Monday, December 31, 2012

Her Good Name

by Ruth Axtell

River North Publishers

It is 1890 in Holliston, Maine. Esperanza Estrada is a smart young woman born on the wrong side of the tracks, and surrounded by ten other siblings she is just another one of "those Estrada's." Unable to further her education because she has to work to support her family, Espy struggles to make her way in the world. Wanting to expose herself to a more cultured, refined environment, and desperately wishing she had a higher education; she leaves her job at the cannery and takes a job at a local teacher's home as a maid. 

Warren Brentwood III is the successor of his father's business, educated in the finest of colleges, and a gentleman. Only the finest life awaits him, with the respect and accolades that follow a successful business and family. But Warren doesn't feel the satisfaction of his accomplishments or the pride that his parents say he should feel. Yet when in the company of Espy, he feels alive and complete. So when rumors circulate about Espy and the respected professor, Espy flees the town, leaving Warren more alone than ever. Will Espy's good name be forever tainted? And will Warren ever be able to fill that hole in his heart that seems to grow ever wider in Espy's absence?

As usual, I had my doubts with a new author that everyone raves about. I don't want to be disappointed, so my expectations are pretty low when I try a new writer. But I was pleasantly surprised  to find that while the book did not have a lot of historic portrayal of the time period, (Axtell didn't go on and on about the when and where), she did have a lot of character development in her story. The tale started with two immature characters that you really get to know and understand at the story's end. You find yourself rooting for them, and hoping the best for everyone involved. A story with a message deeper than your typical Christian romance.

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Tuesday Morning

by Karen Kingsbury

Zondervan Publishers

Jake Bryan is a firefighter in New York City, and he has everything he ever needs to be happy in this life. A beautiful daughter named Sierra, and an amazing wife, Jamie. The only thing he lacks is the assurance of salvation for Jamie, but he never pushes her and seeks to guide by example. He has a promise from God - that Jamie will one day be a Believer, in her own time. When the events of 911 are at their zenith, will Jake be alive to see the transformation in his wife? Or is his death a part of God's master plan?

Eric Michaels is on top of the world. Executive to a big company, he has all the money and prestige he could ever want to be happy in this life. His beautiful wife Laura, and son Josh, live in the finest home money can buy, the best clothes, food, and provisions they will ever need. But all those earthly treasures can never make up for the lack of a husband and father Eric has become. When he never comes home after the 911 attacks on the World Trade Centers, did his greed of the almighty dollar cost him his life? Or is God at work in Laura's life in a way she never imagined possible?

This story was as heartbreaking as it was poignant. I have never read a novel where you are absolutely broken by the story, yet joyful for the outcome. This is a story of two very different families with the same basic needs. To love and be loved by each other, to personally know a Savior who will meet our needs and whom we can wholly trust, and a faith in the Father that He always knows best in the worst of circumstances. A story that will touch every part of you and strengthen your faith. 

A copy of this book was provided for free from Zondervan publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


by Stephen R. Lawhead

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Bran ap Brychan is the heir to the throne in Elfael. But when his father and all his military men are slaughtered, Bran disappears into the forest with a ransom on his head. The forest to which he flees is a living, breathing, mysterious wood complete with danger, secrets, and powers that he does not understand.

Unwilling to fight for what is rightfully his, Bran must make a decision: become the king Elfael needs to survive in the ancient Welsh lands, or let the Norman invaders take his land, his heritage, and his family's honor. Will Bran stand to defend what is his, or will he let his countrymen down and forever change the history of medieval Britain?

Let me begin by saying just how boring this book really is. Yes, the premise is interesting. Yes, it's a different twist on the story of Robin Hood. But it is the most boring book I've ever read. Maybe my reading comprehension sucks. Maybe my tolerance for names I can't pronounce without a guide (which I ended up pronouncing my own way anyway) is so bad I actually fall in the ignorant category. But by heavens, even Shakespeare is more exciting. So that said, I would recommend this book for those interested in Celtic mythology and folklore. The rest of you - read at your own risk.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Second Thief

by Travis Thrasher

Moody Publishers

After committing a felony, Tom Ledger boards a plane that changes his life forever. He escapes the crash with his life, but he can't seem to escape the mistakes of the past. Wondering why he lived and the man who sat beside him did not, Tom re-evaluates his life. What he sees is not much of a life; disconnected to his family and leaving the only girl he ever loved. In his climb up the corporate ladder, he has disregarded anything and everything that means anything to him. And somehow, he has lost himself. Is it ever too late to redeem yourself? Or can there truly be life after death?

