Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor #1) by Roseanna M. White

Title: The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor #1)
Author: Roseanna M. White
Pages: 439
Year: 2015
Genre: Romantic Mystery
Publisher: Bethany House
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Sweeping romance and mystery in the Edwardian Era.

     Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. When her friend Justin uncovers the fact that she is possibly a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea and the estate of her supposed family.

     The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close – but will their loyalty come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother?

     As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that their friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

     And then for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession – and those who can save her still aren’t sure whom to trust.

My review:

     An excellent Edwardian Era romance novel!

     There are a number of incredible characters in this book. They are so well developed and with such a variety of personalities that I was intrigued by a lot of them. I loved both of the main characters, Brook and Justin, as well as their relationship with each other. I was caught up in the story of how they came to be friends and was pulling for them to sort things out and reach a happily-ever-after ending to their story.

     I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the servants and the nobility interacted with each other. Each person had their own place and they stayed there. It was also nice to see the bit of hesitation that Brook had as she was trying to figure out how things were done in this new environment to her.

     There was just enough suspense and intrigue going on behind the romance to help captivate my interest. It was a nice balance of danger and secrecy scattered throughout the book. There were a number of characters in the beginning that it was impossible to tell if they were going to be part of the good side or the evil side. I was left guessing until late in the story for some of them.

     I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. I have to give this wonderful book a rating of 5 stars. Along with that I’m highly recommending it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Elf by Renae Brumbaugh

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Elf
Author: Renae Brumbaugh
Pages: 70
Release Date: November 15, 2015
Genre: School Age (7-12 year olds)
Publisher: Armonia Publishing
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free copy of this eBook through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Most of you reading this have a sweet, cozy picture of what goes on at the North Pole. Cute little elves, tra-la-la-ing as they build wooden train sets, play with sample toys, and paint eyelashes on dollies. And while some of that does take place, let me just say . . . that doesn’t even begin to describe life at the North Pole. This book is my personal diary. It’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me Rudolph. So if you’re happy with your cozy little half-picture, walk away. This book is NOT for you. And that’s okay . . . ignorance is bliss, and believe me, I’d love to have a little more bliss in my life. But if you want to know what REALLY goes on up here . . . buy this book. Read it. And then say a prayer for me, because I need all the prayers I can get. Because life as an elf . . . it’s harrowing.

My review:

     This is an adorable look at life at the North Pole.

     Are elves real people?

     Do they have feelings and deal with relationship issues like the rest of us?

     This is an amusing look into what life may be like for the cute Santa’s helpers. All the stories I’ve ever read or seen about Santa and his helpers portrays them as happy-go-lucky cheerful little people that only want to help get the toys ready for Christmas. If you don’t want that image messed with you may not want to read this book.

     The main character is Kirby and he has a lot to deal with throughout the year. His diary takes you along with him as he goes. One of the main issues he deals with is bullying. This is such a common problem for school children. I really like how it is handled here. This is a very cute book and I really enjoyed the illustrations that are interspersed throughout it.

     I’m giving this darling book a rating of 5 stars. I do want to recommend it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Whole World Is Changing... And I'm Too Hot to Care by Martha Bolton

Title: The Whole World is Changing... and I’m Too Hot to Care
Author: Martha Bolton
Pages: 256
Year: 2015
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this book through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     In a world that is constantly changing, there is one thing that remains constant – the power of laughter. Since we can’t stop all the changes that keep happening to our bodies and our world as we live life on the north side of fifty, we can still laugh and learn from them. So if you love recalling the fun and simplicity of yesteryear, if you enjoyed other humor books about “middle age” by Martha Bolton, then you’ll love The Whole World is Changing…and I’m Too Hot to Care. You’ll laugh, you might even cry, and even though you still won’t be able to stop the world or your body from changing, after reading this light-hearted take on aging and life, the changes might not bother you as much.

My review:

     This is a humorous look at life after 50.

     The first half of the book was chock-full of humor and the problems of being over 50-years-old. At times it felt like the humor was being overdone during this portion of the book.

     Near the end of each part of the book there is an interview with someone else that is connected with comedy work in some way. Each one of them was asked the same set of questions. I enjoyed reading what each of these individuals said.

