Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Echoes of Mercy

by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Water Brook Press

When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.   

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

My Review:

As always, Sawyer delivers a story that is all things to everyone; exciting, romantic, suspenseful, heart-stopping, intriguing, and passionate in the cause Caroline and Oliver are trying to fight for. The chocolate factory was amazing to read about; (who doesn't love chocolate?!) and seeing what factories used to be like back in the infancy of mass production was quite educational.

The story moved along at a good pace, and with the backbone of the story being truth, lies, and secrets hidden - and it is a recipe for success. (Slight pun intended here.) Something interesting that caught my eye was the fact that Oliver and Caroline were on opposite sides of what they felt was a moral issue, and how even the strongest objections can be overcome by love. A wonderful novel about doing what's right no matter what the cost. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Traitor's Wife

by Allison Pataki
Howard Books

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason . . . 


Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John AndrĂ©, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it. 

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John AndrĂ©. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold. 

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

My Review:

As a girl, I was intrigued by the story of Benedict Arnold. Forever branded a traitor to his countrymen, I often wondered what drove him to betray his neighbors, friends, and family. This piece of fiction really brings into play the possibility of a woman being a major influence in his life; and a plausible explanation as to what drove him to commit treason against a nation. I enjoyed the story from the maid's perspective, and that added to the flow of the story line and plot. 

I am amazed by the depth of skill from this new writer. She weaves a tale that speaks to her knowledge of historical facts and details that make the story so tantalizing and dramatic. The facts alone make for a novel that is absolutely unprecedented; and Pataki takes the particulars and creates a heart-wrenching tale that extraordinary. While I recommend this story to mature readers due to some of the content, this debut novel sings from the pages of a book and becomes a story that will forever burn in your heart. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shadows of The Past

by Patricia Bradley
Revell Publishers

Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve--the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she is stalking the truth about the past, someone is stalking her.

Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife--a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. With his estranged brother the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.

Join the chase as this determined duo search the murky shadows of the past for the keys to unlocking the present and moving into a future filled with new hope and love. Readers will be swept into the sultry South in this debut novel from a promising and already award-winning writer.

My Review:

This book absolutely lived up to the expectations I had for it. While books in this genre tend to move at a breakneck speed, I found that moving at a slower pace was so much better for enjoying the story and all of it's details. With one character searching for her father and the other seeking to resolve his wife's death, the two are bound to cross paths. But when they do, it doesn't go at all the way they expected. The stalker becomes the suspect, and Taylor realized that not everything is as it seems. Nick finds nothing but trouble around Taylor, and the shadows of the past threaten to destroy every chance of a happy future.

Bradley writes characters that are as real as life, and kept me constantly guessing where the story was going. Every time I thought I had the plot nailed, she had something else going on that I didn't see coming. Overall it was well written, well paced, entertaining to read and I thoroughly enjoyed the literary ride. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Vicar's Wife

Katharine Swartz
Lion Fiction

A powerful drama of domestic life following two memorable women who shared a house eighty years apart.

A New Yorker all her life, Jane Hatton loved her job as the head of a charity championing women’s rights, but her fourteen-year-old daughter, Natalie, had fallen in with the wrong crowd at her Manhattan school. So Jane and her British husband, Andrew, have decided to move their family to the English countryside.

The Hattons have bought the large old vicarage in a small village on the Cumbrian coast, near Andrew’s new job. The silence and solitude of a remote village is quite a change. Natalie hates her new school, and eleven-year-old Ben struggles academically. Only seven-year-old Merrie enjoys country life. Has Jane made a horrible mistake? What of her career? Her own identity?

Putting on a brave face for the family, Jane tackles renovating the rambling, drafty old house. When she finds a scrap of a very old shopping list, she grows curious about Alice, the vicar’s wife who lived there years before.

As the twin narratives unfold—of Jane in the present and Alice in the 1930s—we discover that both are on a journey to discover their true selves, and to address their deepest fears.

My Review:


I am personally a huge fan of novels that tie the past and the present together. It lends a dramatic, yet romantic flair to the story that nothing else can quite achieve. What struck me about this story is the glimpse of a common problem that we sometimes cannot overcome. When faced with new circumstances or situations, we tend to long for our old life and wish we could go back. But when we finally begin to accept where life is taking us, it can be the biggest blessing of all. 

Blogging with Kregel Publication has exposed me to authors that I would not have met otherwise. This author was no different, and I really enjoyed her writing. I did think that Jane was a rather selfish character, but that in no way kept me from enjoying the story. Her relationship with her family got better as the book progressed - character development at it's finest! Overall it was a great story of discovering how to find what really matters in life, and doing whatever it takes to find your true happiness and joy. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Hopeful

by Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire

In the Amish town of Sugarcreek, love comes in many forms. But will it come at all for Miriam?

Miriam Zehr has worked at the Sugarcreek Inn longer than she cares to admit. The restaurant is a favorite of town residents as well as the many tourists who come to taste the famous Amish fare. Though she always tries to have a smile for every customer, deep down Miriam knows something's missing: a family of her own.

