Monday, February 29, 2016

Amish Sweethearts (Neighbors of Lancaster County #2) by Leslie Gould

Title: Amish Sweethearts (Neighbors of Lancaster County #2)
Author: Leslie Gould
Pages: 352
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Genre: Contemporary/Amish Romance
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:

     Their two worlds couldn’t be further apart. Can anything bridge the divide between them?

     For years Zane Beck and his Amish neighbor Lila Lehman were best of friends. But just as Zane gathered the courage to discover if their friendship could develop into something more, her controlling father arranged for her to be courted by their bishop’s son. Zane, heartbroken and frustrated, joined the Army, running away from his shattered dreams.

     The passing of time and the distance between Zane and Lila haven’t been enough to halt their – now completely hidden – feelings for each other. Any hope for their love grows even more impossible though as Zane’s service takes a dangerous turn when he’s deployed to Afghanistan. Being on the frontline, confronted with the hard choices of war, has him questioning everything, including whether he can continue to serve or not. But all choices have consequences, and with Lila preparing to marry another, will these one-time sweethearts ever find the life together that they both still long for?

My review:

     An incredible look at various cultures!

     This is part of a “true” series. You need to read the first book in the series before you read this one.

     I absolutely love the characters in this series. It was wonderful to see how they have grown and developed since the end of the first book. In some way friendships have deepened and in other ways people have grown apart as they matured.

     One of the things that I really enjoy about this book is that different ways of expressing love to someone are explored. This is a very real part of life and it can be one of the hardest things to understand. Some people share their love verbally while others do it by actions only. It is very important to be able to recognize when someone is expressing love in a way that you don’t.

     I really enjoyed that there was a wonderful explanation of the Amish viewpoint on war. This is a very important part of this story since both Zane (non-Amish) and Simon (Amish) join the army. It really helped me to understand the conflict that arose between Simon and his family when he went home and announced that he had signed up.

     The other thing that I really liked about this book is the information given about the Civil Affairs officers and the work that they do in Afghanistan. I have only heard a brief statement of their work in the news. Now I feel that I have a better understanding of what it entails.

     I have to recommend this book very highly. It gets a rating of 5 stars from me. I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

The Berenstain Bears' Easter Blessings by Mike Berenstain

Title: The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Blessings
Author: Mike Berenstain
Pages: 20
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Children’s Illustrated
Publisher: Worthy Kids/Ideals
Format: Board Book
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     An engaging lesson from the iconic Bear family about the true blessing of Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus.

My review:

     A delightful lesson in Easter priorities.

     I have always liked the Berenstain Bears. The illustrations are incredible and the focus of teaching children manners is fantastic. This book especially appealed to my love of God and teaching children that God and the blessings He gives is what is important about Easter. The candy, egg hunt, baskets, and toys should be secondary to that.

     I am highly recommending this charming book and giving it a rating of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga #1) by Patrick W. Carr

Title: The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga #1)
Author: Patrick W. Carr
Pages: 455
Year: 2015
Genre: Fantasy
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:

     The Darkwater claims all who enter it. All but one.

     When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded, Willet Dura, reeve to the king of Bunard, is called to investigate. As he begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

     Willet returns to his task, but the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers, and his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, as though he can divine their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he’s been passed the rarest gift of all – a gift that’s not supposed to exist.

     Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he’s pulled into a dangerous conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world – a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his inability to remember how he escaped the Darkwater Forest – and what happened to him inside it.

My review:

     A fantasy novel filled with suspense and mystery!

     The development of the characters is wonderful. There are a lot of intricacies in each of the main characters. Most of them comprise the group called The Vigil. Even very close to the end of the book I was learning new things about them. I really feel like there are still some unknown aspects to some of these individuals.

     The storyline is incredible with lots of twists and turns throughout the book. I was rooting for Willet Dura to work out the problems and solve the mysteries. The journey he took was filled with questions, danger and heartache.

     I was absolutely captivated by this novel and have to highly recommend it. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next in the fantastic series. This book gets a rating of 5 stars from me.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Island Hope (Wildflower B&B Romance #4) by Kimberly Rose Johnson

Title: Island Hope (Wildflower B&B Romance #4)
Author: Kimberly Rose Johnson
Pages: 149
Release Date: February 28, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Mountain Brook INK
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I had the wonderful opportunity to be one of the final proofreaders before release. I have written my honest opinion of this story based on that reading.

About the book:

     Metal sculptor Hope Michaels gave up on art when her creativity was zapped by another. Burying herself in her electrical contracting business, Hope takes a job on Wildflower Island. She never imagines that a job at the Wildflower Resort will turn everything in her life upside down. But that’s exactly what happens when her best friend and employer, Piper, plays matchmaker.