     Then the later portion of the book was focusing on sharing some practical suggestions to living life well after the age of 50. There was very little humor in this part. I feel that it would have been an easier book to read through if there had been more of a balance between the humor and the practical suggestions throughout the entire book.

     I’ve decided to give this book a 4 star rating because of the lopsided way it is arranged. It did give some great laughs and the suggestions were great so I do want to recommend it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Christmas Quilt (Quilts of Love #11) by Vannetta Chapman + A GIVEAWAY!

Title: The Christmas Quilt (Quilts of Love #11)
Author: Vannetta Chapman
Pages: 247
Year: 2013
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)

About the book:

     Babies have their own schedule.

     But so does God.

     Annie’s life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community’s minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife. And most days, she finds herself taking the buggy to her brother Adam’s home.

     When her friend Leah is due to deliver her first child before Christmas, Annie becomes determined to finish a crib quilt before the boppli arrives. But God’s plans are different from Annie’s, and she may not finish the quilt in time. As each piece of the quilt comes together, Annie discovers the quilt holds far greater significance than she ever imagined.

My review:

     I LOVED this Amish Christmas novel!

     Though this book is part of a series, each novel in it is a stand-alone story so they can be read in any order.

     The characters are well developed and easy to relate with. There are two main couples that are the focal point of the story. At the beginning of the book they get married in a double wedding. We have Annie and her husband Samuel, who are part of the community’s “medical” care team. The second couple is Annie’s brother Adam and his new wife, Leah.

     The story focuses on growth and maturing during a time of hardship. I truly enjoyed reading about how the whole community came around and helped the young family to deal with what they were going through. It was wonderful seeing how each person turned to God and sought Him and His help. He became their source of peace and strength.

     One aspect of the story that I got so much pleasure out of was the series of stories that Annie and Leah were telling. They did have some help from others as they were going through the process of relating stories about the nine different gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. The way that Vannetta brought this into the story and then tied everything together with this was fantastic.

     I am highly recommending this book and here on my blog it is getting 10 stars for the incredible entertainment combined with the wonderful spiritual content.

Giveaway Information:

     This is my first time doing a giveaway. I hope it goes smoothly.

     Leave a comment on this post and you will be entered to win a copy of this fantastic book. Please include in your comment your email address so that I can contact you if you are the winner. Suggested format: debbie (at) yahoo (dot) com

     I will leave it open for one week. Next Saturday, December 12, 2015, I will use Random.org to draw the winner. I will then send an email to the winner to get their mailing address. I will give them 3 days to contact me before drawing another winner. I hope to mail the book out at the beginning of the following week so they will have it before Christmas. After confirming the winner I will announce their name here on my blog.

     Good luck.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie

Title: The Sparkle Box
Author: Jill Hardie
Illustrator: Christine Kornacki
Pages: 32
Year: 2012
Genre: Children’s Illustrated
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Format: Hardback
Note: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Sam can’t wait for Christmas! He’s excited about the parties, the food, and, of course, the presents. One gift has him especially curious – a sparkling silver box on the mantel. Sam’s parents will only tell him that the Sparkle Box is a special gift they will open together, but that they need to fill it first. Meanwhile, as Sam and his family give to people in need throughout the season, he starts to see how fortunate he really is. And on Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the mysterious Sparkle Box, what he finds inside sheds light on the true meaning of Christmas.

My review:

     This is a delightful children’s book.

     The story is very simple and a wonderful reminder as to one of the biggest joys of Christmastime. In my mind that is being able to bless others. I love the way that the parents teach their son through example and then let him figure out how much joy it brings himself.

     The illustrations are beautifully done. They are very crisp and clear.

     I am giving the sweet story a rating of 5 stars and recommending it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Without Proof (Redemption's Edge #3) by Janet Sketchley

Title: Without Proof (Redemption’s Edge #3)
Author: Janet Sketchley
Pages: 308
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Self-published
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Two years after the plane crash that killed her fiancé, Amy Silver has fallen for his best friend, artist Michael Stratton. When a local reporter claims the small aircraft may have been sabotaged, it reopens Amy’s grief.

     Anonymous warnings and threats are Amy’s only proof that the tragedy was deliberate, and she has nowhere to turn. The authorities don’t believe her, God is not an option, and Michael’s protection is starting to feel like a cage.

     How will Amy find the truth?