Miriam has never felt particularly beautiful, especially because she's always been a bit heavier than other girls her age. When Junior, the man she's pined for all her life, suddenly seeks her out, she's thrilled to be noticed . . . until she realizes he's only asking her to help get the attention of Mary Kathryn Hershberger, her pretty friend.

If Miriam helps Junior court Mary Kathryn, she'll get to spend a lot of time with him, but she might lose him in the process. Are these few stolen moments worth a lifetime of sacrifice? Is Miriam right to even hope for the life she dreams of?

My Review:

Going into this book, I had a lot of ideas about how I would feel about the story. I've been in Miriam's shoes, and I've often wondered if men are capable only of looking at a woman and seeing her based on how she looks. But Gray delves so much deeper than just outlining the problem and writing a boy-gets-girl story. 

For Junior and Miriam, it all boils down to who they were as people; never about superficial things like looks or weight. I really appreciated how Gray put Miriam out there and showed us how she really felt about always being the wallflower to prettier girls and forever being in the background when it came to attention from boys. She is the kind of girl I would want to be friends with because her character understood what it means to truly see a person and what they have inside, instead of what they appear to be at face value. 

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/tacpd

Connect with Shelley through her website: http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Be Still, My Soul

by Randy Petersen
Tyndale House Publishers

Be Still, My Soul is a collection of 175 of the most popular hymns and the stories behind them. Many of these hymns were written out of incredible life experiences—from the heart cry of a repentant slave trader to the renewed hope of a survivor of attempted suicide. In this devotional you’ll discover the stories behind the songs we sing. You’ll experience the passion and joy contained in these hymns’ lyrics and melodies. In addition to the hymn stories, Be Still, My Soul includes the musical score, lyrics, and in-depth biographies of 12 of the most-prolific hymn writers, singers, and composers.

Whether you are new to hymns or have cherished them for a long time, you’ll enjoy this illuminating book on the stories behind some of the most popular hymns you sing in worship.

My Review:

I found this to be an insightful collection of all my favorite hymns. The layout was very easy to read and follow along with; with the sheet music on the left, and the description and story on the right side. As a musician and a Christian, this compilation was particularly meaningful to me. Despite my refusal to crack a book's spine, this one is now well worn and loved so I could enjoy it to the fullest. 

Even to someone who isn't familiar with some of the hymns, it can be enjoyed by everyone simply for the hymn histories. There was twelve in depth hymn stories, and the rest were brief and concise commentary/stories on each hymn/writer/history. The Table of Contents is alphabetically listed, with the 12 biographies marked by an asterisk for easy reference. There is an Index of Authors and Sources, as well as an Index of First Lines. It was put together very well, and a valuable research for anyone interested in hymns and/or Christian history. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Serenity To Accept

by Elizabeth Maddrey
Hope Spring Books

“Serenity to Accept” by Elizabeth Maddrey is book three of the ‘Grant Us Grace’ series. Is there an exception to every rule? Karin Reid has never had much use for God. There’s been too much pain in her life for her to accept that God is anything other than, at best, disinterested or, at worst, sadistic. Until she meets Jason Garcia. After his own mistakes of the past, Jason is committed to dating only Christians. He decides to bend his rule for Karin, as long as she comes to church with him. As their friendship grows, both will have to decide if they’ll accept the path God has for them, even if it means losing each other.

My Review:

This book was as down to earth as it gets. While the story line and plot were not as complicated or complex as the last two novels in this series, this one was sweet, endearing, and still realistic. The themes mirror us in real life, with characters caught betwixt and between what they believe is right, and what they know to be wrong. Love can be a complicated thing sometimes, and Maddrey handles it beautifully, and writes a story that we can empathize with and learn from.

In closing, this quote really struck me and changed my perspective on the big picture: "But the one thing my parents have always said is that we will never know how God is going to use the things that happen, so until we see the whole picture, we can't judge his plan." 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shadowed by Grace

by Cara C. Putman
B&H Books

Shadowed by Grace is a dramatic story inspired by the Monuments Men of World War II by acclaimed author Cara C. Putman. Desperate to save her dying mother, Rachel accepts her newspaper’s assignment to travel to Italy to capture images dangerously close to the front lines of WWII. Her real motive – to find the father she never knew -- an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive. It’s an unlikely situation for love and faith to flourish, but soon Rachel not only finds herself, but also her long-lost earthly father, and ultimately, the man her Heavenly father created to cherish and provide for her.

My Review:

Rachel's search for her father was, in a word, heart wrenching. I cannot believe how emotionally involved I got from just reading about the lengths she went to find her father! Putnam wrote Rachel as a very determined young woman, innocent to a point about the world, yet mature enough to realize that life has it's ugliness. Rachel was a solid character, with the perfect balance of personality, action, and vivacity.

The story plot itself is edge-of-your-seat material; you won't want to put it down! I had a hard time getting my nose out of this book, because the story moved right along and kept my attention the entire way through. I did wish we could have had more on the relationship between Rachel and her mother, but ultimately, it added to the mysterious elements of the story. I really enjoyed this novel, and I can't wait to see what else Putman is bringing to the table with the Story of Monuments Men series.