     A lonely widower throws all his energy into raising his teenage daughter, but when he is promoted to manager of the Wildflower Resort, things at home don’t go as smoothly as planned. Worried about his relationship with his daughter, he seeks advice from a feisty-but-sweet newcomer. Will she help smooth his path or will things only get more complicated?

My review:

     This is a fantastic end to a wonderful series!

     This is the final book in a “true” series. You need to read all four books in order to get the full measure of enjoyment out of them.

     In this book Hope Michaels arrives on Wildflower Island to handle a contract job at the resort. While there she meets Derrick Trainor and the two of them take center stage as they get to know each other. They each have some heavy duty baggage to work through before they are able to venture beyond co-workers and then casual friendship.

     I thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow individually. Then they were each able to seek God for His help in learning to forgive and heal from their wounds. This was a marvelous example of how believers are supposed to mature and handle the tough issues of relationships.

     I loved this entire series. I don’t think that you can go wrong in spending some of your free time reading these wonderful stories. This book gets a rating of 5 stars from me and I’m highly recommending it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Amish Promises (Neighbors of Lancaster County #1) by Leslie Gould

Title: Amish Promises (Neighbors of Lancaster County #1)
Author: Leslie Gould
Pages: 368
Year: 2015
Genre: Amish Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)

About the book:

     Journey down a quiet lane in Lancaster County where love and heartache and friendship and healing meet.

     When Joel and Shani Beck arrive at their new home, they’re looking for peace. Shani is thrilled to have Joel back from Iraq, but he needs time to heal, and the quiet of Lancaster seems just the place. They can’t imagine any trouble with their Amish neighbors, the Lehmans, but things get off to a rocky start when their son is involved in an accident that injures one of the Lehman boys.

     Eve Lehman has run her brother’s household ever since the death of his wife, but Tim’s a stern patriarch. Despite his protests, she’s drawn to the new neighbor, Shani, and the two begin to form a strong friendship forged on faith and family. Things seem like they’ve quieted down until Joel’s single and handsome army friend Charlie catches Eve’s attention – a man unlike any Eve has ever met. Suddenly life for both families becomes more complicated than any of them could have ever imagined.

My review:

     An incredible look at what being neighbors means!

     I absolutely love these characters. I felt like I could sit down and have a cup of tea with them and immediately launch into a friendship because of how well I felt I knew them by the end of the book. There are so many layers of information given about their lives before the beginning of this book. They aren’t just dumped on the reader they are slowly revealed as friendships develop.

     There are some really hard subjects that are looked at in this book. Each one is dealt with in a very careful and thoughtful way. The main one is the difference between the Amish and their beliefs, and the Englisch that move into the farm next door.

     Another one is PTSD and wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq. The main focus is on this effect on the family and especially their spouse.

     And then there is also a deep look at the issue of motive behind what we do. Most everyone faces this at some time. We need to know if what we are doing is because God has called us to do it. Or are we doing it out of a desire to please other people and their plans for us.

     This book is worth me breaking the normal rules for book ratings. I have to give it 10 stars here on my own blog since I can set my own rules. It is definitely worth you taking your time to read.

     This is the first book that I have ever read by Leslie Gould. I will make sure that I read every single one that she has already written and any that she writes in the future. I love it when I get to place a new author on my “Favorite Author” list. Leslie is now on it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Charity's Cross (Charles Towne Belles #4) by MaryLu Tyndall

Title: Charity’s Cross (Charles Towne Belles #4)
Author: MaryLu Tyndall
Pages: 324
Release Date: February 1, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Ransom Press
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:

     Suspected of killing her husband, Charity Westcott flees on the first ship out of Portsmouth, England heading for the colonies. Loathing all men after her abusive marriage, she hopes to reunite with her family in Charles Towne, but she ends up in Nassau. When she spots her husband’s brother, who is intent on seeing her hang, boarding her ship, she jumps overboard.

     Pirate turned preacher, Elias Dutton, must get to Barbados as soon as possible. His sister is in danger, and his parents have charged him with her safety. He cannot let them down – again. But after rescuing a madcap woman from the bay, he now finds himself tricked into masquerading as her husband so they both can procure passage to Barbados.

     Pirates, storms, shipwreck and betrayal threaten to delay the couple in their journey even as sparks fly between them. With her brother-in-law in fast pursuit, the last thing Charity wants is help from a man, especially a religious one, but she has no choice. After Elias’ heart was broken by a sordid woman who nearly ruined his life, he seeks a woman pure as the virgin sands of the Caribbean. He believes he has found such a woman in Charity. Until he discovers she is a murderer and is now faced with two choices: letting her go or turning her in to the authorities.

My review:

     A riveting historical romance!

     Even though this book in the fourth one in a series, you don’t have to read the others to thoroughly enjoy this one.