     Michael’s feisty great-aunt and the dead man’s university-student sister are the other key players in this Christian romantic suspense set in Nova Scotia, Canada.

My review:

     This is a wonderful romantic suspense novel.

     I sympathized with Amy Silver from the moment I met her. She is such a well developed character carrying so much hurt and confusion. She has chronic pain to deal with on a daily basis. Along with that is heartache both from the accident she lost her fiancé in and from her childhood. She wants desperately to truly belong and know that she is loved for who she is. Part of what prevents this is her family background.

     The first half of the book focuses mainly on this search while giving glimpses into the mystery that slowly builds. Then in the second half the suspense builds as does the danger that Amy and the two people she lives with are in. There are a number of twists about who can be trusted and who can’t.

     The story really kept my interest throughout. I have never read anything by this author before. After reading this book I will be looking for her other stories.

     I’m giving this book a rating of 5 stars and recommending it.

     I do want to state clearly for those that don’t like to read books that “preach” to them. There is a lot of discussion about the grace of God and His love. The gospel message is spelled out very clearly. It is very appropriate within the type of story this is and very tastefully done in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Every Girl Gets Confused (Brides with Style #2) by Janice Thompson

Title: Every Girl Gets Confused (Brides with Style #2)
Author: Janice Thomspon
Pages: 336
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     How can she choose between the love she thought she lost and the love she stumbled upon in the aftermath?

     Katie Fisher and Brady James may be a match made in heaven, but that doesn’t seem to guarantee them a happily ever after accompanied by angelic choirs. Katie’s almost-fiancé Casey is back in Fairfield, ready to rekindle their relationship. And there’s nothing Katie’s parents want more than for their small-town girl to leave Dallas and come home for good.

     But can she really leave Brady behind? And will she ever be able to wear that gorgeous wedding dress she won?

My review:

     This is a delightful romantic comedy!

     This is part of a “true” series. You should take the time to read the first book of the series before this one.

     That said I have to admit that I didn’t realize this until I was about 50 pages into this book. I haven’t read book one and in many ways I was the confused girl because I didn’t know who all the characters were and how inter-connected they all are. I loved the story anyway and was able to follow what was going on within this particular book fairly well.

     There are so many very quirky characters of lots of different ages that it was a joy to try and figure them all out. A lot of the humor seemed to me to be based upon elderly people not understanding technology. For example Aunt Alva fell in love with the “radio program” that Katie listened to.

     There were plenty of people falling in love and sorting out their relationships. Most of them had funny missteps along the way to keep the amusement level high.

     Mixed in with all of the humor there is some healthy soul-searching and maturing done by a few of the characters. This makes for a nice blend of light-hearted laughter and encouragement to help the reader remember that growing up emotionally is part of life.

     I will definitely be going back and reading the first book. Then I’ll be looking for more titles in this very humorous series. This books is getting a 5 star rating from me and I’m highly recommending it. Just take time to read the first book before this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

Title: The Christmas Joy Ride
Author: Melody Carlson
Pages: 176
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Christmas Story
Publisher: Revell
Format: Hardback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Miranda did not put adventure on her Christmas list, but thanks to her eighty-five-year-old neighbor Joy, that’s exactly what she’s getting this year. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix – in the dead of winter, no less – the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off with Joy toward Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride – one that could derail the whole venture.

     No one captures the heartwarming fun of the Christmas season quite like Melody Carlson. Fasten your seat belt, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!

     “I’m going on a mission, Miranda. I’m going out to spread some Christmas joy along Route 66. And no one is going to stop me.”
     “But you can’t go driving across the entire country in the middle of winter and –“
     “I can and I will,” Joy declared stubbornly . . .
     “I think it’s a totally outrageous plan. I can’t bear the thought of you being out there by yourself – and at your age too. I’ll be scared sick about you being on the road . . .”
     Joy had an idea, and she knew this was her chance. She had to give it one good try. “And that is exactly why I want you to come along with me, Miranda.”

My review:

     A delightful story filled with Christmas spirit.

     Joy Jorgenson is a very sweet and quirky woman. Her greatest joy is bringing joy to others. She has a blog called Christmas Joy where she shares holiday tips and advice. After running a contest on her blog to find people who need help celebrating Christmas she wants to deliver the prizes in person. I really loved this wonderful character and how she was able to thoroughly plan each person’s special Christmas surprise.