This book was provided by the publisher for free through Litfuse Nest in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/sCIbG

Connect with Cara through her website: http://caraputman.com

A Promise Kept

by Robin Lee Hatcher
Thomas Nelson Publishers


God was going to save her marriage, Allison was sure of it. But neither her husband nor her marriage had been saved.

What had become of His promise?

Tony Kavanagh had been Allison’s dream-come-true. They were in love within days, engaged within weeks, married and pregnant within a year. Her cup bubbled over with joy . . . but years later, that joy had been extinguished by unexpected trials.

The day Allison issued her husband an ultimatum, she thought it might save him. She never expected he would actually leave. She was certain God had promised to heal; it was clear that she'd misunderstood.

Now, living in the quiet mountain cabin she inherited from her single, self-reliant Great Aunt Emma, Allison must come to terms with her grief and figure out how to adapt to small town life. But when she finds a wedding dress and a collection of journals in Emma’s attic, a portrait of her aunt emerges that takes Allison completely by surprise: a portrait of a heartbroken woman surprisingly like herself.

As Allison reads the incredible story of Emma’s life in the 1920s and 1930s, she is forced to ask a difficult question: Does she really surrender every piece of her life to the Lord? 

Drawing from her own heart-wrenching story of redemption, A Promise Kept is Robin Lee Hatcher’s emotionally charged thanksgiving to a God who answers prayers—in His own time and His own ways.

My Review:

This book came to me at a time in my life when I needed it most. Giving control over to God is extremely difficult when you think that you have the answers. It is hard to wait for the right time, and we often get ahead of ourselves in trying to make our lives happen. Allison found inspiration through her aunt Emma's story, and I did as well. The things Emma faced and overcame was incredible, and gave Allison the inspiration she needed to do the right thing about her marriage. 

Hatcher is known for her heartwarming stories, but I think this is her best one yet. She clearly portrays that waiting on God is the answer, and encourages us through her story; "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." Psalm 27:14. This was a story of redemption, second chances, and the rewards of waiting on the Lord. Recommended for lovers of clean, insightful, Christian fiction. 

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/sK3Ti 

Connect with Robin through her website: http://www.robinleehatcher.com

A Miracle of Hope

by Ruth Reid
Thomas Nelson Publishers

She’s heard about forgiveness all her life, but how far does God’s mercy truly reach?

Lindie Wyse thinks an arranged marriage is the only way to preserve a future for herself and her unborn child. Josiah Plank is certain he’ll never love again, but he needs someone to care for his deaf eight-year-old daughter, Hannah. The two take on their arrangement tentatively at first but soon realize they are each in for more than they imagined. After a short time, Lindie experiences a breakthrough with Hannah when she recognizes the child’s special gifts, but a risky pregnancy and serious health issues threaten to demolish the foundation Josiah and Lindie are building—and the love that is growing between them.

Will their marriage survive their struggles, or will their hearts become as cold as the northern winter?

My Review:

We all love a mail order bride story, but an arranged marriage because of some tragic circumstance is right up there with that genre. I sympathized with Lindie throughout the whole book, because here she is, a woman with a child in her belly, no husband, and no one to love her. Her brother's friend offers to marry her, but all he needs is a housewife and mother for his eight year old deaf daughter.

Things go well after a time, but inevitably, they go terribly wrong as well. I enjoyed the roller coaster ride through their lives, and how just when they think life is finally settling down, something always popped up. It was a page turning Amish romance, which I attribute primarily to the fact that Reid makes this novel so different than everything out there in the genre. It was an excellent read, and something I recommend to lovers of Amish fiction, as well as those who are on the fence about giving the genre a second chance. 

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/sABNg

Connect with Ruth through her website: http://ruthreid.com

Monday, January 27, 2014

With Autumn's Return

by Amanda Cabot
Revell Publishers

Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to establish her medical practice thanks to the wooing of her two older sisters who extolled the beauty of the land. She's certain she'll have a line of patients eager for her expertise and gentle bedside manner. However, she soon discovers the town and its older doctor may not welcome a new physician. Even more frustrating, the handsome young attorney next door may not be ready for the idea of a woman doctor. For his part, Jason Nordling has nothing against women, but he's promised himself that the woman he marries will be a full-time mother.

Despite their firm principles, Elizabeth and Jason find that mutual attraction--and disdain from the community--is drawing them ever closer. And when the two find themselves working to save the life and tattered reputation of a local woman, they'll have to decide how far they're willing to go to find justice--and true love.

My Review:

Elizabeth is written as a very strong character, yet gentle with her patients. I really enjoyed how she didn't care about the gossip or people's opinions and how she put her patients first. Cabot did an excellent job in portraying Elizabeth, and she is a fictional character I can genuinely admire. Taking care of the women from a brothel is not something a doctor from 1887 Wyoming territory would have enjoyed doing, but that Elizabeth was so willing to care for what is seen as the lesser of society, I can't help but admire her in her strong beliefs and faith.

