, whether you've just started walking with Jesus or have been doing so for years.  There's a lot of truth in this book and Jesus can change our lives if we keep it pure and simple!

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why It Really Matters by Carl Laferton

Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why It Really Matters...  This is such an interesting and informative little book! It's especially aimed at unbelievers or those who may not know the details of the true Christmas story.  Each chapter focuses on a different person or group in the story and their role, such as the wise men or Mary.

At the beginning of each chapter, the author gives us an amusing scene from a children's nativity play.  The next section is called "What really happened" and features the actual Scripture in bold showing what really happened with some of his explanation mixed in.  He gives the Scripture references for each section next so you can read them for yourself in the Bible.  The last section is "Why it really matters" and he had very interesting thoughts about how this applies to us. The section on the wise men asked if these men were crazy or stupid to travel so far, bring gifts, and worship a baby, but he points out this isn't just any baby.  If Jesus is truly a Savior and King, then we need to decide whether to worship Him ourselves and what that really means. He also points to the cross and that this was Jesus' ultimate purpose in coming. The salvation message is included, along with resources for people who want to keep investigating and answers to some questions people may have.

This was a great, quick read!  Even though I'm very familiar with the true Christmas story, I still found things to take away from this book and make me think.  It was very amusing; I got a kick out of the little kids in their nativity play and the funny things they did. I liked the examples from history and his own life.  I think anyone would enjoy this book and it would make a great gift!

Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway of Promise to Protect!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twang by Julie L. Cannon

This was an interesting story centered on a singer-songwriter who's made it big in the Nashville music scene.  Though fiction, it feels like a memoir as Jennifer Clodfelter tells the story of how she rose to fame and the realization that she still wasn't happy.  She was twenty-three when she left her mountain home and past behind her to make it big as a country music star.  She was extremely naive upon arriving in Nashville and found out pretty quick it wasn't going to be as easy as she thought.  The man who signs her wants her to write songs that come from her broken past, but it tears her up inside to relive the memories, especially one horrific memory that she keeps burying deep inside. The songs keep hitting number one and she's tiptoeing around landmines, afraid she's going to lose it in front of an audience.

Then she meets Tonilynn, her hairstylist, a Christian who encourages her to talk about her memories and release them to God so she can be free. Tonilynn's quite a character, as is her Aunt Gomer, who's getting forgetful and is quite stubborn.  A few chapters are told from Aunt Gomer's perspective and those were quite amusing.  While Tonilynn has her heart in the right place, she was very pushy and I think would have pushed Jennifer away from God even more except for Tonilynn being her only friend.  She is also welcomed by Tonilynn's aunt and son and spends a lot of time with this family in their mountain home.  Jennifer had given up on God as a teenager, certain that He doesn't care after allowing bad things to happen to her.  She wants peace, but turns to the Cumberland River for that feeling and visits it every Saturday.  What will it take for her to realize that that isn't true peace? Can she release her pain to God and forgive her father?

I enjoyed this story partly because I love music.  I like some country and I've been to Nashville so I was familiar with most of the artists she talks about and some of the places mentioned, including the Bluebird Cafe!  The author did a good job of making that world come alive.  The pacing was well-done, with knowing some of her childhood but not everything revealed until near the end.  I liked the quirky characters and the message of forgiveness and trusting God no matter what you're going through.

I received a free copy of this book from Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Plain & Simple Heart by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

book title front  This was a cute story about Rebecca Switzer, a naive and hopeful Amish girl who sets out to find Jesse, her one true love... whom she hasn't seen for four years!  Along the way she gets caught up in the temperance movement, gets arrested, and meets a handsome sheriff who just might give Jesse a run for his money!

This is book two in the Amish of Apple Grove series and it easily stands alone, though you do meet Rebecca's sister and family, the subjects of book one.  Rebecca met Jesse on a cattle drive when she was thirteen and fell for him and she's sure that when he sees her again as a grown woman, he'll fall for her too.  She hears he's in a town on the opposite side of Kansas from her, but she's determined to get to him and convinces her sister to help.  She barely arrives in Lawrence when she gets caught up in a temperance protest and finds herself in jail.  Colin, the long-suffering sheriff, has only two weeks left before he can hand over his star to his replacement and set out to start an orphanage and build a church like he feels called to; he does not want any trouble, especially from a woman who claims to be Amish but keeps stirring things up.  Between outlaw sightings and the men and women of the town constantly bickering, he can't wait to leave, but will he be able to leave Rebecca behind?  Will she ever find her one true love?

Rebecca was an extremely naive girl, but I had to remind myself it was 1884 and she was Amish.  I liked her character a lot; she was constantly trying to be the good Amish girl but speaking before she thought and very stubborn.  I really liked Colin too, along with the secondary characters.  It didn't feel like Rebecca and Colin had a whole lot of interaction or much of a progression to falling in love, but the book did take place in the span of a couple of weeks.  I also liked learning more about the temperance movement.  This book made me smile the whole way through!

Thanks to Harvest House Publishers for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Still time to sign up for the giveaway of My Stubborn Heart!

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Christian Bookshelf Reviews

Giveaway of 5 books!

