Friday, November 30, 2012

Love Finds a Way

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Three woman find love in unexpected places and ways. Lorna Patterson is a widow returning to college after ten years, and not interested in finding another husband. But culinary novice Evan Bailey is a determined and
persistent man, who won't take "no" for an answer. Can he get her to change her mind about re-marrying?

Shelia Nickels comes back to her hometown to pick out an antique doll after her grandmother offers all her granddaughters a treasure from her attic.Dismayed to find the doll missing, she and antique dealer Dwayne Woods fruitlessly search. Will Shelia be able to find the doll before it is gone forever?

Wendy Campbell thinks her father is the only man she needs in her life. But after he fakes 911 calls to get a certain paramedic Kyle Roger, to their home, will Wendy finally realize that she needs a life of her own?

As always, my gripe with Brunstetter is that her her stories are more like fairy tales; simplistic in language, bordering on unbelievable, and at times childish. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the stories in this book, but while many good books get you believe in the characters, Brunstetter just delivers a story. It is names, places and events put together, which I know will happen in a short story where things need to move very fast. While it is a nice collection of romances, it still falls flat like bread without yeast. I enjoyed it for what it was; an easy read with likable, (albeit fake) characters. A good book will make the line between fact and fiction blurry, if not obsolete. But all Brunstetter was able to accomplish is feel-good, trite romances that fail to draw you in and completely loose yourself.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harvest of Rubies

by Tessa Afshar

River North

Sarah is proficient in many areas - she can read and write in multiple languages, she can keep complicated ans lengthy accounts, and has a quick and sharp mind. The only thing stopping her from great success is that she is a woman. But when her cousin Nehemiah recommends her to the position of head scribe to the queen, she is completely unprepared for the events that follow.

Sarah has always measured her worth based on her accomplishments; if she fails in any aspect of her work, she sees herself as a failure as well. So when her position as senior scribe is threatened because of her success as the queen's trusted account holder, she is, for the first time in her life, being measured for who she is as a person. With no complicated rolls of parchment and clay tablets to hide behind, will she attain her own measure of worthiness? Or does God has other plans for His child?

This was a wonderful re-imagining of a fictional character set in Biblical times. Afshar deals with something that we all struggle with at some point in our life; the measure of our worth. Despite the lack of  history Afshar had to work with as a background for her story, she does a marvelous job of re-creating the setting and bringing it to life. It was a story I could believe in and learn from, and an author that understands the very heart that beats in every one of us. Not only a recommended read, but one I will re-visit again and again.

A copy of this book was provided by Moody Press for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Glory of Green

by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois finally has her life - personal and at The Green News-Item under control. She is getting married to a wonderful man, Chris, and despite his odd collection in catfish items which come in every material known to man, she is touched when he gives his home away to a needy Mexican family. Things are coming together so nicely, she's even starting to get along with the puppy that Eva, the town mayor, gave her as an early wedding gift.

But it wouldn't be Green if the wedding came and went without a hitch. A major tornado strikes right after the vows are said between Lois and Chris; whipping the town like a smoothie and randomly destroying the homes in it's path. Many are left without homes, and the ones with anything left try to help those in need. With Chris having just given his home away, and Lois still trying to get back to her little place on Route 2, will the newlyweds have anything left? Or are they now one of the many homeless people in the town of Green Louisiana?

So many times an author will try to depict a disaster, or dire crisis and it can fall flat. But somehow Christie manages to make the most unbelievable fate fall upon her characters and it is so realistic and genuine you actually believe a series of unfortunate events can fall upon this one girl we love so much. The Green Series has done nothing but entertain and humor me from it's first words - give Green a chance and you too can taste from it's wonders.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goodness Gracious Green

by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois is in her second year in Green, Louisiana and she is excited with her decision to keep The Green News-Item. It seems like things are finally starting to look up for her, and she's even met a special someone. The combination of fresh faith and strengthening friendships make her comfortable in the little town of Green, and any reservations she had left are gone with her old corporate job.