The romance between the Elizabeth and Jason was textbook, but sweet and endearing nonetheless. Again, a woman having a career in this time period was something very uncommon, so one has to see it from that point of view. And we all know that when you put a man and woman on complete opposite sides of anything, sparks will soon fly...

This is a wonderful story, with solid characters, solid plot, and lot's of interesting history. Lovers romance and history alike will enjoy this tale and the previous two books in the series, and I recommend it very highly! 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dare to Love Again

by Julie Lessman
Revell Publishers

Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman, resorting to a mammoth hat pin for protection on her way to and from the school where she teaches. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast she quickly discovers she is no match for rum-soaked brute strength. 

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite jiu-jitsu, but it seems he has little choice in the matter. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But when Nick suddenly leaves town, Allison realizes he's a fraud just like all the rest of the men she's cared for. Does she dare love again?

The lushness of the glorious Gilded Age beautifully showcases Lessman's passion as a writer in this engaging love story written with humor and heart. From the glamour of San Francisco's Nob Hill to the seedy gambling dens of the Barbary Coast, Dare to Love Again is a journey to find a love that never fails. Fans will love revisiting the world of the cousins McClare, and new readers will seek more of Julie's passion-filled novels.

My Review:

I personally enjoyed the romance between hero/heroine a lot. I know I'm a sucker for the typical Christian romance, but the formula works on me every time. In this story, the characters had depth and were interesting people. The plot line had friction between Nick and Allison, and I have to admit that while that seems slightly overused, it really does work in real life. I loved how Lessman wrote all the relationships in her story; none of them were forced, far-fetched, or ridiculous.  

The historical value of this novel is priceless. Lessman not only portrays San Francisco in 1903 with flair and accuracy, she brings the city to life. It has never been  a particular interest of mine to learn about Chinatown, but the author did such an excellent job of giving me a peek of the past, it genuinely got me interested in learning the history of this magnificent city and it's people. A wonderful story that was well rounded, satisfying, and enjoyable. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Doctor's Christmas Quilt

by Kathi Macias
New Hope Publishers

When her unwed medical student daughter discloses that she is pregnant, Dr. Laura Branson is torn between excitement and fear. Until now, her beliefs and stance on pro-life issues have been more theoretical than personal. It isn't until she receives a Christmas gift—a quilt that depicts the life of pioneer Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in America—that she is forced to wrestle with her beliefs. What does she really believe, and will she have the courage to stand by her convictions?

My Review:

Jenny makes quilts every year, never knowing who they are for, or what purpose they will serve. She never knows who they are for, but in faith she sews every stitch knowing their purpose will eventually be revealed. When she meets Megan, she slowly learns her story, and discovers that the girl had a bright future ahead of her - until she came home and announced that she was pregnant. I loved how Macias took some very tough yet sensitive topics, and so easily took us on a journey of grace, forgiveness, and mercy. 

And of course, the quilting theme tied with Elizabeth Blackwell's history as the first female doctor in America was absolutely fascinating. When life got messy for Dr. Laura and her daughter, the symbolic quilt and Dr. Blackwell's story was the shining star of hope in their life. Macias shows us that no matter what life throws at us (whether based on our choices or otherwise), God always has a plan for us far beyond what we could ever hope or dream of. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Calling

by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Revell Publishers

Stoney Ridge is a quiet, normal Amish community; up until Bethany Schrock begins to dig through five sister's lifetime accumulations of junk. Then all of a sudden, things get very interesting depite the boring, hot summer days that Bethany thought were in store for her. Just what kind of secrets can five ancient sisters possibly harbor that could change everything? Something gnaws at Bethany from her past, but she doesn't know where to go for the answers she seeks. Could the sisters possibly be the answers to everything? 

Then there's Jimmy Fisher. He seems particularly interested in her - in driving her crazy, that is. Handsome, charming, and brash, Bethany and Jimmy take a shine to each other from the very start. Bethany is distracted by a mystery from her past that seems to go nowhere, but Jimmy steps in and encourages her to find answers. Will she be able to succeed? 

My favorite thing about this book was how uncommon it was. So many unusual topics were covered in this story, a very unique flavor among Amish fiction. Having a slower paced lifestyle leads to a slower paced book. But it was unhurriedly particulate with descriptions and settings to be savored, enjoyed and appreciated. Jimmy was quite the rouge with his flirtatious ways, and Bethany grew up in this story. But of course, my favorite characters were the sisters that were constantly up to something. A very good read overall even if you're not into Amish fiction - Fisher brings a fresh voice to the genre that will appeal to everyone.

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/stlG8

Connect with Suzanne through her website: http://suzannewoodsfisher.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Outcasts

by Jill Williamson
Blink Publishers

Uncovering the truth could cost them their lives. Since entering the Safe Lands, Mason has focused on two things: finding a way to free his village from captivity, and finding a cure for the disease that ravages many within the walls of the Safe Lands. After immune-suppressive drugs go missing in the clinic, Mason discovers his coworker, Ciddah, may know more about the Safe Lands than imagined ... and may have an agenda of her own. At the same time, Mason's brother Levi is focused on a way to free the remaining Glenrock captives, while Mason's younger brother Omar decides to take the rebellion against the Safe Lands into his own hands as a vigilante. Soon all three brothers are being watched closely---and when Mason stumbles onto a shocking secret about the Safe Lands meds, his investigation just might get those closest to him liberated.