Check out the link here:

Christian Bookshelf Reviews

High Calling weekly e-newsletter

I had never heard of this site or their weekly newsletter, but I was interested to see what they were all about.  Their site says "everyday conversations about work, life, and God," and I found their newsletter to contain varied topics dealing with these subjects. Each newsletter contains an audio message, a few articles, and a short video, along with articles of interest from other sites.  Some of the topics were about fearing the unknown, how being helpful at work can be more about your attitude, and knowing your gifts. 

One that resonated more with me was about feeling like your job is insignificant or wondering what possible difference could a few more keystrokes make. What difference could this day make in the grand scheme of things?  The author talked about the butterfly effect and how the flapping of their wings can impact weather around the world.  They don't realize the effect they have and that might be true for us as well.  All we can do is our best and let God take care of what or how great an impact we'll have.  We just need to be faithful in our flapping!

Overall, I found the newsletters encouraging and informative. They seek to equip you in your job and encourage you in life.  Some of the topics interested me and others didn't, but I think anyone could probably find a topic of interest to them.

Here's the link to their site. You have the option of signing up for free daily or weekly emails.

High Calling

I received a $10 gift card from Handlebar Central in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Steppin' Into the Good Life by Tia McCollors


 This was an enjoyable real-to-life story. I was frustrated with Sheila, the main character, at first but I really liked her as the story progressed.

Sheila Rushmore has hit a low point. She's been out of a job for months, lives with a crazy roommate, and has now crashed her ex's wedding to watch him remarry his ex-wife.  However, during the service the pastor leads them in the sinner's prayer and she prays it and believes it.  Her life doesn't suddenly become perfect, but she meets a cute guy at the wedding and things are looking up.  She still makes some bad choices and struggles with wanting the good life, which to her is made up of designer shoes and a rich husband to take care of her.  I struggled to like her at first because she seemed really shallow and high-maintenance, having lived way above her means when she had a job and now very in debt.  It was all about her.  I was also very frustrated with some of the choices she makes.

Then she meets Eden, a Christian bookstore owner who takes her under her wing and shows her unconditional love.  She starts reading a great devotional, the Bible, and praying and gradually starts to make better choices and find other friends who aren't all about the drama.  God gives her the strength to let go of the baggage she's been dragging around and forgive.  She reconnects with her family and maybe with a new guy who's actually right for her?

Sheila deals with a lot of disappointment and stress throughout this book; at first it feels like everyone she knows is a drama queen.  I really liked the progression of her faith and how it impacted her attitude to others.  You could see the change in her and it felt very genuine.  I found out afterwards that there were a couple previous books, one featuring Sheila and one a friend of hers.  It didn't really feel like part of a series, though, so it's not necessary to read in order but I usually like to.  I also liked the Southern feel to it.  Overall, I ended up really enjoying it.

Thanks to Moody Publishers for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

Check it out on Moody Publishers' site here:
Moody Publishers

Friday, November 2, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Full Disclosure  -     
        By: Dee Henderson
    I have to say I was disappointed with this book.  I love Dee's O'Malley series, but this one felt a lot different from her usual.

Paul Falcon is a high-up in the Chicago office of the FBI and in line to be the leader of the Falcon family's many enterprises when their father dies.  He loves his family and he's ready to settle down with one of his own.  He meets Ann Silver when she brings a case to him that could heat up their search for a lady shooter who's wanted for thirty murder-for-hires and who has been quiet for many years.  He's intrigued by Ann and the more he finds out about her, the more fascinated he becomes.  She's filling in as a small-town sheriff while also being an investigator who gets called in on cases all over the country that have law enforcement stumped.  She solves the tough puzzles. She's a pilot and friends with a lot of people in high places.  She's forty, content with her life and singleness, and not looking to marry.  The book focuses on their trying to catch the lady shooter and Paul trying to understand and woo Ann.  As secrets are revealed about her, will he choose to move on or stand by her?

I loved Ann's character. She's unlike anyone I've read before.  She has a very interesting personality and life, and I felt like I could relate to her in some ways.  I liked Paul but he seemed too perfect.  I can't think of a single flaw he had.  Their romance was very pragmatic, with Paul learning all he could about Ann before pursuing her; it was very practical and measured.  I believe romance can't be all about emotions, but it felt like it was hardly a factor.  There was hardly any suspense to the story, either.  Ann's dog, Midnight, was fun and added a lot of life to the book.  Fans of Dee's other books will recognize some familiar characters, and it was fun to catch up on their lives.

There wasn't very much romance or suspense in the story.  The writing also felt somewhat formal.  It was nice to see Dee's other characters again and it made me want to revisit them.  Overall, I did like the book because I found Ann fascinating and there was a slight mystery to it.  It just wasn't what I was expecting.

Giveaway of Isle of Shadows!

