Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Point: the Redemption of Oban Ironbout by William E. Jefferson


I had a very hard time getting through this book.  It's the story of a couple who have been traveling around and decide to visit the Isle of Estillyen, a retreat where monks perform these readings based on Scripture about the importance of words.  While there, they meet a mysterious hermit named Oban Ironbout who gets violent when people come onto his property.  Goodwin, the husband, feels drawn to the point, where this man lives.  His grandfather told him many times about this place and wanted him to go there.  He persists in visiting and Goodwin and his wife form an odd friendship with Oban.  The difference they bring to his life ultimately results in a shocking revelation for Goodwin. 

This is a very unique book because large parts of it are the readings, where a monk talks about Scripture and words, a voice asks questions, and another monk plays the part of Lucifer.  While there are some good points made, it seems odd.  The parts of Lucifer, especially, sometimes rhyme and go on for a while, which makes me view him as ridiculous.  It felt like the dialogue went on too long in many of the conversations.  I also had a hard time caring about the characters.  Maybe this just isn't my kind of book.  If you're looking for something very different, you might want to check this out.

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

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate by Diana Wallis Taylor

 Cover Art  This is an interesting fictional account of Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate and believed to be the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus.  She's mentioned in one of the gospels when she has a dream about Jesus before He was tried by her husband and tried to warn him to not have anything to do with Him.  The story starts out with her as a child, banished with her mother and grandmother because of her mother's indiscretions.  When she's a teenager she's brought to the new emperor Tiberius as his ward.  She lives in the palace and wonders what's to become of her.  She's finally married to Pontius Pilate and moves with him to Judea where he must try to keep the peace between the Romans and Jews.  When Jesus comes on the scene, tensions mount and she wonders if He is who He says He is and the effect this could have on her family and the people.

This is a well-written story about a very hard time to be a woman.  Having no say in who she'd marry or what her life will be like, Claudia must make the best of it.  She had some very hard things happen to her and I admired her resilience and determination to help her husband even when he made some huge mistakes.  It's always interesting to learn what a Biblical character may have been like and I feel I understand her and Pilate a bit better.  I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading her other Biblical novels!    

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

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

The World of Jesus by Dr. William H. Marty

Cover Art This is a very interesting book about what was happening in the four hundred years between the Old and New Testament and continuing on into the life of Jesus and the early church.  The author explains about the different nations, such as the Persians and the Babylonians, that conquered Israel and how that came about.  He uses Scripture and fits the stories of the Bible into the time period and culture they belong to.  We also see what kind of political and spiritual climate the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots came out of.  Each chapter has a chronology of events and discussion questions that really make you think.

I learned so much while reading this book.  I knew some about the Herods and the Maccabees, but motives and repercussions were explained clearly.  I feel I understand more about what was happening in Jesus' day behind the scenes.   Check out this informative book!

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ripples Along the Shore by Mona Hodgson

Ripples Along the Shore This is a cute novella about a widow wanting to make a new life for herself.  Caroline Milburn lost her husband in the Civil War and is now living with her sister and her family.  Though she loves her sister and nieces and nephews, she has a hard time watching her brother-in-law treat his family so harshly.  He also makes her feel that she is imposing on them.  When she finds out about a wagon train heading west, she starts to wonder if she should go, too.

Garrett Cowlishaw is going to be leading a wagon train for the first time, though this is his third trip on one.  He knows how difficult it can be and wants to make sure people are prepared.  He's drawn to Caroline but doesn't plan on marrying again.  Not that she's interested because of him fighting for the South and her husband fighting and dying for the North.  He is hesitant to let her go on the trip alone, though she has many good friends going.  He feels it's too dangerous, for her life and his heart.

This is the third story in the Quilted Heart series and it is easily read as a stand-alone.  I did enjoy catching up with the rest of the ladies from the quilting circle and seeing who's planning to go on the wagon train and who's staying behind.  This story definitely felt like a beginning and wasn't wrapped up like the first two in the series.  I really liked both of the main characters and hope their story will be continued in her new series, Hearts Seeking Home, which will start with the journey west on the wagon train. I'm looking forward to meeting up with the rest of them soon, as the first book is due out this summer!

This is only available as an e-book.

I received this e-book free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Check out more about the book here: Waterbrook

Please rate my review!  I really appreciate it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rainbows for Rainy Days by Catherine Campbell

  This is a wonderful hardcover devotional that focuses on God's promises, especially ones that might not be so obvious!  It features forty devotions two or three pages each with color photographs.  There's a verse given first, then a personal story that leads into the devotion. The author has lost two children, so she when she talks about hard times, she knows.  You can feel that she understands and that she's encouraging you to make it through, too.