     I loved finding out Charity Westcott’s story. She is a wonderfully well-developed character who has faced horrible hardship and tragedy during her marriage to Lord Villemont. Her experience with organized clergy has left her blaming God for all that has befallen her.

     Elias Dutton is an incredible character also. He blames himself for another’s accident. He loves the Lord and is focused on helping others and teaching them about God and His love for them.

     The action in this story is fantastic. There is an incredible description of a sea battle with pirates. This is one of the signature aspects of MaryLu’s books and I always enjoy reading them.

     Both Charity and Elias have a lot that they needed to learn and grow in. It was great to read through their journey as they face up to the fact that there isn’t always a neat and tidy box to check off and say, “this person, or God, is to blame” for this tragedy.

     They also had to learn more about trusting God with the difficult things. He is the one that can bring good out of bad. As they were being directed to God by strong, trustworthy friends, I was being reminded of the same things that they were.

     I was enthralled by this wonderful book and am highly recommending it. It gets a rating of 5 stars from me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Secrets of the Castle (Thunder and Lightning #1) by Aaron Zook

Title: The Secrets of the Castle (Thunder and Lightning #1)
Author: Aaron Zook
Pages: 200
Year: 2014
Genre: Adventure
Age: Middle School
Publisher: Bold Vision Books
Format: eBook (also available in paperback)
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this story through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Intrigue and danger surround two young boys and their dogs as they seek to unravel a castle mystery.

My review:

     An incredibly well written adventure story!

     Both Gabe and Alex are very realistic youngsters. They have a normal relationship with each other fights and disagreements included. I really liked the relationship that they had with their parents though. The fact that their father has taught them a lot of wonderful survival skills was apparent and very helpful as they faced excitement and adventure. This story reminded me a lot of the Hardy Boys Mysteries that I read growing up.

     An added level of enjoyment for me was all the descriptions of Germany and things there. My husband and I spent 6 years in West Germany with the U.S. Air Force and this book brought back a lot of memories for me. This included the region, the way houses were furnished and a lot of the food. The descriptions were very accurate.

     I was fascinated with the explanation of the training they had given their dogs. I had no idea what type of instructions could be given using specific key words. The level of tasks they were able to get both Thunder and Lightning to do for them amazed me.

     I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting story and am highly recommending it. It gets a 5 star rating from me. I am looking forward to reading more books in this series.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Worthy Heart (Courage to Dream #2) by Susan Anne Mason

Title: A Worthy Heart (Courage to Dream #2)
Author: Susan Anne Mason
Pages: 384
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Bethany House
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:

     Will Maggie listen to the warnings of those she trusts most or the leadings of her heart?

     The answer to Maggie Montgomery’s dream of seeing America has arrived at just the right time. Not only will she be reunited with her beloved brother Rylan, but she’ll finally be able to escape Neill Fitzgerald and his increasingly unwanted attentions. She’s intent on never returning to Ireland, hoping to build her future in the land of opportunity and perhaps find the love of her life.

     While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man she thinks is a stable hand. Only when her brother demands she stay away from Adam O’Leary does she learn he’s Rylan’s brother-in-law, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can’t seem to make her stubborn heart conform to her brother’s request.

     Adam O’Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Now a free man, Adam’s only desire is to earn back his family’s trust. Falling in love with the newly arrived Maggie, however, was never in his plans. Despite everyone’s efforts to keep them apart, the two develop a bond it seems nothing can break – but they soon discover the past isn’t easy to overcome.

My review:

     An absolutely fabulous historical novel!

     This is the second book in a “true” series. You need to read the first book before this one.

     I love the characters that Susan has created for this story. The friends that I made in “Irish Meadows” are back and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with what is going on in their lives. But the new ones quickly found a place in my heart. Susan does a fantastic job of developing very deep people for her stories. The level of belief that many of them have in God is amazing.

     The story that Susan has crafted is incredible. There are a number of twists along the journey of Maggie and Adam’s relationship. They have a lot of heartache and doubts to work through and overcome. They each know what they are feeling and yet society says that they shouldn’t be together.

     At the same time there are many others with difficulties and issues to deal with that Maggie and Adam get to help with. Though they are the central characters they are not the only ones with everything revolving around them. I found this to be much more realistic.

     I’m already looking forward to Susan’s next book. I hope that it continues the story of these wonderful friends.

     This wonderful story is getting a 5 star rating from me. I’m highly recommending it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

By Divine Right (Darkwater Saga #0.5) by Patrick W. Carr

Title: By Divine Right (Darkwater Saga #0.5)
Author: Patrick W. Carr
Pages: 119
Year: 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bethany House
Format: eBook
Note: At the time of this posting this eBook is free on all sellers that I checked.

About the book:

     Willet Dura ekes out a living as an assistant reeve in the city of Bunard, the royal city, investigating minor and not-so-minor crimes in the poor quarter. Ever since a terrible battle, Willet’s been drawn to the dead, and has an uncanny ability not only to solve their crimes, but even to know when one has been committed.