My Review:

Williamson once again pens a YA novel to inspire, impress, and excite the imagination. With the genre set in dystopian/futuristic sci-fi, not everything is believable to our current knowledge of technology and world structure. But that only served to add to the story and the plot, and I really enjoyed the artistic vision that the author shares with us.

Reading this novel finally got me interested enough in the history of the concept of dystopian worlds. I really feel that the author took it to a whole new level with this series, and not only re-defined it as a genre, but reinforced it as an idea that is starting to become as wildly popular as vampires and werewolves. Every detail is carefully mapped out, and I found no inconsistencies or contingencies in her story. A stellar job in a genre that is next big thing, Williamson wrote a solid middle book to trilogy that I am highly anticipating the conclusion of. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Check out some other blogs that reviewed this book:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Amish Seamstress

by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
Harvest House Publishers

Bestselling authors Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould provide an unexpected surprise in The Amish Seamstress, Book 4 in the Women of Lancaster County series, which tells the stories of young Amish women as they explore their roots, connect with family, and discover true love.

Izzy Mueller is an exceptional listener and gifted caregiver. She's also a talented seamstress. As the young woman sits with her elderly patients, she quietly sews as they share their stories. She's content with her life until circumstances reconnect her with someone she once loved. Zed Bayer, a Mennonite, is not what her family is hoping for in a spouse, and his creative interest in film making is definitely at odds with her Amish upbringing.

As Izzy is swept up again in Zed and renews her friendship with his sister, Ella, she begins to ask questions about her own life--her creative longings and historical interests, her relationships and desire for romance, and most importantly, her faith. What is the path God has for her? Can she learn from the past of both her family's and Zed's--or must she forge a completely different future of her own?

My Review:

This was quite the sweet story. Izzy is the girl next door type that you can't help but fall for, and Zed is the man she can never have. Forbidden romances tend to be the stuff of Amish fiction, and I can honestly say that I actually enjoy that particular element about the genre. Something forbidden in general appeals to everyone, but it is definitely prevalent in stories about the Amish.

The authors easily bridge the distance between Zed and Izzy. Amish versus Mennonite certainly puts them in a quandary when it comes to romance, but it is always interesting to see which way the tides will turn. There was lot's of genealogical details and history that made this novel what it is, and I have to say that was my favorite part of the story. A wonderful conclusion to the series, An Amish Seamstress captures the voice of The Women of Lancaster County, brings their story to a close, and leaves you touched by all you have read. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Quilted Heart

by Mona Hodgson
WaterBrook Press

Like a beautiful patchwork quilt, the three novellas in The Quilted Heart tell stories of lives stitched together with love and God’s unending grace. 

Once a week, Elsa Brantenberg hosts the Saint Charles Quilting Circle at her farmhouse on the outskirts of the riverside town of St. Charles, Missouri. The ladies who gather there have all experienced heartache related to the intense hardships of the Civil War, and together, they are facing their painful circumstances with friendship and prayer. Can the tattered pieces of their hearts be stitched together by God’s grace? 

Dandelions on the Wind

When Maren Jensen took a job on Elsa Brantenberg’s St. Charles, Missouri farm, she never expected to call the place her home. As she grows to love Mrs. Brantenberg and her granddaughter, Gabi, Maren is transformed from a lonely mail-order bride-without-a-groom to a beloved member of the Brantenberg household. But when Gabi’s father, Rutherford “Wooly” Wainwright, returns to the farm unexpectedly, everything changes for Maren, and she feels compelled to find another job. Are her choices in obedience to God, or is she running from His plan? 

Bending Toward the Sun

Dedicated to her education and to helping her father in his general store, Emilie Heinrich is convinced she doesn't have time for love. But when a childhood friend returns to St. Charles, Missouri, after serving in the Civil War, his smile and charm captures Emilie’s eye and her heart. Will she be forced to choose between honoring her father and a future with a husband and family of her own? 

Ripples Along the Shore

Change is brewing in St. Charles. A group of brave souls are preparing to head west on the Boone's Lick Wagon Train, led by the mysterious and handsome Garrett Cowlishaw, who served as a Confederate soldier in the war that killed Caroline’s husband. Despite her dislike for him, Caroline is tempted to join the wagon train and start fresh somewhere new, but when Mr. Cowlishaw forbids her—a single woman—to travel with them, will one man’s prejudice destroy Caroline’s hope for a new future? Or will the ripples of God’s love bring the answer she needs?

My Review:

All three stories tied in very well together, while keeping the story moving along at a good pace. I felt as if I was in Saint Charles, Missouri, as Hodgson did an excellent job in conveying her settings. Capturing the essence of the past can be quite the feat, and she did a stellar job of not only conveying her character's emotions, but also drawing me in as the reader no matter what was going on in the book. 

