Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Heart's Journey by Barbara Cameron

This is a charming story about Naomi, an Amish girl who runs a shop with her two cousins and grandmother.  She quilts, and the others knit, weave, and make crafts.  She's soon to be married, but she's started having doubts because John seems more and more controlling.  She jumps at the chance to go with her grandmother to Pinecraft, Florida for a vacation.  Nick, their English driver and friend, offers to drive them down there; he also has a secret crush on Naomi even though he knows nothing can come of it.  Will Naomi return his love or stay with her Amish fiance?  What kind of future could they have?

I found the story line about John intriguing.  How do the Amish view controlling men? I love road trips and enjoyed traveling along with Naomi on her first one!  The community of Pinecraft is a real place a lot of Amish and Mennonite visit and I liked the unique setting for this Amish story.  I wished there was a little more explanation of what the characters were physically doing sometimes; a character would be there one minute and gone the next with no mention of them leaving.  There were also some contradictions in what a character thought or said.  The romance is cute and I enjoyed the different characters.  This is the second book in the Stitches in Time series and, while it works as a stand-alone, there are minor characters I felt like I should already know. I'm excited to read the other two books about her cousins and you should check out this story, especially if you like Amish fiction!

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cheaper, Better, Faster by Mary Hunt

Cover Art  This book is a gold mine!  It's full of ideas to save money and time using cheaper alternatives or items you probably have around the house.  It has everything from cleaning tips to making your car last longer to saving money at the store.  There are sixteen sections with topics covering pretty much every aspect of life.  It's organized alphabetically with larger sections devoted to automobiles, cleaning, etc., then alphabetically by item or topic within the chapter.

Some of the tips seem more like common sense, but most of them I wasn't aware of.  I especially liked the money and finances and shopping sections, and the cleaning section had so many innovative ideas!  This would be a handy book to keep close by because it would be pretty difficult to remember over 2,000 tips.  I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you like to save time and money!

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I received this book free from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

The Tainted Coin by Mel Starr

If you're looking for a mystery or like the medieval time period, look no further!  It's 1367 and Master Hugh is both a surgeon and the bailiff for a lord, so when a man dies on the lord's land he determines it is murder and starts to investigate.  When an ancient coin falls out of the man's mouth, Master Hugh suspects it is the key to his death.  As he searches for clues, he encounters powerful men who wish to stop him.  Add kidnapping and surgery; this book is never dull!

It was interesting to see how a murder could be solved in a time period without our modern gadgets or even DNA.  I especially liked learning about the different culture, including what they ate and how they lived.  There's a handy glossary in the front of the book to explain some of the terms.  There's a bit of dry humor at times that I enjoyed.  A fascinating thing I learned was that surgeons were taught not to perform surgeries during certain times of the year because of the movement of planets and stars.  They felt a surgery wouldn't be successful and even some of the church believed this!  This is book five in the series about Master Hugh, but I wasn't confused at all when reading this first.  It's worth checking out!

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

Kindle version is on sale through Jan 27 for only $5!  Amazon

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Everything by Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth has been through the ringer.  She knows what she's talking about when she points out that trials are to help us grow and that we need to surrender everything to God.  In return, Jesus will become our everything.  The first section asks us what we think about God and ourselves.  The second section looks at our hearts. Have we let Jesus in to change our hearts or are we living with unforgiveness, control, or other things that impede our growth?  The third section looks at our actions.  How do we spend our money, live in community, or show Jesus to others?  These are just some of the topics she has in each section.

This is an important and challenging book.  Some of the topics really spoke to me, especially the issue of control.  I appreciated Mary's stories to illustrate her own struggles with these topics and that she doesn't feel as if she's arrived.  It feels more like she's coming alongside to encourage you on your faith journey.  She uses plenty of Scripture to illustrate her points and this is a book you'll want to highlight passages of, so you can go back and reread when you need encouragement.  I would definitely recommend this book to every Christian or anyone interested in spiritual growth!

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

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by Olivia Newport

Cover Art If you like Downton Abbey, then this book's for you!   Charlotte Farrow is a maid for a wealthy family in Chicago and she has a secret that could cost her her livelihood.  She has a baby.  When the woman who cares for Henry drops him off at the house and heads out of town because of a family emergency, she doesn't know what to do.  If she tells the family he's her child, she'll be fired and then how would they survive?  If she keeps her secret, would Henry have a better life with a family who can give him everything she can't?  Add to her confusion a forbidden romance with a fellow servant, a man from her past, and a new maid with an attitude and you have a book with plenty of drama.

I love the time period of this story and found it fascinating to learn about the working conditions that led to eight-hour workdays, among other reforms for the working class.  I like getting into the heads of the different characters to see what they're thinking and I felt for Charlotte. This is book two in the Avenue of Dreams and though it works as a stand-alone, it seemed that there was some back story I missed not having read The Pursuit of Lucy Banning.  Overall, I enjoyed this story very much and hope there will be more to come!

