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.