The spiritual lessons in this book is not the only reason I love these stories, but makes it a book I will recommend to fans of Christian fiction, quilters, and history buffs alike! Hodgson is not shy with making God the center of the story, and clearly portrays her characters as people who need His guidance. Her stories are thoughtful, attentive to historic details, and just a wonderful read overall. This omnibus is a sweet collection of incredible stories that are not to be missed! 

This book was provided by the author for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Mona!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

No One To Trust

by Lynette Eason
Revell Publishers

Summer believes she knows her husband, until she wakes up one morning and finds him missing. There are men on the hunt for Kyle, and she has no answers for their queries. Her biggest question is who he is - the loving husband who is a computer programmer, or this man they seek? 

The answers she finds are worse than thinking her husband is a liar. Organized crime is the norm in his world, where human life is is discarded without a second thought. Who is this man she believes to be the one her heart loves? Is his love enough for her to trust that whoever he is - and that there is a good explanation? Shattered by the lies of the past and Kyle's subterfuge, Summer has no choice to hold on to hope until the truth is told.

I loved the pace of this novel, fast and head-spinning. The only negative point for me was how long Summer whined and had trouble accepting her husband's past. I know it can be hard to trust when trust is broken, but this girl really took it to the extreme for the longest. Other than that, the characters were exciting, intriguing in their pasts, and constantly finding themselves in trouble of some sort. The heart-stopping action never stops, and it's a wild ride until the very end. Very good for intrigue, suspense, and mystery fans. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Dancing Master

by Julie Klassen
Bethany Publishers

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

My Review:

Regency England is my second favorite time period in history to read about. Klassen's novel is a masterpiece that literally took me back in time and transported me right into the story. The characters in this book are second only to Jane Austen. Big as life, and so true to the time period, the people contained within these pages became alive, breathing remnants of the past. Klassen weaves each one to life; carefully crafting them one by one, piece by piece, layer by layer, and created this masterpiece. 

What got me about this novel was the Austen "feel". It was unique with Klassen's mysteries elements and in-depth character sketches, yet had a very classic vibe. I felt as if I was reading a book from someone who lived in that time period and was writing from a first-hand perspective. An amazing novel that I can't say enough about, it's a recommended read for any Austen and Klassen fans.  

This e-book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review.  

The Painted Table

by Suzanne Field
Thomas Nelson Publishers

The Norwegian table, a century-old heirloom ingrained with family memory, has become a totem of a life Saffee would rather forget—a childhood disrupted by her mother’s mental illness.

Saffee does not want the table. By the time she inherits the object of her mother’s obsession, the surface is thick with haphazard layers of paint and heavy with unsettling memories.

After a childhood spent watching her mother slide steadily into insanity, painting and re-painting the ancient table, Saffee has come to fear that seeds of psychosis may lie dormant within her. She must confront her mother’s torment if she wants to defend herself against it.

Traversing four generations over the course of a century, The Painted Table is a beautiful portrait of inherited memory. It is a sprawling narrative affirmation that a family artifact—like a family member—can bear the marks of one’s past . . . as well as intimations of one’s redemption.

My Review:

Having personal experience on the topic, Field brings a beautiful story to the table. Traveling through the past, present, and hope of the future, makes for a wonderful premise for this story. Add a family touched by the ravages of mental illness, and it becomes the reason why everyone you know should read this novel. A powerfully touching, deeply emotional and unforgettable drama that will stay with you.

What caught my attention about this story was the stark honesty of the writing despite the pain. Reading about Joann's decent into madness, April and Saffee fighting to keep their sanity - if there were Oscars for books, this one would make the cut. A wonderful story that will continually haunts my thoughts, and gave me a deeper understanding of what it truly means to rely on the One who is always there for us.

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/rIosh

Connect with Suzanne through her website: https://www.facebook.com/SuzanneFieldThePaintedTable

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Walk With Me

by Annie Wald
River North Fiction

Peter and Celeste choose to travel as one on the lifelong journey to the King's City. They are blissfully in love and bound to each other by the Cords of Commitment. Shortly after visiting the Moon of Honey they discover that the journey proves much more difficult than they expected. When they find themselves laboring through the Swamp of Selfishness, crossing the dismal Plains of Distance, and nearly becoming separated by the River of Unfaithfulness, their love for each other and for the King is challenged. They must choose whether to continue on together, not knowing if they can be warmed again by the Kindling of Affection, or visit the Valley of Cut Cords to journey alone once more.

Inspired by the timeless classic Pilgrim's Progress, Annie Wald's Walk with Me exposes the journey of marriage as the epic passage that it is and the refining process it can become. 

My Review:

A modern twist on an old classic, Walk With Me is Pilgrim's Progress re-imagined for couples. While I am not a fan of old favorites being changed, Wald paints a completely different story that only serves to add to Bunyan's work. An allegory, the writing doesn't flow like a normal novel would. Peter and Celeste are a couple that have every good intention in the world - but good intentions and reality are never the same thing.