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr

Cover Art  This is an interesting medieval fantasy about the transformation of a young man and his possible future role in the kingdom.  Errol Stone is a drunk who is pretty much ignored in his village of Callowford when he volunteers to deliver a message to a priest who lives in a treacherous woods for a fee.  He's almost killed by an assassin and has to run for his life with the priest and a few others.  Along the way we discover important insights into his past, meet people who would try to influence him for good or evil, and watch him mature into a true hero.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it was interesting to follow Errol through his adventures and see how he changed throughout the book.  I haven't read too many books considered to be medieval fantasy, so I wasn't sure quite what to expect.  I found it a little hard to get into it at first, but as Errol changed and the action continued, I became more interested.  I liked the different characters and the abilities shown were interesting to see.  The church is a powerful force in the story, with some priests good and some evil.  The Trinity is mentioned in the story and we clearly see good and evil, but a relationship with God isn't shown.  There's a lot of action and hints of romance.  I am interested to see where the next two go and if my guess about Errol's future comes true!

This book is available February 2013 from Bethany House Publishers.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Waiting for Spring by Amanda Cabot

Cover Art This is an interesting historical romance about Charlotte, a widow who fears for her life and that of her son so she lies about her identity.  She's a dressmaker to the wealthy in her town of Cheyenne and wonders how to best help her blind son.  She meets Barrett, a man planning to run for senator who's courting Miriam, a friend and client of hers.  They immediately hit it off, but Barrett is planning to marry a woman who can help his career and Charlotte wants to keep as low a profile as possible.  Will they take the safe path or follow their hearts?

This is book two in the Westward Winds series, but works well as a stand-alone.  The story is well-written but felt a bit slow to me at times.  I like how we're shown what each of the characters are thinking and seeing Miriam fall in love is a nice bonus!  There's some suspense also as you wonder when the villain will find her and her son.  I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

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

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Choices of the Heart by Laurie Alice Eakes

Cover Art  This was an intriguing story about midwives, feuds, and forgiveness! Esther Cherrett is from a long line of midwives, but when her life is rocked by scandal, she runs away to the mountains of Virginia.  There she hopes to escape her past, but has she ended up in an even worse situation?  Two men from opposing families involved in a deadly feud vie for her affections.  Who will she choose and what will the repercussions be?

This was a beautifully written story that brought the landscape to life.  I felt like I was really there next to a stream and walking through the woods with Esther and I definitely want to visit for myself someday.  I really liked the variety of characters in the story and even though the main characters are beautiful physically, we're shown other flaws they have and that they're not perfect.  The details about midwifery were interesting to learn, as were stories about the feud.  This is book three in The Midwives series, but felt like a stand-alone book, though I definitely want to read the first two.  The cover is just gorgeous and though usually you shouldn't judge a book based on that, in this case it won't steer you wrong!

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In the Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towriss

In the Shadow of Sinai This was an interesting story set during the time of Moses. Bezalel is a gifted artist living in the palace of Ramses II in Egypt.  He is also a Hebrew slave.  His people have been slaves for 400 years and he wonders where God is in all of this.  He has lived in the palace since he was a child and some of his own people view him as a traitor. He feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere and he's angry with God.  His grandfather tells him that maybe he's there for a reason, but he can't see what that could be.

One day he rescues a child-slave who has been beaten, which leads him to meet the captain of the guard.  They and the new concubine he meets will forever change his life and he theirs.  As they endure the plagues and leave Egypt, what will the future hold?

I liked the behind-the-scenes look at what was going on during the plagues, how both Hebrews and Egyptians responded.  I also found it fascinating how each of the plagues showed that one of the Egyptians' gods was inadequate.  I liked a lot of the characters and found myself caring about their lives. This was an enjoyable story that will give you insight into the life and culture of some of our beloved Biblical heroes!

I received this book free from Cross-Focused Reviews and DeWard Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vanished by Irene Hannon

Vanished (Private Justice, #1)Suspenseful story that kept my attention to the end!  The story hit the ground running with reporter Moira Harrison driving in the dark, lost, during a thunderstorm.  She accidentally hits someone and a man appears and says he'll call 911.  She loses consciousness for an hour and when she comes to, the man's gone and so's the person she hit.  Police think she imagined the whole thing but she can't forget the person's terrified eyes.  She decides to hire a private investigator to get to the bottom of it.

When she meets Cal, they're immediately drawn to each other, but he's still grieving the wife he lost five years ago.  Is Cal ready to move on with his life?  As they investigate the few clues Moira remembers, they're led to a shocking suspect.    Will Moira survive this investigation or will Cal lose another woman he cares about?

The investigation held my interest and I liked the procedural aspects to the story. We're able to see different points of view, from Moira and Cal to the suspect, which was eye-opening, but I like a story better where you don't know who the bad guy is, so it wasn't as suspenseful as it could have been.  I liked the relationship between Moira and Cal, but they both seemed a little too perfect.  I enjoyed the story overall and I look forward to reading the second book in the series, which will be about one of Cal's partners at the PI firm.