Check the link here:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day by Daryl Aaron

 Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day, Daryl Aaron, 978-0-7642-1012-9

This was very informative and easy to understand. Some of the topics include: how do we know the Bible is the Word of God and what are the implications, what characteristics of God make Him unique, the Trinity, creation, angels and demons, original sin, Jesus being God and man, salvation, the Holy Spirit, baptism, and the Rapture.  The chapters are only about five pages long, so you get an overview of a topic, but don't dive too deeply into it.  The author is Professor of Theology and Bible at Northwestern College in Minnesota and has a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from Graduate Theological Foundation, so needless to say he knows his theology.  Even though these are topics that I'm familiar with, I still learned a lot about different views and what the implications are for believing some of them.

Aaron uses a lot of Scripture references when making his points, which compels you to open your Bible and read it for yourself.  Scripture verses are written out  for topics where there's differing views and he explains their arguments well.  If he feels that a view is clearly shown in Scripture, he points that out.  For topics such as the Rapture and Tribulation, he presents the differing views and leaves it at that.  He also brings in a bit of Church history with dates and names when explaining who made a view popular and when.  An interesting fact is presented at the end of each chapter that relates to the topic.

I really enjoyed this book.  I think it would be especially good for someone new to theology or to the Christian faith. I found the topics to be very interesting.  For example, the chapter, "What does it mean to be human," talks about humans being made in God's image and different views of what that might mean.  The book clarified some ideas for me so now I know a little more of why I believe the way I do and pointed out the Scriptures to back that up.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry

Q & A with Chris Fabry:

Q: Your newest novel, Borders of the Heart, addresses heavy topics such as illegal immigration, the U.S./Mexico drug trade and the cost of compassion. Where did you get your inspiration for the book?

A: Our family moved to Arizona in 2008 and since then I’ve known I wanted to write about this area of the country, a rich, desert existence with problems and possibilities. This book is not as much an “issue” book as it is a book about people who have to deal with lots of those issues as part of their daily lives. I don’t have an ax to grind on the topics, but I did want to show how real people are affected by these contemporary topics.

Q: Several of the characters in Borders of the Heart are dealing with things from their past. What lessons do your characters learn along the way?

A: The past is huge for each of us. I’m convinced many are “stuck” by something in the past that holds us back from being all God wants us to be. A reader will walk through that process with the main character, J.D., and I’m hoping they’ll see an authentic struggle.

Q: J.D. Jessup is faced with a very difficult moral dilemma when he weighs the decision to follow his boss’ very clear direction or his own heart when he discovers Maria near death. What lessons does this story provide for your readers?

A: Every choice we make in life comes with a cost. If we say yes to one thing, we may have to say no to something else. The choice J.D. makes is a good choice, and even good choices can lead to disastrous and deadly results. Can you believe that God is involved in even the difficult circumstances? I think that’s a huge reveal in this story for me. Does everything have to work out perfectly in the end in order for God to be glorified?

Q: How does the concept of redemption figure into your story? Was it gratifying to write about redemption? Why or why not?

A: A lot of people don’t like the word “saved.” It’s old fashioned and not in vogue. I think the term is loaded with truth because if you’re on the verge of death and someone “saves” you,you know exactly what that means and how grateful you would be. Characters in this story get rescued from certain death and when the stakes are that high, I can’t help but get emotionally involved in the story.

Q: How does the concept of grace figure into your story? Was it gratifying to write about grace? Why or why not?

A: Grace is when we’re treated better than we deserve. Yes, characters discover that in the book as well. I love the concept of grace in such a gritty, tough story because you’re not expecting it. You’re expecting A+B=C and when grace invades, it catches you by surprise.

Q: Borders of the Heart clearly demonstrates that sometimes there is a cost to compassion. What made this an important story element for you? Why was it important for you to show that sometimes there is a cost for us when we behave compassionately?

A: You’ve heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” The one who acts with compassion usually absorbs the pain of someone else. This is a picture of the cross, of the sacrifice made for us in Christ. This is another thread you’ll discover throughout the story.

Q: Have you ever been faced with a real-life hard choice or ethical dilemma like your main character J.D.? If so, what was your dilemma and did you feel like you made the right choice?

A: I’ve never had to decide whether to leave a person for dead or not, but I think every day we have a chance to sacrifice. Sometimes it’s a small thing, like taking time for your children when you have something REALLY important, like writing a few more paragraphs. I haven’t always passed those tests. My contention is, the details of everyday life will show what we’ll do with the big decisions. If you choose well in the small moments, the moments when no one is looking,you’ll choose well when a huge decision comes your way. Conversely, if you don’t see the little things as important, you might not make a good decision with the big decision.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Borders of the Heart?

A: Borders of the Heart is at its core a love story. You will root for J.D. and Maria to survive and solve the mystery of what’s really going on in Tucson. And I hope readers will take away the truth that what looks impossible to people is possible with God’s power. Even if something looks hopeless, it’s really not when God is involved.

My Review

 J.D. Jessup has run from his life as a musician to Arizona, where he works on an organic farm near the Mexican border, learning the trade and living simply.  He's been existing, not really living.  Then he finds Maria, lying out in the desert, covered in blood and near death.  Though his boss has told him to call Border Patrol if he ever finds an illegal, he can't do it and instead cleans her up and takes her to a doctor.  This act of kindness sets him on a different and dangerous path, because someone wants Maria dead.  He can't seem to let her go, even when he has the chance to; he feels an inexplicable bond with her and knows he must see this through to the end, whatever that might be.  Maria slowly opens up about who's after her and why, but he's not sure if he can trust her or if she's playing her own game with him caught in the middle.