I found this book to be just what I needed to read.  So many of the devotions felt like they were directed at me and I found new insight into verses I've heard all of my life.  I came away refreshed, encouraged, and reminded of who God is and that I'm never alone. This is definitely one I would want to read again.  The pictures were gorgeous and this would make a wonderful gift!

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson This is an eye-opening story about what life might have been like for an Irish immigrant to America in the early 1900's.  Grace McCaffery is saved from the workhouse in Ireland, where she has lived for almost half her life, when her mother marries a policeman and he sponsors her to go to America.  As she settles into her new home and new job as a nanny and housekeeper, she vows to earn enough money so her mother can get away from the cop she had to marry and come to America, too.

Grace has her hands full with three kids to take care of and a household to manage, but she finds time to get herself into trouble!  She becomes fascinated with photography, a new art form, and buys the new Brownie camera.  Soon gangsters believe she took a picture of their leader and she finds herself in danger.  Owen, one of the few cops who's not crooked, is trying to bring down the gang and look out for Grace.  When his father falls ill, he's torn between his calling and his obligation to the family business.  Will Grace learn to trust God and that not all policemen are crooked?  Which path will Owen choose?

The early 1900's really came to life for me while reading this novel.  I found it fascinating to see the attitudes that were prevalent toward immigrants and people of a lower class.  It felt like the story meandered a bit and I also wished for more of a relationship and romance between Owen and Grace.  I liked that the importance of what you believe about yourself is shown, from repeating negative things someone's told you to realizing that's not the truth. I can see that Cindy is a talented writer and I look forward to reading her future books in this series!

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

Author Q & A
About the Author . . .
Cindy Thomson
is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast.
Her love of history and her Scots
-Irish heritage have inspired
much of her writing. In addition to books, Cindy has written articles for numerous online and print
publications. She is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and a
member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Sciety. Cindy
and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio.
What was your inspiration for this book,
Grace’s Pictures?
When the Brownie Camera was introduced, it changed photography forever. What
was before expensive and not very portable, suddenly became available for the
average person. I read a contemporary commentary that
expressed the concern that with everyone carrying
a camera, someone could have his/her photograph taken without permission, and what an
invasion of privacy that would be. That got me thinking...what if that happened, and at a time before there were
very many mug shots available of criminals.
I love writing about immigrants because their stories are a part of who we
are today. If not for their bravery and ingenuity,
our lives would be much
different today, and probably more difficult
Tell me about
your main character, Grace McCaffery.
Was her character based upon anyone in particular?
Grace comes to America wounded by her experiences of having an abusive father,
being evicted from her home by the police, and then
having to survive in a workhouse.
When her mother gets remarried, to a policeman no less,
Grace is horrified. In her mind, avoiding the kind of people who hurt you is the only way to stay safe. When she is
sent to America to start a new life, she is not certain she wants to go.
She wishes for the confidence and joy she
sees in others around her, and she tries to capture it in drawings and snapshots so she can better study it.
I know a lot of people, me for one, who would rather observe for a while before stepping out and trying something new. But historically, immigrants could not do that. They were thrust into change and had to adapt and endure.
Grace, like most fictional characters, is not based on any
particular person. She is a conglomeration of our
grandmothers and great-grandmothers who came to this country seeking
a better life, but without many options
to support themselves. They must have been frightened at first by this vast new country, but somehow they
overcame that fear and founded our American families.
What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
A lesson that I hope is
learned in this story is that God provides what we need, but many
times it requires us to put aside our
preconceived ideas. No matter what disadvantages
we start with, we can turn things around, with God’shelp.
How do you expect Grace’s story to resonate with women?
Grace, young woman who was
not nurtured much as a child, becomes a nurturer. She is a nanny with a role that
becomes essential for the children she cares for.
I think most women are nurturers. Unfortunately,Grace had a far
from ideal childhood. I think many women struggle with not
having been nurtured themselves. Grace’s story
illustrates the hope that God
can turn that around, and even in unexpected ways. Grace meets someone who cares
for her, who just happens to work in that dreaded occupation
—a policeman.
As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved learning about Ellis Island, visiting New York City, and imagining those immigrants of the early 
20th century moving along
the same paths I was exploring. I loved writing about how the children Grace cared for helped to
change her. History is fascinating to me, and it's a privilege
to be able to write about it.
What is your hope for this story?
How would you like it to impact readers?
I hope readers will be transported to a time in history when everything was changing at a rapid pace and
experience a bit of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I would like
readers, through
Grace’s Pictures,to not only appreciate the sacrifices their ancestors made, but also find the courage to meet 
their own challenges
— everyone has them.
How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?
Grace was at first a difficult character to figure out. I had a loving father who passed away
a few months before I started working on this book. Grace, who did not have
a loving father, stretched me a bit, but it was good to
explore what life was like for her and try to imagine how someone like her
could not only survive but thrive.
What is it about this time period in history that made you want to write about it?
New inventions were constantly popping up, things that we
take for granted today. For instance, telephones were
becoming more widely available, but immigrants were not familiar with them. Same with electricity.
There was a huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and the middle class was the minority.
Monopolies were not yet forbidden.
The rich were extremely rich. The poor were extremely poor, and the conditions in the tenements 
were disgraceful. And yet, this was not overlooked. There were gangs and corrupt police, but also
scores of charities
working hard to protect, educate, and care for immigrants. And it was also a time period of huge numbers of
immigrants coming to the country,
most through Ellis Island, so in
that way this time period has impacted a great many Americans today. 
What lessons can we learn from the pages of historical fiction?
The Bible tells us, “Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly  way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls”
 (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT)
Historical fiction uses the power of story to helps find those
old ways. We deceive ourselves if we think no one has experienced the struggles we have. Someone
has. Why not learn those stories and be led by them?
10. What is one of the best pieces of
advice or encouragement you have received?
I’m always open to sound advice. Here is one that has encouraged me. It’s from a tea bag quote.
A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.
~Joyce A. Meyers
Check out Cindy's blog:

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Monday, June 24, 2013

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Slow Moon Rising by Eva Marie Everson

Cover Art This is an interesting, emotional book that tells the story of four sisters and their step-mother over a little more than a decade.  We get each of their perspectives as the story switches between them, jumping ahead in time with each one.  Anise falls for a man over twenty years her senior in a whirlwind courtship and finds herself a step-mother to four women.  Kimberly, the oldest, and Heather, the third, are married with children and have seemingly perfect lives, but not is all as it seems.  Jayme-Leigh is a doctor like her father with a great husband, but has a secret pain she hasn't shared with her family.  The youngest, Ami, has been burdened with a secret her mother shared on her deathbed.  Through the years, their getaways to their summer home in Cedar Key has brought renewal and healing, but also may be the key to a secret that could tear their family apart.

I really liked the different perspectives and that we learn more of each of their stories and of the family as a whole as the story progresses.  It is well-written and the characters became very real to me.  I found myself really liking some of the characters and feeling very frustrated at one in particular!  Though this is the third in the series, I didn't feel lost at all for not having read the first two.  This book deals with a lot of issues, which I found interesting, but also felt draining for me.  I get too emotionally involved when I read!  I did enjoy it and plan to look for more from this new author to me!

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

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

Touching Heaven by Leanne Hadley

 Cover Art  This is a very touching book about a chaplain's real experiences with children who were dying.  Each chapter is the story of a child who touched her life and taught her a lesson along the way.  Leanne was a chaplain in a children's hospital and many of the kids she spent time with were sick for a long time and were in and out of the hospital.  Some of the children saw angels or had dreams of heaven, but all were comforted and died peacefully.  She points out that she doesn't know why children die, but that God was with each one loving them.

I cried many times while reading these stories and while they were sad, they were also comforting and full of hope.  A few of the stories really amazed me of how wise and forgiving these children were.  There's a line at the end of the book that did make me question whether Leanne believes everyone goes to heaven, but I could have misinterpreted that; the book doesn't deal with theology or doctrine.  I recommend this book, especially if you're interested in true stories about death and the life after.

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

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Red Dawn Rising by Sue Duffy + Free for Kindle on Friday

This is a fast-paced suspense novel about spies, sleeper agents, and a Russian plot for world domination!  Cass Rodino becomes suspicious that her step-father is being unfaithful to her mother but when she follows him, she ends up in the middle of an international plot!  Along with her good friend Jordan, she tracks down answers and her path crosses with a famous pianist in danger and a former KGB assassin who is trying to protect her.  They go on the run to track down the man behind it all and stop a huge terrorist attack before they become victims themselves.  Cass also struggles with a painful past and longs to be forgiven, but knows it's impossible.  Will the faith of her new friend open her eyes to the possibility of forgiveness and love?