     There was such a wonderful variety of people that she chose to bless it was fun to read the different stories. Though they were all going through hard times of one type or another they embraced the festivities of the holiday season. Some of them did take a little persuading first.

     This story was a wonderful reminder that we should try to bring love and joy to others during the Christmas season.

     I loved this story and am highly recommending it. It gets a 5 star rating from me.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

Title: Keeping Christmas
Author: Dan Walsh
Pages: 224
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Christmas Story
Publisher: Revell
Format: Hardback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Nothing is more beautiful than family.

     For the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it’s looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can’t bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure, the ornaments were strange-looking – some were downright ugly – but they were tradition.

     With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan’s only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments . . .

     Stan opened the ugly ornaments box and pulled out the top three ornaments, the ones wrapped in green paper, the kids’ favorites, and set them on the coffee table.
     He picked up the first one, the biggest one – Anna’s blue pinecone – and began to unwrap it. Without thinking, Judith walked up, stopped him, and gently took it out of his hand. She wrapped it back up, set it carefully in the box. Then picked up the other two ornaments, put them in the box, and closed the flaps.
     “What’s the matter?” Stan said. “Did I do something wrong?”
     “I don’t think I can do this.”

My review:

     This is a new Christmas favorite!

     I absolutely LOVE this story! The main characters are some of the most well written ones I’ve ever met. I felt an almost immediate connection especially with Judith. My heart was breaking for her throughout most of the story.

     There were some wonderful discussion about how disappointments in how family relationships can develop. They can affect people for the rest of their lives. This is so much a part of life for everyone. I found the way it was handled and how close friends stepped in to help very encouraging. We can all learn something from this wonderfully heart-warming story. I may very well find myself re-reading this book every year. This story would make a great Christmas movie.

     This is another book that has touched me so much I have to give it 10 stars here on my blog. I basically read it straight through with minimal breaks. You won’t go wrong in spending a few hours of your leisure time with these wonderful people.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck

Title: The Wedding Chapel
Author: Rachel Hauck
Pages: 384
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Historical (1948)/Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Zondervan
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     A lonely wedding chapel built as a tribute to lost love just might hold the long-awaited secret to hope and reconciliation.

     For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty. Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago. The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.

     Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee to make a new life for herself in New York. Taylor had lots to run away from, not the least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams. Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement – and then to second guesses. Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her.

     When Taylor takes a photography assignment in Heart’s Bend, she is thrown back into her own past and encounters family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time. And when Taylor and Coach’s journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth waiting for.

My review:

     An intricately woven historical/contemporary romance!

     The cast of characters in this wonderful novel are extremely well developed and presented. There is an amazing variety of past hurts and hang-ups that define their personalities.

     Early in the story I struggled a little trying to keep the different people straight and understand their relationships. As the tale unfolded and I learned more of the layers, the pieces started to fit together. By the end of the book I truly understood what a masterpiece of storytelling had been done by Rachel Hauck.

     This novel is a very moving tale of reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness. At times it is heart-wrenching. At other times it is sweet and heart-warming.

     I thoroughly enjoyed this emotional journey. I’m giving it a 5 star rating and highly recommending it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vendetta (The Nikki Boyd Files #1) by Lisa Harris

Title: Vendetta (The Nikki Boyd Files #1)
Author: Lisa Harris
Pages: 304
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     No one needs to push Nikki Boyd to excel on the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. The case of her own missing sister, still unsolved after ten years, is the driving force in her work. When a Polaroid photo of a missing girl shows up at a crime scene, Nikki quickly recognizes similarities to the past. The closer she gets to the abductor, the more she feels this case has become personal, and she is not the hunter . . . but the hunted.

     With this explosive first book in The Nikki Boyd Files, award-winning author Lisa Harris takes you on a fast-paced pursuit of justice that will have you holding your breath until the heart-stopping finish.

My review:

     This is a fantastic romantic suspense novel!

     I thoroughly enjoyed both Nikki Boyd and Tyler Grant from the very beginning of the book. They are each dealing with grief and trying to figure out how to deal with that while continuing with all that they have to do to carry on with life. They have a fairly long term friendship already and they are able to work together as sounding boards for each other through this process. A couple of issues they discuss are blaming themselves and holding onto their belief in God.