J.D.'s story is slowly revealed as he talks with Maria and meets Good Samaritans along the way.  He's very introspective and they cause him to question his beliefs about God and a past tragedy.  I get the sense that he grew up going to church but never had faith for himself.  Could God be working things together for good and is God really in control?  These seem to be important themes for Fabry; a previous book I've read, Almost Heaven, also deals with this.  The title refers not only to the American-Mexican border, but also to how we wall ourselves off from others, whether it's out of fear or something else.  There's some discussion from both sides of the illegal alien debate. Who's really our neighbor?

I enjoy Fabry's writing.  There's a lyrical quality to it and he has a way of describing scenes so I feel I'm really in Arizona, sweating and dusty, even though it's cold where I am!  There's some action as the bad guy gets close and the body count rises. There's only a hint of romance but mostly the story is J.D. figuring things out for himself.  I found the story interesting, but a bit hard to get into.  It's quite different than what I usually read.  I do plan on reading his other stories because I like that he makes me think about the hard questions.

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Borders of the Heart book trailer

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

In a word, amazing! I literally couldn't put this book down! Mellie is a flight nurse during World War II, eager to go in to combat zones and help evacuate the wounded.  She's confident when it comes to her job, and she'd good at it.  Social situations, however, are something she's not good at. Growing up in the jungle with her father for companionship, shy Mellie doesn't know how to act or what to say to girls her own age.  Add to that her quarter Filipino heritage, and the children she did know were cruel to her.  She's never had a friend.  Lt. Tom MacGilliver is an engineer stationed in North Africa, rebuilding runways as the Allies push forward against the Nazis.  He has an infamous father, a well-known murderer and the subject of jump-rope rhymes.  He must put on a cheerful face in case anyone thinks he'll snap and turn into his father. No one knows the real him underneath the mask.

As a morale-building campaign inspired by the movie "The Shop Around the Corner", Mellie is forced into writing a letter to Tom, a man she's never met, though it helps that it's anonymous for them both.  Mellie offers encouragement, prayer, and a listening ear, and he offers the same back to her. So begins months of writing and growing as they offer advice to each other,  pray for each other, and fall for each other.  Mellie is then stationed near him; how will they react to each other in person and will they have the strength to overcome their fears and admit who they really are?

I loved this book.  It was my first one by Sarah Sundin, though she does have another trilogy set during World War II, which I now can't wait to read!  Her writing was wonderful, the characters so detailed and real I found myself rooting for them both in the difficult circumstances they each found themselves in, and the romance very well done. I think a guy could find a lot to like as well, with the backdrop of World War II and the jobs they both perform.  I learned a lot about flight nursing and engineering in the context of the war.  We get both of their perspectives, which I love.  "You've Got Mail," my favorite movie, is based on "The Shop Around the Corner," and I love the plot line of two people falling in love through letters (or email!) before they ever meet. This is definitely a keeper!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guardian, Halflings book two by Heather Burch

If you're looking for something a little different, a little out there, than look no further. I had to read book one before I started this because I figured I would be lost if I didn't and am I glad I did! You definitely have to read these in order. In the first book, Nikki Youngblood is being chased by hellhounds when she's rescued by three teenage boys. Or are they? It turns out they are halflings, half angel, half human, descendants of the nephilim. They are sent on a journey by the Throne to protect her, though they don't know what role she plays. She and Mace are immediately drawn to each other, but he faces an impossible choice, because being with a human means you've chosen the enemy's plan and will be condemned for all eternity, yet he can't seem to stay away. Where Mace is the rule follower, Raven is the rule breaker, and she finds herself drawn to him also. The feeling is mutual. This book reminded me a lot of Twilight with the love triangle and especially the way they're so intensely drawn to each other, along with the forbidden element.

After Nikki survives a tragedy in book one and Damon Vessler, her godfather and possible bad guy, becomes her guardian, she chooses to stay with the halflings. They are told to sail to Europe to stop a terrorist attack with six other halflings, three of whom are female, which complicates matters a bit. They try to train her in preparation for whatever evil comes their way while she struggles with feeling inadequate for Mace and for whatever's coming. Nikki's gone from believing only in what she can see to believing that angels, halflings, and demons exist, and that there's a whole battle going on that she never knew about. She really struggles with making the right decisions and there's a couple close calls for her in this book. Will she finally realize her true purpose and destiny?

I really enjoyed the first two books and can't wait for the third! This is an interesting twist on the nephilim story from the Old Testament. While some things are obviously fiction, the author does a good job of showing the truth of the destructiveness of revenge, the power of prayer, and the importance of choosing good over evil. I think anybody who likes to read young adult fiction would enjoy this book, Christian or not, because it makes you think about God and the battle going on around us, but isn't preachy and shows the real struggle Nikki faces as she's finding this out for herself.