For me, what makes the book so fascinating and  enchanting, is how Wald makes the connection between marriage and the Christian life. It is creative, imaginative, and filled with timeless truths. Marriage is a journey, not a destination. We can't "arrive" and proclaim ourselves accomplished. The language of this novel reads easily despite the style, and I highly recommend it to anyone; married or not. Very insightful and a resource that goes a long way in understanding marriage. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Shades of Mercy


by Anita Lustrea & Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
River North Publishers

It's 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine - is about to change. But that change can't happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar. Long tired of being the "son" her father never had, Mercy's ready for the world to embrace her as the young woman she is, as well as embrace the forbidden love she feels.

When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration. Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in love, in her father, and in God himself.

My Review:

A sore subject even in the best of times, racial tensions run rife in this book. And while we think we as a society are way past this sort of behavior, Lustrea and Rivadeneira portrayed the racial prejudice towards Indians in the 1950's very well. I did feel that the story was very slow paced, but ultimately it makes food for thought in a different sort of way then we're used to getting in a Christian novel. It's a very traditional story, and I ended up enjoying the details of life on the farm, Mercy on the verge of womanhood, and many other little details. 

And of course, we must talk about the romance. Forbidden love, no matter how taboo, will always inspire readers to cheer the couple onward. In this case, we have advanced enough as a country to know that keeping two lovers apart because of race and or culture is just plain wrong. But back then, some things just weren't done, and Mercy and Mick's romance was one of those "off limits" things that no one wanted to see happen. While a little slower than I would have liked, I would definitely recommend it to the younger crowd for a reality check, as well as anyone who enjoys a story that portrays the true meaning of love. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Carolina Gold

by Dorothy Love
Thomas Nelson Publishers

The war is over, but at Fairhaven Plantation, Charlotte's struggle has just begun.

Following her father’s death, Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family’s rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. With no one else to rely upon, smart, independent Charlotte is determined to resume cultivating the superior strain of rice called Carolina Gold.  But the war has left the plantation in ruins, her father’s former bondsmen are free, and workers and equipment are in short supply.

To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to tutor the two young daughters of her widowed neighbor and heir to Willowood Plantation, Nicholas Betancourt.  Just as her friendship with Nick deepens, he embarks upon a quest to prove his claim to Willowood and sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that uncovers a long-held family secret, and threatens everything she holds dear.

Inspired by the life of a 19th-century woman rice farmer, Carolina Gold pays tribute to the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry and weaves together mystery, romance, and historical detail, bringing to life the story of one young woman’s struggle to restore her ruined world.

My Review:

Charlotte is a remarkable young woman with perseverance that spans the annals of time. Her ability to keep going despite her circumstances is a true example of what the human spirit is capable of. What captured my attention the most about this story was how everyone pulled together to rebuild after the Civil War. and Love. I was blown away with the way the author portrayed the unity and harmony of the Fairhaven Plantation despite such trying times. 

Love relates in perfect detail the time period that this novel is set in. I learned many new facts about rice plantations, the time after the Civil War, and the concept of living near the beach during the summer. I enjoy novels that open up to worlds to me, that teach me about things I've never heard of, and take me places I can never visit. Love does an excellent job of doing all of these things, while also writing a romance as a beautiful backdrop to the story. The author never overwhelms us with the romantic side of things, and that makes this a novel an exemplary piece of fiction that belongs on every historical fiction fan's bookshelf. 

This book was provided by the publisher through Litfuse Nest for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase your copy here: http://ow.ly/s2Q5l

Connect with Dorothy here: www.dorothylovebooks.com

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rest Not in Peace

by Mel Starr
Lion Fiction

Master Hugh, surgeon and bailiff, is asked to provide a sleeping potion for Sir Henry Burley, a friend and guest of Lord Gilbert at Bampton Castle. Sir Henry—with his current wife, a daughter by a first wife, two knights, two squires, and assorted servants—has outstayed his welcome at Bampton.

The next morning, Sir Henry is found dead, eyes open, in his bed. Master Hugh, despite shrill accusations from the grieving widow, is asked by Lord Gilbert to determine the cause of death . . . which had nothing to do with the potion.

The sixth tale following Hugh de Singleton, Rest Not in Peace is sure to find its place among fans of detective and medieval historical fiction.

My Review:

I absolutely love murder mysteries. Especially those set in creepy castles in far away lands that I will never see with my own eyes. But when you throw Starr into the mix, you've got a mystery to die for. (Slight pun intended.) Starr's knowledge of medicine, vocabulary, and medieval history make this novel ring true with authentic turn of phrases and characters that feel realistic to the setting. Even though I have not read the first five novels in this series, I am absolutely going to backtrack and catch up.

So now comes the part where we talk about Hugh. Hugh is a surgeon with a quick, careful hand, and he knows how to take care of his patients. But when it comes to solving the death of Sir Henry, Hugh is ever-cautious about where the clues will take him. He doesn't over-examine the reason why one man would kill another, but tries to find the truth out before it's too late.

The details Starr adds to this drama truly adds to the narrative of the tale. I feel that even the most reticent reader will enjoy this novel thoroughly, and will find themselves just a little wiser for it. 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hurt

by Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook

His Rebellion Will Soon Turn to Hope.