The twist in this story came in it's final pages. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Thrasher changed one crucial part of the story and suddenly everything was different. This book took me on a journey that was rich with excitement and made me care about Tom - even though he brought most of his troubles on himself. Watching him run away from the bad decisions that eventually ruined his life reminded me that in this life it is never too late to find redemption from the One who forgives and will change your life forever. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blown Away

by Nancy Mehl

Barbour Publishers

Hilde Higgins is deathly afraid of clowns. When she finds out her boyfriend is a clown for a children's hospital, it's too late to rethink their relationship. But when Adam stands accused of killing two of his fellow clowns, she begins to second guess the man she thinks he is. Will their mutual friend Gabe be able to help her subjectively separate fact from fiction? Did Adam really kill his friends for money, or is he being framed?

This actually turned out to be the sequel to Missing Mabel, and I was very happily surprised to realize it was a continuation of a story that I was familiar with. Hilde is a down-to-earth gal that fixes the hair of the recently deceased, and the poor girl is constantly finding herself in one fix or another. She wears her hair with a purple streak down the middle, but I can't help but really like the girl despite her constant penchant for getting into trouble. Her casual, easygoing attitude is hard to dislike, and her love of everything and everybody is contagious. A very pleasant book to read anytime.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To Whisper Her Name

by Tamera Alexander

Zondervan Publishers

Olivia is a widow of the worst kind in the city of Nashville following the Civil War that divided a great nation. Her husband, Charles Aberdeen is a traitor to the South, and Olivia is forced to live with the repercussions of his actions when the townspeople murder him and leave her completely destitute in the world. Having nowhere else to go, she packs up and heads for Belle Meade Plantation. Her mother's best friend, Elizabeth Harding welcomes her with open arms, even though the General reluctantly extends his generosity to the shamed widow.

Ridley Cooper made a difficult choice when as a son of the South, he donned the blue uniform of the Federal Army. Shunned by his family for the impossible choice he had to make, he is left with nothing after the war sweeps away everybody he loves. Determined to learn the skills of Belle Meade's horse trainer, he seeks a measure of peace for himself and desperately wants a new life out west. But the dangerous secrets he harbors threaten his plans for the future, namely, a certain widow. Will Olivia be able to accept who he is and where he is going? Or will the shadows of the past blind them both to the future that may await them?

Facing a book this size was a little daunting. But the more I read, the more I was immensely grateful that the author took the time to bestow us with such a stunning story of betrayal, faith, hope, and ultimately, love. I have read many a story of the aftermath following the Civil War. But this novel was a treasure to read, and breathtakingly accurate in its depiction of historical detail. I enjoyed every second I spent with this book. The characters will draw you to the story, and the plot keeps your mind in Alexander's re-telling of the past even when you don't have the book in your hands.

A copy of this book was provided for free from Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Tracey Bateman

WaterBrook Press

Nina is a recovering alcoholic that isn't having the best time recovering. Wanting to make amends with her ex-husband, Hunt, and her two children, she does her time in rehab and moves back to her childhood town. Taking her daughter Meg with her, Nina begins to clean up her life in earnest. 

But something that has been alive for 250 years is running rampant in the Ozarks. With a murderer on the loose, and her sister Jill (the town sheriff) trying to solve the cases in record time, they are all in danger. Struggling to stay sober from her addiction, and trying be be strong for Meg, Nina is unaware that her fight against dark forces may not be with herself after all. Will she realize the truth in time? Or is she going to loose her family despite her efforts to clean up her life?

When I plucked this book from my shelf, I had no idea what I was getting into. It wasn't until I was well into the story that I realized what was really going on. While this was the tamest vampire story I have ever read, the novel was redeemed in the story of Nina. I didn't see the need for the vampire twist in the book, nor did I care for that aspect of the story, but I was drawn to Nina, her family, and her childhood memories.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Soul Saver

by Dineen Miller

Barbour House

Lexie Baltimore is a sculptor that uses her talents in obedience to God's calling. Remembering the faces that she dreams of, she sculpts them to help them. But one day she sculpts a face that isn't an easy in-and-out mission like the others were. Instead, she embarks on a mission that is the biggest one she's ever taken on - herself. Will she be able to see the truth before it's too late?

Nate Winslow is drowning in the regret of the past. He has one mission and one mission only; to win Lexie's heart. She is a married woman that is shackled to an unbeliever, and Nate is the kind of man she imagines her husband Hugh, capable of being if he would only believe. Will the dangerous game he is playing endanger more than his daughter? Or is there more at stake than either of them realize?