But then things start to go wrong again. The brothers want to buy their paper back. Fires seem to be breaking out everywhere and threaten the paper. Somehow, Lois gets her face bitten by the mayor's dog. Feeling like her enthusiasm for her new hometown is wilting, Lois needs some kind of encouragement to convince her she made the right decision. Will everything resolve itself for Lois and Green? Or will the latest developments be too much for her and send her back to Ohio?

I enjoyed the continuing story of Lois and all her friends in Green. All the characters are leaving an indelible mark in my mind, and it's going to be hard to forget them. Katy, an up and coming teenage journalist; Alex, the twenty-something official journalist of the paper; Eva, the mayor; Kevin, an African-American doctor and Lois's best friend; Iris, the secretary, the glue that holds it all together, and so many more good people in the wonderful town of Green. You will enjoy the visit.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gone to Green

by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois is a corporate journalist that just got a reality check. Forced to put her job on hold, she sets off for the small town of Green, Louisiana to run a small paper that publishes only two editions a week. She inherited The Green News-Item unexpectedly from a close colleague, and being that the poor man died before he could achieve his small town dream, she is reluctant to just sell it off before giving it a chance. Committing to an entire year in Green, Lois sets about finding her place as the new boss.

If only her problems were in the singular. She was expecting a small town full of friendly, happy people, and what she discovers almost makes her turn around and head back to Ohio. She finds her new home is in the outskirts of town, with virtually no neighbors. Before she can even get her bearings, she is facing prejudices, corruption, and the everyday struggle to keep the paper out of the red. But along the way she makes surprising friendships with the citizens of Green, and it almost makes it hard to leave when the year is up and she is preparing to sell the paper. Will Lois realize that a small town is where her heart really is? Or will the allure of her job back in Ohio be stronger than the people of Green?

I found myself believing these people were actually real. As if I was simply reading a re-telling of things that actually happened. This right here is fiction at it's finest. The story draws you in, makes you feel like you can jump in the car and just drive to Green. I can see the flattened newspaper rack Lois keeps hitting when she's in a hurry, I can see the flowers along Route 2, and I can see and feel the small town charm in my mind's eye.  A really good story that comes with four more books in the series. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have all five books before you start this one - you're not going to want to wait for more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Absence So Great

by Jane Kirkpatrick

Waterbrook Press

Jessie Gaebele's life couldn't be better. Armed with the knowledge to run her own photographic studio, she decides to help owners run their studios while they are sick with mercury poisoning. She steps closer and closer to owning her own studio, and she scrimps and saves until her goal is within her reach.

Despite Jessie's good intentions, it seems as if she is an impasse in her life. She cannot move forward with her studio plans, nor is she making progress with overcoming her infatuation with her tutor and mentor, F.J. Bauer. Is she truly a woman in a man's world, or is she capable of becoming her own person?

While this novel is better enjoyed after the first book, A Flickering Light, it stands well on it's own as well. While the end is predictable, the resolution and peace that is found by the characters is quite astounding considering the subject matter. F.J. Bauer's great lengths to pursuit of a woman he could never have is a little far-fetched to my mind, but some stories are too crazy to be made up. And this one was as close to the heart of the truth as Kirkpatrick could get. I commend her for tackling on such a feat; a fictional depiction and account of the true to life events surrounding her grandmother's life. A work well done.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Flickering Light

by Jane Kirkpatrick

Waterbrook Press

Jessie Gaebele is an amateur photographer in 1907, Minnesota. She loves nothing more than to take pictures of the beautiful landscape and the people she loves. When she is hired at the Bauer Studio to assist in developing photos and learning how to run the business, she knows she is headed in the right direction for her life and career.

There are hazards that come with the territory; the explosive powder used for lighting, and the toxic chemicals used for developing the prints. It is considered a man's profession, and life-threatening when the mercury poisoning hits. Yet Jessie works deftly and skillfully at every aspect of running a studio. What she can't seem to manage, however, is her attraction to the married F.J. Bauer. Will photography reveal the person she really is, or will it expose her for what she can never be?