     When a gifted singer is found dead in the merchants’ quarter of the city, everyone assumes by the signs that the old man simply died of a stroke, but Willet’s intuition tells him better. When he learns that this is the second death within the last month of one of the gifted, those with a rare inherited ability, he begins to suspect that something more is afoot, and he soon finds himself chasing a mystery that could bring down the very kingdom of Collum.

My review:

     An intricately woven fantasy novella!

     This novella did a marvelous job of drawing me into the fantasy realm that Patrick has created. I’m captivated by the idea that there are individuals that are gifted and they have the ability to pass their gifting on to an heir before they die. I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses in future books in this series.

     Willet is an absolutely fascinating character. He is able to read others and relate to people in different levels of society. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to understand him and his past. I know that there are going to be more facets revealed about him.

     I have to give this wonderful story a rating of 5 stars and recommend it highly. It does take a little effort to try and understand the nuances of a totally different realm but this novella is well worth the effort.

The Prophetess: Deborah's Story (Daughters of the Promised Land #2) by Jill Eileen Smith

Title: The Prophetess: Deborah’s Story (Daughters of the Promised Land #2)
Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Pages: 368
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Genre: Biblical 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:

     Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she’ll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai – and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan’s armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God’s calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped?

My review:

     This is a remarkable biblical fiction story!

     I have always liked Deborah. I have to admit that part of the fascination for me has been the fact that I have the same name. I was excited to find that one of the authors I love had taken on the challenge of writing her story. I was not disappointed in how Jill handled it.

     I know that most of this story is a fictional account since there is very little information about her in the bible. This story is so well crafted and presented though that I could see it as a very believable scenario.

     The development of the danger from Sisera made the fear that the Israelites and Heber’s family felt, palpable for me. I was also able to understand their frustration with having to wait for God’s timing to take action.

     There were two things that were address that I’ve always wondered about. The first one of them was, how did a woman become judge over Israel? The second was where did the Israelites get the weapons they needed to wage a war against Sisera?

     I know that the answers to these questions that are given in this book are only the author’s ideas. But to my way of thinking they make sense.

     I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book and am highly recommending it. It gets a rating of 5 stars from me.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Away in the Snow for Christmas by Lisa Boehm Trumbore

Title: Away in the Snow for Christmas
Author: Lisa Boehm Trumbore
Illustrated by: Victor Singer
Pages: about 32
Year: 2015
Genre: Children’s Illustrated
Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing
Format: eBook
Note: I received a free eBook copy of this story through The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     Mimi’s Everyday Adventures . . . where every day is an adventure!

     Although the cousins are excited for Christmas, MiMi steps in and turns this Christmas into an extraordinary adventure no one will ever forget.

     *MiMi stories are sprinkled with teachable “MiMi Moments”
     *Inspired by six adventure-filled grandchildren and a niece
     *Motivates children to work together and rely on each other
     *Ignites your child’s imagination and creativity
     *Sparks a wondrous sense of adventure in your child’s heart

My review:

     This is a very cute children’s story.

     The story is very cute. I really like the family’s version of GPS. The fact that they are all learning to trust God and pray is wonderful.

     I understand why there are so many characters, but I did find this a little confusing and that is why this sweet story only got 4 stars from me.

     I also like the illustrations throughout the book. I especially liked looking for the little dog on each page.

     I am going to recommend this book. I enjoyed it and am giving it a rating of 4 stars.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander & Illustrated by Katy Hudson

Title: All Things Bright and Beautiful
Author: Cecil Frances Alexander
Illustrator: Katy Hudson
Pages: 32
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Genre: Children’s Illustrated
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Format: Hardcover 
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the book:

     God’s touch can be seen everywhere: in the rivers and streams, in the forest and its creatures, and in each of us. And nowhere is this more lyrically celebrated than in the words of “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” first published by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848. Here, artist Katy Hudson brings new joy to the well-loved words with her fresh and engaging watercolors. Readers will be swept along as they follow three young children who delight in a day filled with the discovery of “all things bright and beautiful.” This striking book is a beautiful reminder that every good thing we see is from God.

My review:

     When I sat down to read this book I had not read the inside cover which is where I got the above information about it. I had no idea this was a hymn written in the 1800s.

     Beautifully draws attention to God’s creation!

     The rhymes in this book are simple and flow easily. Each phrase is short and sweet. There is very little written on each page and the pauses are nicely timed with plenty of opportunity to really explore the pictures.

     The illustrations are very detailed and eye catching. It was a joy to look for small things like the ladybugs and butterflies that were on a number of pages.

     I really love the way that all aspects of creation are included. This includes the animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and even the weather. God is creator of, and in control of all of it.

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