     The main storyline is the abduction of a teenage girl and trying to solve the case. It is very well crafted with lots of twists and turns in it. We are left guessing until very late in the book. Then when the perpetrator is revealed the suspense doesn’t end right away. We still have to wait to see how he is caught and the finding of the missing girl.

     There were a couple of points that the repetition about Sarah’s abduction in the past pushed the limits. Sometimes it didn’t give additional information about it and just repeated what had been said before. This didn’t detract from the story for me so I haven’t let it affect my star rating.

     I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes for Nikki in the rest of this series. Too bad I have to wait for Lisa Harris to write those books.

     I am giving this novel a 5 star rating and highly recommending it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Substitute Bride (O Little Town of Christmas Novella) by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Title: The Substitute Bride (O Little Town of Christmas Novella)
Author: Carrie Fancett Pagels
Pages: 94
Release Date: October 11, 2015
Genre: Christmas Novella
Publisher: Hearts Overcoming Press
Format: eBook

About the book:

     A Christmas Carol meets It’s a Wonderful Life

     A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride. At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return – where Christmas past was full of pain. A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so – will God bring healing and love to him this year?

My review:

     This is a very sweet Christmas novella.

     Carrie has once again created very sweet characters. Both of the main ones, Sonja and Louis, were dealing with hurts from how they had been treated in the past. I was very easily able to empathize with their feelings. It was a joy to see how each of them was able to trust God and worked to move on from their pasts.

     I was disappointed by how short this story was. The idea behind it was wonderful and I feel it could very easily have been expanded to become a full length novel. It felt very rushed. This is the only reason that I have given it 4 instead of 5 stars. I am recommending this sweet story.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Golden Braid (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance #2) by Melanie Dickerson

Title: The Golden Braid (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance #2)
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Pages: 368
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Medieval Fairy Tale (set in 1413 Germany)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

     Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of an artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

     After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars – surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

     After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

     But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything – except her happily ever after.

My review:

     An absolutely delightful retelling of Rapunzel's story!

     This is the first book by Melanie Dickerson that I have ever read. I LOVED IT! I will definitely be reading her other books! It is a huge plus for me that I still have my “little girl” love of a good fairy tale princess story.

     It seems to be a stand-alone story even though it is the second book in a series. If characters in this book were in the first one there is enough information about them that I never felt confused as to who each person was.

     The characters are so wonderfully presented that I was able to connect with them and really understand them. I loved both Rapunzel and Sir Gerek. There are a number of secondary characters that I also felt a connection with.

     At the same time it was very easy to absolutely hate Mother Gothel and a couple of the other characters, they just oozed with evil intentions. There was no guessing as to who the “bad guys” were in this story.

     The story development was fantastic. It was definitely a new story for this popular fairy tale character. There were just enough elements that were kept the same so that there was no doubt as to which fairy tale it was taken from.

     I really enjoyed how much dependence the main characters had on God. I found it to be very refreshing and encouraging.

     I have no choice but to give this incredible story, 5 stars and highly recommend it. It was a joy to spend part of my leisure time immersed in it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On This Foundation (The Restoration Chronicles #3) by Lynn Austin

Title: On This Foundation (The Restoration Chronicles #3)
Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 416
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publisher
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Stone by stone, the wall will rise once more around God’s city.

     When news reaches him that Jerusalem’s wall is shattered and its gates burned with fire, a distraught Nehemiah seeks God’s guidance in fasting and prayer. Granted an unexpected leave from his duty as cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah sets out for Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall – never anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

     The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and stop the wall’s reconstruction forever. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, with many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

     Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is the powerful conclusion to THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES. This exploration of faith in the midst of oppression offers hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

My review:

     Another wonderful biblical novel!

     This is the third book in a “true” series. You have to read the first two books for this one to make sense. Over the course of the three books the full story of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylon, and the rebuilding they did, is beautifully told.

     I loved the characters in this book. There is a great variety of people and situations that they are dealing with during a very trying time in the history of the Israelites. I think that the ones I felt the most for were Nava and Chana. They both struggled with feelings connected to loving someone they couldn’t be with, even though the reasons for the separation were very different. They had to try and navigate their way during a time when women usually didn’t have any say in what they could do and who they could be with.