Thanks to Zondervan for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Twice a Bride by Mona Hodgson

 Twice a Bride

 This was a charming story. I haven't read the first three in this series, and while it's not necessary to do so, I think it would have added to my enjoyment.  The first three books are about Willow's sister-in-law and her sisters, who are all featured prominently in the story, along with Miss Hattie, who's quite the character.  While the story focuses on Willow, it does have some parts told by the sisters and Miss Hattie.  Willow, a widow of 6 years, has moved to Cripple Creek to live near her brother and his wife. She has just buried her father and her family is worried that she will become catatonic again, the way she did after her husband died.  She's determined to not let that happen, however, and focuses on finding a job.  She loves to paint and takes a job painting portraits from photographs and colorizing them for a new photographer in town, Trenton Van Der Veer. There's a bit of confusion with each thinking the other is married, but the truth is found out soon enough.  Meanwhile, the Sinclair Sisters' father is supposed to be coming for a visit, but a train derailment and a couple surprise guests throw them and Willow for a loop.  Not to mention how Miss Hattie and Mr. Sinclair get along!  There's also another tragedy early in the story, but this isn't a sad book, by any means.  There are a lot of joyous occasions throughout the story.

I liked that we get Trenton's perspective in the story.  He's been badly burned by a woman and doesn't know if he'll ever get married.  He also avoids church because of a bad experience he had as a boy when his parents took him to a pastor because of his stutter.  Meeting Willow and her brother, a pastor in town, makes him question his beliefs about God and pastors.  I also liked that both Willow and Trenton had things in their lives that had to be overcome.  God and Jesus are mentioned a lot in this story, as a comfort, a Savior, a guide.  The author does a good job of interweaving faith into these characters' lives as a part of who they are, and not an afterthought.

I definitely want to read the first three books to find out the stories behind the other three couples.  This book made me feel like I was visiting old friends, even though I had never met them!  If you like sweet historical romance, this book's for you.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for my free copy in exchange for my honest review. Please rate my review! Thank you!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sandwich With a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips

Sandwich, With a Side of Romance  Very enjoyable and amusing book!  Maddie is a tough wise-cracking twenty-year-old and a baby Christian.  She's trying to leave her shameful past behind her and make a fresh start in Sandwich, IL, where she hopes to create a stable life so she can gain custody of her eleven-year-old brother.  However, first day on the job at a hair salon and she's fired through no fault of her own.  She confronts Reuben, the man who was at fault, and he hires her to be a waitress at his restaurant.  Have I mentioned that Maddie is a huge klutz?  It didn't go well.  She continues to work for him, though, as one thing after another goes wrong in her life and his jealous girlfriend doesn't help matters.  She's vowed to stay away from men, so why does she feel this attraction to her boss, especially when she knows he's taken?  She struggles with pride and needing to do things herself, a by-product of growing up with no one to depend on, but will she see that she needs to give God control and lean on others for a change?

I really liked the back-and-forth between Maddie and Reuben.  Krista did a good job of showing the progression of their relationship from frustration and annoyance to affection and forgiveness of each others' mistakes.  I liked the contrast between Maddie as a baby Christian and Reuben as a seasoned one, but they were both still shown as imperfect, and had to learn to let go of the past and trust God.  I also liked that we got Reuben's perspective on the relationship.

The secondary characters were great and really added to the story.  The writing was good.  I don't think there was anything I didn't like about this book!  And all from a first-time author!  I'm definitely looking forward to what she'll be writing in the future.

I received a free copy of this book from Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 8, 2012

When Love Comes My Way by Lori Copeland

book title frontSomewhat enjoyable but superficial romance. Tess Wakefield is the heiress to the Wakefield fortune and along with that comes the lumber company her grandfather owned.  However, she knows nothing about lumber and plans to sell to its competitor so she can continue to make hats for her millinery shops.  Jake Lannigan, the foreman of Wakefield Timber, wants to replant pine trees to give something back instead of stripping the land.  Her grandfather had agreed to do this, but died before they could start the project.  Jake and Tess have been arguing through letters and he is furious that she won't agree.  She travels from Philadelphia to Michigan to sign the papers for the sale when she's involved in a wagon accident along with the new schoolteacher.  She survives but the teacher does not.  However, when she wakes up, she has no memory and is mistaken for the teacher.  Jake suspects that she could be Tess, but he figures her teaching a bunch of unruly children could school this spoiled girl on what the real world's really like and maybe she'll change her mind in the process.  And there's always the chance that she really is the teacher.

They both immediately fall for each other but Jake fights it especially as he starts to become more sure that she is Tess Wakefield and not the teacher.  He also knows she's engaged, which complicates matters.    What happens when her identity is revealed before he can tell her the truth?  Can she forgive him? Will they fight for their love?