There is never a dull moment in this action-packed story!  I had a hard time putting it down because  I wanted to see what would happen next.  I liked the characters, especially Jordan for his comic relief!  There's a little bit of romance, but the focus is the suspense.  I also liked how we see different perspectives of what's happening, from the White House to the sleeper agents to the main characters.  This is book two, but I didn't feel lost for not having read book one.  The story feels complete in this book, but I do want to go back and read book one because I guessed that the story focuses on the pianist and the assassin and I want to find out their backstory and about her romance.  Check out this exciting story!

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

I posted yesterday about this being free for Kindle and today is the last day for that!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Cowboy at Heart by Lori Copeland & Virginia Smith

book title front  This is a satisfying conclusion in the Amish of Apple Grove trilogy!  Jesse Montgomery has mended his ways, turning from alcohol to God and staying with his friends while he got sober.  When he finds out his Amish friend Jonas is being forced off his land, he tries to intervene and is shot.  Widow Katie Miller is the healer in the district and comes to nurse him back to health.  They're attracted to each other, but there are more obstacles to their being together than just the differences in their faith. 

I really liked the characters in this story.  I've read book two and it was fun to see the changes in Jesse from that book.  The discussions about resisting evil and living a life of peace were very interesting, especially regarding something as serious as losing your farm and livelihood.  I wished there was more to the romance and relationship between Jesse and Katie.  This story works as a stand-alone and is more serious than the second book, but I enjoyed the issues discussed.  There's also a bonus short story about Jonas as a young man, which was sweet.  Check out this well-written novel, especially if you like Amish stories!

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

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

That Summer by Jo Huddleston

  To escape his poppa’s physical abuse and their dirt-poor farm life, Jim flees to an imagined prosperous city life where he can make his own choices, ignoring God patiently knocking on his heart’s door. Settled in town, Jim strays from God and the way of faith his momma taught him. He meets a girl and loses his heart … and meets another girl and loses his willpower. Jim wrestles with social and moral dilemmas as he makes a choice beside Caney Creek that will alter the lives of five people. (Back cover description)

This is an interesting story about the impact our choices can make on our life and the lives of others.  I liked learning about this time period and found myself caring a lot about Jim and his family.  I especially liked how faith and prayer are so important in the story.  This was a fast-paced novel that kept my attention!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

Cover Art This is a mystery I couldn't figure out!  When Kate Adams' good friend and mentor dies, she doesn't believe the rumor that she killed herself and she doesn't believe it could be an accident either.  She knows she was murdered, but has no idea why.  She confronts Tom Parker, the new detective in town, about why the case is closed and vows to catch the killer herself.  Tom is trying to lay low after leaving the FBI, especially since his coworkers aren't too happy to have him there.  He thinks Kate may be right so he starts to investigate, but can he rule her out as a suspect or is he blinded by the feelings he has for her? With so many suspects and so many motives, is this one case that will remain unsolved?

There were so many suspects and characters I had a hard time keeping track of who was who, but I liked that it was hard to figure out. Kate bothered me because she kept making illogical decisions and putting herself in danger.  She would be so sure of a suspect without proof and then suddenly change her mind and be so sure of another one.  I liked the romance, but wished for more.  I also liked the focus on the herbal teas and what each herb was for.  This was an intriguing story!

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

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

Check out Sandra's website for bonus features!

A Simple Song by Melody Carlson

Cover Art  This is a unique story about an Amish girl who decides to compete in a show like American Idol.  Her father is in a lot of pain after an injury and she finds out that just getting into the top eight would mean money for a surgery he needs.  Her friend Bekka talks her into it, along with one of her brothers and she heads to Hollywood to be on the show.  Will she be talented enough to last as long as she needs to?  Will she have to give up her Amish ways for the show and will she be able to go back home when it's all over?

The plot intrigued me and it was amusing to see am Amish girl try to navigate not only the big city, but also a competitive singing show.  I liked the different situations she had to deal with and the hint of romance.  I did get a little tired of the descriptions of rehearsals and performances, but I'm not that into watching shows like this.  I could see other people finding it interesting.  This is written for teens and it definitely felt like it, with more simplistic writing and depth.  I think women who like Amish stories and younger teens would probably enjoy this.

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

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime by Lois Rock

  This is a very cute sticker and activity book for kids.  It tells the story of Noah's Ark while keeping children's hands occupied with matching stickers to shapes.  There's also a matching game, mini board game, spot the difference game, and counting game! 

Kids can decorate a paper ark after using the recipe included to make a gingerbread ark.  The artwork and stickers are very colorful.  It's not recommended for kids under three years.  You should definitely check out this adorable book for the kids in your life!

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