     The continuing story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile to Babylon was fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how Lynn Austin brought Nehemiah on the scene. I don’t remember there being very many details about his background in the bible other than that he was the cupbearer to the King of Persia. The story as it is presented in this book is very plausible. One of the things that I really liked about Nehemiah was his humility. He continued to seek God throughout the book wanting to make sure that he was the one chosen to complete the task and that it wasn’t just his own idea.

     It held my attention from start to finish. I believe that reading this book is an incredible way to spend some of your leisure time. I’m highly recommending it and giving it a rating of 5 stars.

Friday, October 30, 2015

High-Caliber Holiday (First Responders #3) by Susan Sleeman

Title: High-Caliber Holiday (First Responders #3)
Author: Susan Sleeman
Pages: 224
Release Date: November 1, 2015 (eBook); November 3, 2015 (paperback)
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense
Format: Paperback
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Caught in the crosshairs!

     Held hostage on a train, ex-lawyer Morgan Thorsby finds her powers of persuasion failing her for the first time. Former marine sniper Brady Owens is her only hope – but his split-second hesitation on the trigger leaves her wounded. Yet when an obsessed stalker threatens Morgan, Brady steps up. Protecting someone so tough and beautiful is hardly a chore, but Brady pulls back every time they get close. Morgan isn’t ready for the connection forming between them, either, but she knows she needs his help. Can Brady capture the culprit in time for Christmas?

My review:

     An absolutely wonderful suspense novel!

     The characters are fantastic. I connected with them immediately. Taking center stage in this novel are Morgan Thorsby and Brady Owens. Morgan is the only daughter of a wealthy business owner who has become dissatisfied with that lifestyle and wants to be independent. Brady is a former marine sniper and currently the sniper for the First Responders Squad (FRS).

     It was great to get updated on all the other members of the FRS. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know each team member better when they are the focus of one of these books.

     The action in each book is a stand-alone story. But there is so much interaction within the FRS as they support, and work with, each other that it is important to read these books in order.

     The book starts with an adrenaline rush, life threatening situation. Then once we have been given a chance to catch our breath and meet the characters a secondary mystery starts to appear. This mystery is built slowly with a fantastic balance of calm and tension building. It is incredible at keeping the reader’s interest.

     As with each of Susan Sleeman’s books that I’ve read, I loved this one. I’m giving it a rating of 5 stars and highly recommending it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles #2) by Lynn Austin

Title: Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles #2)
Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 477
Year: 2014
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)

About the book:

     In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?

     In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king’s palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

     Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future – of family and love – seem impossible.

     In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

My review:

     This is an absolutely fabulous biblical novel!

     It is very obvious that Lynn Austin spent a LOT of time studying scripture. She also had to have studied historical records and customs of the time in preparation for writing this wonderful book.

     This is the second book in what I consider to be a “true” series. By that I mean that you should read the first book before picking this one up. There is really only one character from the first book that I remember. But reading book one will help to set the stage historically for this novel.

     I was quickly captivated by the main characters in each location at the start of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how each of their individual lives intersected with the others.

     I have read the story of Esther a number of times and heard some sermons from it. I have never “seen” such a vivid account of what life was like for the Jews in the months after the decree was written calling for their annihilation. That is truly what it seemed like to me. I could see their despair and feel their fear and heartache.

     Then after the Thirteenth of Adar each of the survivors had to figure out how to deal with the outcome. Were they going to accept what God had allowed to happen? Or were they going to spend the rest of their lives blaming Him and hating their enemies from that day?

     The stories of redemption and forgiveness are beautifully interwoven and presented. At the same time Ezra is searching the Torah doing all that he can to interpret the law of God so that the Jewish nation can be built up and follow God faithfully. The biggest question that he had to deal with was, “How can man find God’s balance between judgment and mercy?”

     I absolutely loved this book! I’m highly recommending it and giving it 10 stars here on my own blog!