I usually like Lori Copeland's books but I have to say I was disappointed in this one.  The romance seemed shallow.  Tess seems very forward for a woman of the time, especially a society woman; she does a lot of throwing herself at Jake, which I didn't like, especially since she's not getting much encouragement from him.  There wasn't much to the faith element in the book either, just some mentions of prayer and God.  This book was rewritten and expanded from a 1990 book she wrote for a secular publisher and I'd have to say it's not up to par with her usual style.  However, if you like light romance, you might enjoy this book.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren

  2012 Christy Award Finalist!

This was such an enjoyable book!  Isadora Presley lives in the small Minnesota town of Deep Haven, one that she hoped to escape when she was a teenager.  But years after surviving a terrible accident that seriously injured her father and caused her mother to die in her arms, she can still barely leave her house. She lives in fear and has panic attacks envisioning all the things that can go wrong out in the world.  She stays connected through her best friend Lucy and her online radio show, My Foolish Heart.  She gives advice on romance, though she's never had a date of her own, saying your perfect love could be right next door.

Caleb Knight moves in next door to Issy and has a secret of his own.  He was injured in the Middle East and has an artificial leg, but he doesn't want to broadcast it while he fights for a coaching job at the high school.   His wild dog and horrible manners drive her crazy, but could she be misjudging him?  When Caleb learns her story, he's intrigued by her and wants to help her find freedom, especially since he knows what it's like to feel that despair.  He's confused by how to reach her, though, and stumbles upon the My Foolish Heart show, where he calls in as BoyNextDoor with questions on how to befriend his neighbor.  Neither knows who the other really is, and they both start falling for each other online and in real life.

I absolutely loved this story. Susan is a great writer and really brings her characters to life.  It was refreshing to see truly flawed people, as a lot of romances portray their characters too perfectly.  Not only were there cute scenes portraying their interactions online and in person, but there were real issues to work through also, such as how to deal with paralyzing fear, trust, and God's perfect love.  This is technically the fourth book set in Deep Haven, but can truly be read as a stand-alone novel, though I don't think you'll want to.  I've read two others and enjoyed them tremendously and plan to read the other three soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze

Forget Me Not by Hinze, Vicki This novel started out promising, but ended up being a disappointment.  Benjamin Brandt has been trying to find his wife and son's murderer for the past three years when a woman shows up at his crisis center with no memory and a strong resemblance to his dead wife.  Is this a trick from someone out to get his money, his wife back from the dead, or an amnesiac as she claims to be? "Susan" has been on the run for a few years when someone grabs her, beats her badly, and leaves her for dead.  When she wakes up, she has a cross necklace and a card for the crisis center in her pocket with the name Susan written on the back.  All she knows deep down is that she is a woman of faith; everything else is a question mark.

The employees at the crisis center work to discover her identity when they're attacked and they realize the men have come back to finish the job.  As Ben and his employees work to protect her and discover who she is, he finds himself drawn to her. Susan seems to fall for him immediately and there isn't much of a build-up to their relationship.  Ben has turned his back on God after what happened to his family and I did like that Susan was determined to not get involved with him unless that changed.  The story switches from Susan and Ben to the bad guys so you see what's going on with them behind the scenes, but it didn't really keep my interest.

The story is suspenseful at first with trying to figure out who Susan is and how she ties to Ben but the momentum seemed to die and I think it was partly because some of the mystery was gone when we saw what the bad guys were plotting. There just seemed to be too many threads in the story and almost too much explanation for what everyone was thinking.  There are a couple sequels focusing on different characters involved with the crisis center that sound interesting so I'm planning to give those a shot, but I thought this book was just okay. Please don't forget to rank this review! Thank you!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nazis, Secret Identities, and Forgiveness


 The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

Part true story, part fiction, all fascinating! Andy Andrews, the author, is digging up a tree stump in his yard on the Gulf coast when he discovers buttons and two pictures in a metal container.  He researches the buttons and finds out they were from a Nazi uniform, but what are they doing here in the States?  Who did they belong to?  He discovers that there were German subs in our waters during World War 2, news that was not broadcast to the American people then, though people who lived by the ocean on the East coast would see them from time to time.  I had never heard this either, though my uncle had, so I found it incredibly interesting.  He finds people who lived there then and interviews them for insight into what was going on.  Did you know that Germans even came on land and went to the movies?! 

The story then shifts to the owner of these items and how he washed up on shore, shot, with little hope of survival in an enemy land. The woman who finds him, widowed during this war and bitterly angry, wants to kill him once she realizes where he's from, but she can't do it.  What follows is an amazing story about the lengths she goes to save him and the power of the forgiveness they both experience.

I really enjoyed this book for its history, the captivating story Andy tells, and how forgiveness had such an impact on these two lives.  I learned a lot about German subs in American waters and what was going on in that part of the country.  I liked how Andy would shift back and forth between what he was finding out in the present and this couple's story back in the 40s.  I even recommended this book to my brother, mom, and dad, who all read it and liked it and my dad doesn't read very many books.  He even bought it so he could borrow it to others! It was a fast, easy read and I highly recommend it to everyone!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Over the Edge by Mary Connealy

This was a pretty amusing book. It's actually book three of the Kincaid Brides series, and even though I haven't read the first two yet, I wasn't lost.  Seth Kincaid had a traumatic experience when he was younger and fighting in the Civil War didn't help.  He's become a little crazy and he almost died, so is it his fault that he forgot about his wife? It's been months since Callie has seen him and she doesn't know if he's dead or alive. She decides to head out to his brothers' ranch in Colorado to find out if he's there or if he's dead. Either way, she has no place else to go and she needs a home for herself and their baby Connor.