I had mixed emotions about this book as I knew before I even opened the book that there was the undercurrents of a possible emotional affair between an older married man and a young woman. But despite all of that, I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered. The author portrayed a perfect mix between the human fallacies we all are born with, and the power of forgiveness from not only those we love, but God himself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Danny Gospel

by David Athey

Bethany Publishers

Danny lived a simple life with his family; singing in their gospel band to the point that the public referred to them as the "Gospel" family. He had it easy with his loving family around him, keeping him from harm and life's harder lessons. But as the years progress Danny's family members die off one by one, leaving only his brother.

Amid the tranquility of the small town in Iowa, Danny is a postman leading a rather disappointing life. Missing his family, the band, the farm upbringing, and haunted by memories of a happy past, he dreams a dream that changes everything. He dreams he is kissed by a woman in white, and he is enthusiastically sure she is his wife-to-be. Danny begins his quest to true love, sifting through the memories, trying to find his purpose in life and find where his future lies. But is he searching for something that can never truly be recovered? Or have the answers to life's difficult questions been before him from the beginning?

I didn't realize until I was part way through the book that there was something wrong with Danny. I won't spoil it for anybody, but he truly was a character I will never forget. The simple, yet complex way that he viewed the world was endearing, and made me want to slow down and smell the roses. Despite the loss of nearly all his family members, Danny endures; trying to salvage the good memories of the past and learning from the bad times. I really enjoyed this novel, despite the fact that I wished it would have been a little longer and less abrupt at the end. A good read overall.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

No Safe Harbor

by Elizabeth Ludwig

Bethany Publishers

Cara Hamilton is lured to America from Ireland by a letter from her brother. Relieved to know Eoghan is alive, she arrives in a strange, new land, anxious to find her brother. Despite Eoghan's warnings to speak to no one, she finds herself in a budding friendship with the tenacious Rourke Walsh. With Eoghan's words ringing in her ears, she proceeds cautiously with her new acquaintances. But before long, she realizes that things are not as they seem, and the land of opportunity quickly becomes the land of danger.

For every step Cara comes closer to finding Eoghan, she begins to trust Rourke a little more. But as the truth of her intentions in coming to America - and the truth about her brother - begins to surface; Rourke's real reason for getting to know Cara better threatens to be revealed as well. Will Cara and Rourke be able to find Eoghan? Or have the sands of time run out for both of them?

This wonderful novel comes to us from a well-known mystery/suspense writer, Elizabeth Ludwig. I loved everything about this book; the characters with the way they kept my interest in every detail of their lives, the setting of a young Irish woman coming to America, and the plot with it's twists and turns. I cheered with them when they succeeded, and I cried when they didn't. In the end, it was a very satisfying read, and I hope you will enjoy it every bit as much as I did.

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Bridesmaid

by Beverly Lewis

Bethany Publishers

Joanne Kurtz has been a bridesmaid enough times it is actually considered unlucky. Being passed over by all the fellows in Hickory Hollow, she is practically an old maid in her Lancaster County community. As a secret writer, she longs for the opportunity to do more than huddle over her notebook away from the eyes of others. But Joanna has one more secret that may cost her more than her writing - something that has the potential to change her life forever.

Eben Troyer is determined to make Joanna his bride, just as soon as his younger brother, Leroy comes to his senses and returns home to claim the farm that Eben is working so hard to keep up. Eben and Joanna's future hangs in the balance as promises that once seemed so easy to make are no longer even possible. Will Joanna ever be a bride? Or will she continue to walk up the altar as a bridesmaid?

This second installment to Lewis's Home to Hickory Hollow series is a beautiful and charming novel  full of everything we love we love from this pioneer of Amish fiction. I felt as if I was reading about a place that was real, with characters as familiar as my own family. Getting to learn a little bit more of the Amish world from Lewis's eyes isn't the only reason why I would recommend this book; readers old and new will appreciate this novel for what it is. It is a breathtaking look into a place that exists only in our hearts, and will forever live on whenever a new reader is drawn into this captivating storyteller's spell.