     This is the link for my review of Return to Me, book one in this series: http://godslittlebookworm.blogspot.com/2013/11/return-to-me-by-lynn-austin.html

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Imposter (The Bishop's Family #1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Title: The Imposter (The Bishop’s Family #1)
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Pages: 320
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     A heart once deceived should not be easily fooled again…

     Katrina Stoltzfus thought she had life and love all figured out: she was going to marry John and live happily ever after. But as her plans crumble before her eyes, she struggles to face an uncertain future. When a widow asks for help starting a new business, Katrina quickly agrees. She needs time to heal her broken heart, to untangle her messy life, to find a purpose.

     What she doesn’t need is attention from Andy Miller, a farmhand who arrives at the widow’s farm just when help is most needed – and who always seems to say the right thing and be in the right place, at the right time. Is Andy for real or too good to be true? She’s been deceived once before, and she isn’t planning on experiencing it again.

     Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Stoney Ridge for a tale of love, uncertainty, and trusting God to write your story.

My review:

     This is an incredibly thought provoking novel!

     My interest was captured from the very beginning of the book. During a church service the old bishop of the Amish church at Stoney Ridge had a major heart attack. He grabbed David Stoltzfus’ shirt and whispered, “Beware, David. A snake is in the garden.”

     I knew right then that I was going to have to find out what he was talking about. Over the course of the book we have a great look at how people live in community with each other. Yet I knew that at some point I would be finding out what “the snake in the garden” was. I was aware that it had to be affecting how the different people interacted with each other even if they didn’t know about it. This was a great look at human nature.

     There seemed to be three actual story lines in this wonderful book. They are all connected by the fact that one main person in each of them is a member of the Stoltzfus family. I found this to be very realistic. In each of these stories there were great insights into how we should treat other people and live our lives.

     One character had made a mistake and the consequences of that decision had to be dealt with almost immediately. I enjoyed seeing how it was handled in a forthright manner and no attempt at deception was made.

     In contrast to that another decision had been made years before by someone else. Over the course of the book we saw how that decision affected a number of different people. Many of them didn’t even know about that initial choice made by one person.

     Throughout all of these stories there were a few people who strongly held onto God and what He teaches through the bible. One woman in particular had a marvelous way of seeing God’s handiwork in nature which I found to be a joy to read about. This was a fantastic encouragement to trust God through hard times.

     I absolutely loved this story and will be looking forward to the next book in this series. This book gets a 5 star rating from me and I’m highly recommending it.

     There are a number of books written by this author set in this same town. I haven’t read them so I don’t know if doing so would enhance the enjoyment of this story or not. I was able to determine that some of the secondary characters in this novel are in the earlier books as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Photograph by Beverly Lewis

Title: The Photograph
Author: Beverly Lewis
Pages: 320
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Genre: Amish
Publisher: Bethany House
Format: Paperback (also available in eBook)
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     He studied the picture more closely, finding it curious that the young woman looked so boldly into the camera while wearing a white prayer Kapp shaped like a heart – the characteristic head covering for the Lancaster County Old Order Amish.

     Why would a devout girl have her picture taken?

     When her sister Lily disappears only months after their widowed mother’s passing, Eva Esch fears she has been wooed away from the People. Yet Lily’s disappearance isn’t Eva’s only concern: She and her sisters must relocate once their older brother takes over the family farmhouse. Then Jed Stutzman, an Amish buggy maker from Ohio, shows up in Eden Valley with a photo of a Plain young woman. Eva feels powerfully drawn to the charming stranger – but the woman in the forbidden photograph is no stranger at all . . .

My review:

     An incredible Amish novel filled with heartache.

     After Lily Esch disappears everyone connected with the family is heartbroken. I really loved the sensitive way that this subject was dealt with. She is considered an adult and she left a goodbye note for her sister Eva. Therefore the biggest concern is determining how far to go in trying to find her. When should they give up and let her live her life? How much should be done to try and bring her back into the fold of the Amish believers?

     In the midst of this, Eva and Jed Stutzman meet. Is their meeting God’s direction for their lives? How will they know?

     They are both dealing with grief. There is an amazing amount of sound advice given and received about this difficult issue as well. It is something that we will all have to face at some point in our lives and I really felt that the information about how to help others going through it was fantastic.

     The characters are so well written that I connected with them almost immediately. There were a number of sweet gentle people that were easy to love. There were also a few that were overbearing and difficult. It was wonderful to read about how the different personalities interacted with each other.

     I absolutely loved this book and am highly recommending it. It gets a rating of 5 stars from me.