This book starts out with a bang when Callie and Connor are held up in a stagecoach robbery.  There's a pretty wild shoot-out scene and Callie is seriously injured so Seth has to step up and take care of the family he's doesn't remember. As they prepare to make the journey to his ranch, another surprise shows up and Seth doesn't know how much more he can take.  Will his memories return and can Callie learn to trust him again.  Will his craziness ever be tamed?

The plot is a little far-fetched, but made for an amusing story.  The romance felt somewhat superficial; it seemed like it was based more on looks and they barely knew each other. There was some talk of prayer and faith, but I like to see a bit more in a Christian book. I enjoyed her tongue-in-cheek writing and I will be checking out the first two books in the series along with her others even though this wasn't a favorite.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Julie Lessman Giveaway!

 Check out the contest to win a kindle fire and Julie Lessman's books!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof

 Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof

 I must confess that I wasn't really looking forward to this book because I thought I would find it frustrating. And while parts of it were, I actually did enjoy it overall. Lonnie has always been a shy wallflower and can't believe ladies' man Gideon wants to walk her home after a community dance. She soon finds out why when he steals a kiss and tries to take more than that. Her drunk of a father believes he did and forces them to get married. While neither wants to get married, Gideon resents her for ruining his life. He blames her and everyone else for his problems instead of taking responsibility for his own choices. By contrast, Lonnie tries to trust God and believe that He is with her through everything. She doesn't resent Gideon or her father though she has every right to.

They leave his family home to find work in a faraway town and after days of walking with little food to eat, Lonnie is on the brink of exhaustion. Gideon starts to take his frustration out on her, but luckily an old man steps in to protect her and brings them back to his farm. Jebediah and his wife turn out to be a godsend and Jebediah especially helps Gideon realize how self-centered he has been.

Bischof's description of the scenery in the Appalachian hills was beautiful and made me feel like I was right there with Lonnie. The emotions of her characters also felt very real and she did an amazing job depicting them as three-dimensional people. I really don't like when people blame others for their mistakes and don't take responsibility for their own actions, which is what Gideon did. He's also very impulsive and doesn't think about the possible consequences. It was hard to like Gideon, especially at first, but I was rooting for him as the book went on, and I think that's a testament to how well she wrote him. Though this is a romance, I didn't find it to be a typical one. This is Bischof's first novel and I'm interested to see in what direction book two goes for Lonnie and Gideon. This book will be available October 2nd.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review. Please rate this review. Thanks!

Friday, September 14, 2012


Check out the interview and giveaway here!

The Illusion by Frank Peretti


Another interesting novel from Frank Peretti!  Mandy and Dane have been not only one of the leading acts in magic for decades, but are partners in marriage as well.  Days from retirement they are in a serious car accident and Mandy loses her life.  Dane decides to continue with their plans to move into their new home near where Mandy grew up.  One day he runs into a girl dressed as a gypsy performing card tricks on the street and he gives her some tips.  Soon he meets up with her again, this time performing in a coffee house with a much better routine. In fact, she's doing tricks that he can't even figure out.  She makes a deal with him to learn more tricks and further her career.  This nineteen-year-old reminds him so much of his wife when they met that it's uncanny.  He tries to ignore it, but he can't shake the feeling that it's her.  His friend thinks he's crazy and he starts to wonder if he is too. Or is this some sick joke?

Mandy wakes up as a nineteen-year-old in the present day, but believes she's really in the 1970's.  She has memories of a father and a home that don't seem to exist and is taken to a mental ward. She escapes and tries to find her father and eventually meets up with Dane. She's drawn to him but doesn't know why.  And she can't explain how she's doing some of her tricks either.  Is it really magic or supernatural powers?  How and why is it happening?  Someone is watching.  What are their intentions?

I thought this story was interesting but I didn't love it.  I'm not really into magic acts, so I wasn't that interested in the details of their tricks. Peretti's writing was excellent, but there wasn't a strong Christian message.  It was intriguing trying to figure out what was going on and he does a good job of leading you along without giving away too much.  It was ultimately a love story with a twist, but one that both men and women can enjoy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley

 When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley
 Very interesting story about a cult-like church and a widow who's desperate to escape it. Miranda is relieved when she hears that her pastor wants to move the whole congregation to another state.  She feels like this is finally her chance for herself and her six kids to be free of his control.  She chooses her husband's half-brother Jack to be the guardian in case anything happens to her but she can't know that just a couple weeks later she will fall from the cliffs by her house and be seriously injured.  Jack, a college professor, is surprised by a call out of the blue from his nephew that his mother is hurt and he's been named guardian of her six kids.  He drops everything and heads from Chattanooga to Slades Creek, a couple hours away.

