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!