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Dangerous Stage by Camy Tang

A Dangerous StageExcellent book! This continues the story of Tessa, ex-enforcer for her yakuza uncle and ex-con.  It's about a year after the first book ends and Tessa is thrown back together with Charles, an attorney and the man she can't forgive for making sure she served her maximum time in prison.  Tessa's hired to protect a contestant on a popular singing show and his daughter after she sees something she wasn't supposed to see as Charles tries to investigate who's behind the assassination attempts.

With multiple attempts on the daughter's life, Tessa has her hands full and there's plenty of action from fights to car chases!  Charles decides he needs to move on from Tessa and starts to date, but will he fall for someone more suitable to his career?  Will he put his career or his heart first? Will Tessa ever be able to forgive him?

I enjoyed this story as much as the first! I love the mix of romance, suspense, and humor with Japanese culture thrown in, which is something you don't see every day.  The investigation kept my interest as they discussed the ins and outs of computer hacking and there were some great moments with Charles and Tessa, though I wish there were more! I also liked how they both had to deal with some tough issues going back to their childhoods and how it's still affecting them today.  I would suggest reading  Protection for Hire first so you understand the back story for these characters.  I can't wait for Camy's next book!

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

Zondervan-Dangerous Stage link

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Lesson by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Lesson This was an amusing story about Mary Kate Lapp, an Amish girl who gets into trouble wherever she turns!  She yearns for the exciting world outside of her little town when she discovers a man who's possibly been murdered.  Then she accidentally hits the schoolteacher with her scooter and she's roped into taking over her classes for a few weeks.  It's her worst nightmare!

There's some romance as she meets a new stranger to town. Does he have anything to do with the dead man?  Why is he so secretive?

This is book three in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, but it didn't feel confusing to read this on its own.   I liked Mary Kate; she's a feisty character and a lot of fun.  This felt like it was geared more for young adult readers, which I wasn't expecting and I wished the mystery would have lasted longer than it did.  I thought the back story and issues involving the stranger and his sister were interesting and gave the story a unique twist. Overall, I enjoyed this story and plan to read the first two. 

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Favorites of 2012!

With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale, #1)My Stubborn Heart
The Widow of Saunders Creek: A NovelGone to Ground: A NovelHalflings (Halflings, #1)Soul's GateA Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love StoryWildflowers from Winter: A NovelCourting CateShort-Straw Bride
                                                        These were some of my favorites published in 2012.  I'm still going to do reviews of My Stubborn Heart and Courting Cate.  I've been having a lot of fun seeing other top 10 lists and adding more to my TBR pile!  Happy Reading!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Protection For Hire by Camy Tang

  I really enjoyed this story about Tessa Lancaster, a former enforcer for her uncle's Japanese mafia gang, or yakuza, and Christian of three years.  She went to prison for seven years for a murder she didn't commit to protect her cousin, and that's where she became a Christian.  Now that she's released, she's trying to go straight but not having too much luck.  No one wants to hire her because they're afraid of what she used to do and her connections to the yakuza.

Through her volunteer work at a shelter for abused women, she meets Elizabeth St. Amant and her son.  They are in hiding from her husband and Elizabeth hires Tessa to be their bodyguard.  She also hires Charles Britton, an attorney and old family friend, to file her divorce papers and get her inheritance money back from her husband. Tessa doesn't know that Charles is also the man who made sure she would serve the maximum time behind bars.  They're drawn to each other, but Charles doesn't think he can trust her and he knows he can't trust her family.  Tessa feels torn between Charles and not wanting to betray her uncle.

This is an exciting, romantic read. It had some good action scenes and I loved seeing Tessa trying to show God's love to her mom and sister when they drive her crazy instead of reacting the way she used to.  I really liked Tessa and Charles and there were some amusing secondary characters, too.  There's a slight mystery concerning Elizabeth and the Japanese yakuza plot line makes for a unique story.  This is book one in the Protection for Hire series and I'm excited to read the next one in a few days! I definitely recommend this book!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman

A Marriage Carol  This is a very cool re-imagination of a Christmas Carol!  It's Christmas Eve and Marlee and Jacob, a married couple, are on their way to get a divorce. They've been married for twenty years and have three beautiful children, but have drifted apart and can't see any way back.

As they take a shortcut on an icy road, Jacob loses control and they end up in a snowbank.  When Marlee comes to, Jacob is nowhere to be found and she goes searching.  She sees a house up on a hill and makes her way there.  The old man who answers is very welcoming and searches for Jacob, but no luck.  As Marlee worries about where Jacob is and if he's okay, she's shown visions of her past, present, and future.  Will she learn from them? Will she choose a different path or is it too late to save their marriage?

I really liked the twist on a Christmas Carol.  The writing is very good and the message so important. You might recognize Gary Chapman as the author of The Five Love Languages, a huge bestseller on marriage.  This is a great short story that will make you think!

I received this free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Moody Publishers-Marriage Carol