When Chris Buckley first encountered the mysteries of creepy Solitary, North Carolina, he had little idea how far he would fall into the town’s shadows. After losing the love of his life, Chris tried to do things his way. He hunted answers. Then he gave up trying to find them.

But now Chris comes back to Solitary knowing there’s a purpose for his being there. As he watches his place in a twisted and evil bloodline become clear, Chris waits for the last battle—and wonders who will be left when he finally makes his stand.

The fourth and final book in the Solitary Tales shines light into deep darkness as Chris’s journey to Solitary comes to a dramatic close.

My Review:

Turning that final page of Hurt really makes me feel like my life is over. My life in Solitary has come to an end, and never again will I be a first-time spectator. The ending isn't at all what I expected it to be, yet I was pleasantly surprised that there is a hole left by the absence of my daily forage into the town of Solitary. 

At this point, I am pretty well acquainted with Chris and his turmoil, and I was just as anxious to find out where Thrasher was taking me. This amazing author doesn't disappoint. Chris's vision is finally clear, and he understands where he falls into the past and future of Solitary. I've very literally dragged this series out for eight weeks. As a reader who reads at least a book a day, that was a tough thing to do. But I wanted to savor every word, every page, and every new experience. 

I have to admit that for the first time in my life, I've slightly fallen in love with a male literary character. And a man-child no less. I've read about Chris's deepest fears and biggest mistakes, and I am going to miss the quirky fellow. Chris is a guy who tries to do right, and often ends up involved in something he had no intention of being a part of. I am going to miss him, his friends and family, and the town of Solitary. I've never been so emotionally involved in a story as much as I have this one, and for that Thrasher, I thank you. 

And finally, for those of you reading my words, give this series, this genre, and this author a chance. Thrasher will not disappoint you or let you down. His words will inspire you, teach you things you will never forget, and take you places that you will never regret.  

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Temptation

by Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook

The third book in the Solitary Tales series for young adults, Temptation follows the soul-wrenching twists of Chris Buckley’s journey as he heads deeper into a darkness that threatens all he loves best.

As a reluctant student at Harrington High’s summer school, Chris meets a fun-loving senior girl who offers a welcome diversion from Chris’s past. Soon Chris no longer searches for the truth about the town of Solitary. He no longer tries to pierce its shadows. He no longer questions his role in its mysteries. He makes a new choice: he runs. What he doesn't realize is that he’s running the wrong way—and is very close to being beyond any choices at all.

My Review:

In this stunning third installment to the Solitary Tales Series, Chris's experiences in town are escalating to a breaking point. Solitary is nonchalantly covering up murder, dabbling in the occult, and a multitude of other sins. Chris is numb to the idea that evil lurks within, and rather than continue his search, he just lets it go. So many times in this novel I just wanted to scream at him to dig deeper, to look harder, to not give up.

The answers Chris was searching for have finally found him. Unwillingly, he is drawn to the secrets that have seemed to evade him from the beginning, and he is powerless to keep from being sucked under. Supernatural elements are at play, and Thrasher portrays everything in a completely believable light despite the absolute impossibility of some situations. 

Thrasher continues to amaze and enthrall with his stories, and you will never see the world in the same light again. That dark, foreboding feeling stays with you throughout the book as it has done from the beginning, and no matter who you are, or what your age, everyone can enjoy and take away something from the Solitary Tales.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Gravestone

by Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook

His Fear Will Soon Turn to Anger….

At first, Chris Buckley was simply warned. And watched. But as Chris unravels the haunting riddles of the town of Solitary, he finds that much more than the life of a town is at stake.

Whether facing a pastor with a house full of skeletons or a cousin he never knew existed, Chris is forced to choose between light and darkness, life and nightmarish death. Every choice he makes reminds him that the unthinkable has already happened—and if he trusts the wrong person, it may happen again.

This second book in the Solitary Tales continues Chris’s journey toward finding out who he is and what his own role is in the darkness suffocating his tiny new hometown. Filled with shocking twists, Gravestone is a tale of a teenager thrown into a battle over a town, a secret—and ultimately his own soul.

My Review:

I'm not going to lie. Thrasher scares me. He's not just a scary, good writer, but he actually terrifies me with his stories. I am blown away by the level of reality Thrasher brings to his novels with just words, and what depth of terror he invokes with a stroke of his pen. So many questions were left unanswered with the first novel in the series, and though Gravestone answers some of them, we are still left with an eerie sense of disquiet and unrest. 

The atmosphere of this novel was dark, and ominous. So much in fact, that I read during daylight hours only. Thrasher pushes us deeper into the turmoil of Chris's life in Solitary; that dark, frightening, little town where absolutely nothing makes sense, yet feels like a safe haven for many. Chris is still a little whiny, but after all he's been through, I really don't blame him!

The biggest question of all remains, and it is to my credit that I have the rest of the series at my disposal. I am fearful to continue reading, yet the mysteries not yet revealed call to me through me through the pages of modern literature, beckoning me to enter therein and discover all their secrets... 

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.