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Fiddler

by Beverly Lewis

Bethany Publishers

Amelia DeVries is a classical violinist that is unhappy with her life. Tired of keeping a secret from her family, and emotionally exhausted by practices and performances, she takes a little detour into Lancaster County. Her car decides to let her down deep in the mountains, and after her phone leaves her stranded she walks to the nearest house. She discovers an enchanting log cabin, and most puzzling of all, an Amish man inside.

Michael Hostetler is disillusioned with his family's expectations of him as well. He loves them, yet he just doesn't feel that he can follow their footsteps and make the lifelong commitment to the Amish church. After Amelia ends up on his doorstep, he recognizes they are in the same place in life. Inviting her to come along to Lancaster County to extend her impromptu road trip, both Michael and Amelia make more discoveries than  they ever bargained for. Will they ever be able to make decisions that honor Michael's heritage and Amelia's legacy?

Picking up my first violin at 3 years of age, I truly enjoyed this book. The details of Amelia's concerts, the authenticity of the musician "lingo", and every little violinist nuance made me feel as if she was an extension of myself, a character I could believe in. But I'm afraid that to someone who has no interest in a violinist's life, it may be overbearing tale filled with too much time devoted to things only a fellow string player would enjoy. So that being said, it was a very good book for me and one that I enjoyed. All the same, anyone that loves Amish fiction and Beverly Lewis will find this visit to Lancaster County a delightful one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Gifted

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Jessamine Brady knows her identity only as a young girl in her grandmother's cabin the Kentucky woods until the age of ten, when her grandmother passed away. From there, she is taken to the Shaker village in Harmony Hill. For the next ten years, Jessamine is brought up as a Shaker Sister, loving her brethren equally as taught by the Ministry. Curious about the world around her, Jessamine is often found to be in transgression when her disregard of the strict rules land her in trouble. On one such excursion, she finds a man left for dead in the woods, and she brings him back to her village. In the space of three weeks, Jessamine finds herself questioning the very principles and values that define who she really is. Will Tristan be the answer she seeks? Or will he be the very one that tears her apart from her faith and true salvation with the Believers?

A stunning and fitting end to the Shaker series, (if indeed, this is the last installment), it is a wonderful work in and of itself. While the longest book in the series, it was one I simply did not want to put down. I wanted to stay in the land of Jessamine's mind and innocence a little longer, to see things from her point of view. You will feel as if you are learning all these new things right along side her: her hopes, her dreams, her discoveries of life, the good and the bad. A novel rich in the life of yet another Shaker sister, well written, and drew me like a moth to flame.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Blessed

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Lacey Bishop's life is in tatters. Alone in the world, she goes to work for a preacher and his wife, and so remains in their employ until the wife passes, her dear Miss Mona. Having no where else to go, she stays with the preacher and the little girl, Rachel that had been left on his doorstep years before. When the women in the parish raise a protest about the improper living conditions of a 20-year-old single girl living with the widowed preacher, Lacey is convinced that she has no other recourse. But even after their marriage, she cannot bring herself to be a true wife to Preacher Palmer. Distraught by his life falling into sin, Preacher Palmer follows the Shakers to their village in Harmony Hill, taking Lacey and Rachel with him. Once there, Lacey embraces the idea of a celibate life, but is confused by her feelings for a young brother named Issac. Will she ever be happy, or will she have to settle for just being blessed with the breath of life?

The one thing that I have to say I am relieved about in this story, is that despite the unnatural marriage of Lacey and the preacher it never truly came to fruition. I know it was due to the Shakers arriving at just the right time, and of course that is due to the writing of Gabhart. But it was a great relief when things turned out the way they did, and I have to admit this 4th installation to the Shaker series sucked me in just as hard and fast as the first three. This book breathes life to it's characters, and makes you feel as if you can take a little walk and simply go meet them. This is a story of a forgotten people in American history; and while we know that they are wrong in some aspects of their beliefs, we can appreciate what they contributed not only to history - but to every person they touched.