Jack is very shocked at their different way of life. They live pretty isolated from other people and the children are also homeschooled by their mother.  They dress very old-fashioned, in colors of blue and gray, with the women and girls in long denim dresses and long braids wrapped around their heads.  Jack has only met his sister-in-law and a couple of the kids once years ago, but he quickly comes to love all of them and doesn't want them to be controlled by this church anymore.  Miranda doesn't dare be too rebellious to the pastor because he knows her secret and threatens to tell it if she doesn't go along with the move. She doesn't tell Jack that they're not leaving because she doesn't want to reveal the whole story.  Jack constantly questions and pushes and wants Miranda to examine her beliefs, he  introduces new experiences to the kids, and Miranda finds herself attracted to him, all of which makes her uncomfortable.  But she also doesn't know what she would do without him.

This is the debut novel by Meg Moseley and it was very well-written.  The characters are three-dimensional with real personalities and problems.  Jack was an especially interesting character. It was hard for me to understand how someone could live in that kind of situation, with all the rules and regulations, but Meg did a good job of showing how someone could end up there and the struggle to get out.  It was suspenseful without being too heavy. I would recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading whatever she comes out with in the future.

Please rate this review! Thank you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum

Very amusing book! Kate Carter is a sixteen-year-old with a talent for sketching and sarcasm. When she unknowingly draws a picture-perfect sketch of a killer in her art class, who gets caught because of it, she's suddenly thrown in to the spotlight where she definitely does not want to be. But fame isn't her only problem; someone isn't happy that the killer is behind bars and they're not shy about showing it.  Suddenly she's surrounded by police 24/7 and wondering if she'll survive the school year.

I love Kate! She's very funny and logical. Her dad is an engineer and thrives on the facts, whereas her mom is a psychologist and emphasizes feelings. Needless to say, this makes for some interesting conversations! Throw in some boy trouble and wondering if there's a God and what happens when you die, and she's got a lot on her plate.

This is the first book Erynn Mangum's written for the teenage set and it was great!  Her two previous series have all featured 20-somethings and were also pretty funny. Her Lauren Holbrook trilogy I'd especially recommend; my brother and I both thought it was her best so far and hilarious.  While her main characters in her other novels are Christians, Kate isn't in this book, which makes it especially good for teens who aren't.  Kate starts to question what her beliefs are because of the threats to her life, but this isn't done in a pushy way at all.  I would recommend this book to any young adult especially, but I think anyone who appreciates humor would enjoy it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Book of Dreams by Davis Bunn

Dr. Elena Burroughs is a clinical psychologist and a widow of five years working at the University of Oxford.   She has published a book on dream interpretation and when a woman shows up for an appointment with bodyguards and says she's been having terrible dreams, Elena agrees to help this woman find some relief.  However, what she tells Elena doesn't fit the normal pattern of recurrent dreams and Elena turns to her friend and mentor Miriam for guidance. In turn, Miriam gives her five ancient books, duplicates of each other, and says they might help. Miriam explains that she is to study a page until it speaks to her, if it will. Miriam's great-grandmother passed these books to her, but she never received a message from them. Elena does receive an interpretation of the woman's dream and instructions for where she and her husband should go from there.  Elena meets a friend of a friend in Rome who is also having terrible dreams. His story intertwines with the woman and her husband and they, along with others, form a group intent on stopping a global disaster and following God's will wherever it will take them.

I don't want to give away too much of the story because for the first third or so, it's not clear what exactly is happening.  That's also about how long the story held my interest.  It felt like the story was building to something, but the momentum petered out and the plot started to wander.  The writing was fine, if a bit formal.  I loved the setting of London! I've said it before, even my favorite author has books I'm not crazy about.  Bunn has written a lot of books, so I'll definitely try more of his before deciding how I feel about him as an author.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

Harriet is in jail and how she got there is what this story is all about. Her grandmother Beatrice, Bebe for short, has a huge influence on Harriet's life, and much of the book is made up of the stories of her life that she relates to Harriet as Harriet grows up. The book jumps around with Bebe sometimes a child and the lessons she learned from her mother in fighting slavery and helping the Underground Railroad, then back to Harriet as a child and her determination to not end up like her silly mother or sister and most definitely, to not get married.  Most of it centers on Bebe as a married woman and the difficulties she faces with her husband and mother-in-law.  She ends up working for Prohibition and the Suffrage Movement with her daughter Lucy also getting involved, which causes Harriet to question what her purpose and achievement will be.  Three generations of women before her all have accomplished amazing things and she has big shoes to fill.

Bebe's mother tries to instill in her the importance of trusting in God and doing what He wants her to do. She struggles when she's young with fear and wanting to go her own way, but as she starts to trust God more, she's able to make the right choices and endure difficult circumstances because she turns to God and depends on Him instead of a person or circumstances to make her happy. The book's title is taken from Psalm 46:1-3: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."  Water plays an important part in Bebe's life, from the river near her house as a child, to an important event in her married life that changes everything.

This book wasn't quite what I thought it would be. I thought it would be more about Harriet and not her grandmother. Bebe's life was interesting, but also frustrating and sad. I liked learning more about Prohibition and the Suffrage movements. I loved Harriet and wish we would have gotten more of her story. I really liked the book's message and Lynn's writing is amazing. I've read a few of her books and plan to read them all. This was a good book and I would recommend it.