This book was a little different than I'm used to reading. But I couldn't help but get sucked into the story, with it's page turning action and excitement. Miller really went out on a limb by writing this kind of story, and I have to admit I really got into it and was sad to read the final page. The simple humanity of the darkness portrayed in this novel is very down to earth and realistic, and it wasn't until the truth was revealed that I realized what was happening. A very compelling read and a fast paced plot.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Captain's Bride

by Lisa T. Bergren

WaterBrook Press

Elsa Anders is about to become the wife of Captain Peder Ramstad. Leaving her beloved Norway for the shores of Maine, Elsa wants to be more than just a captain's wife. She wants the adventure of the seas; see exotic places, painting the beautiful sights and vistas, and just being with her husband. Will Peder allow it? Or will his authority as captain spill over into their lives?

Kaatje wants to come to America to save her marriage. Her life, and the life of her unborn child depend on it. Karl Martensen has been friends with Peder since childhood. He fights his secret and impossible love for Elsa, but his emotions threaten to destroy everything they have set out to accomplish. And Tora Anders, the defiant yet seductive young woman that believes she can win the world with her woman'y wiles and wit. Will any of these immigrants find what they are looking for in America? Or is their fresh start an unreachable dream?

This book will take you on a wonderful journey, Once set your eyes to it's pages, you are sucked into the tale and there is no describing the agony of waiting to see what will happen to all the characters you've come to love. I have held my breath so many times in anticipation, stifled a gasp at another twist in the plot, that I feel silly for becoming so enchanted without so much as a look back. I read a lot of books, and I like to think that I can anticipate and know what happens next. This book stripped away all I know of fiction, and took me to the beautiful country of Norway, a magical voyage across the sea that became a mix of tragedy and joy, and finally brought me to the promised land. But so many questions remain. Bergren tells many character stories, but she is successful at making each person an unforgettable part of the tale, as real as the many immigrants that have docked at our shores.

A copy of this book was provided for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


by Lisa Samson

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Life just didn't turn out the way Jose and Nina had planned. Jose struggles with the guilt of his past despite the support of a big and loving family. Nina cannot get away from the memories of her childhood, and it is aiding her in making bad decisions. With no one but herself to take care of, she lives one day at a time, dreams of becoming a dancer a distant memory. Jose fights the the memories of the past, and Nina helplessly watches her dreams slowly slip away into the past.

But just one day can change a person's life, and when Jose steps forward to protect the naive Nina, they are both pleasantly surprised by the outcome. But can Jose's friendship be enough to help Nina make the right choice - especially when a lot more than dashed dreams are at stake? Will Jose finally find his place in the world, or is the past going to haunt his future forever?

This was a delightful book to read, despite it's short length. While I have not yet had the privilege of seeing the film version of this story, Samson gives a brief but pleasant overview of events in this novelization of the film. An enjoyable read with a wonderful cast of characters that mirrors the memories of my own family.

The Colors Will Change

by Louis N. Jones

Conquest Publishers

Carline Lissade is at the end of her proverbial robe. Living in squalor after her entire family is gone, and depending on the kindness of the poverty stricken people around her can only last for so long. Taking the last remnants of her courage, she goes to Port-Au-Prince and decides to sell herself in order to survive on her own. On her very first night, the man she goes with is not what he seems, and her bad decision puts her life in danger. Settling in a guest house, she then meets a senator who offers to help her immigrate to the Unites States. Despite the good intentions of those around her, Carline quickly discovers there is no hiding from the past. Will she be able to escape alive?

This book was not what I expected. I was expecting a slow read that would be chock full of political jargon from a country that I know little about. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was easy to read, with very uncomplicated language to convey to the reader exactly what was going on without any mumbo jumbo to wade through.

Now for the one thing that drove me crazy. Saints preserve us, the editing was awful. At first, I thought I wasn't paying attention and had made an error. But at least seven times in the text, the wrong name was printed. In most instances the same person kept having a conversation with themselves, and in two instances the name of a character that wasn't even present was there in the text instead of the correct one. At the very least, it made me pay attention, because I've never read a book where so many discrepancies occurred. While distracting, it was a very good story, and I even learned a little bit more about the country of Haiti.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sky Blue

by Travis Thrasher

Moody Press

Colin Scott is at the top of his game. Representing the biggest names in the publishing world, he works with authors in securing their loyalty - and their
manuscripts. But despite his success, he can't help but feel that life has fallen short of his expectations. His wife Jen, wants to have a baby, and no matter how much they try, their hopes die with the negative results every month. In time she drifts away from him, frustrated by the demands of their jobs, and their lack of emotional connection.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to re-connect with Jen and remember all the good things in life, he takes her on a romantic vacation in Cancun. What should have been a time to save their marriage ends up taking a disastrous turn. Obsessed with a manuscript he wants to make better, and distracted by the things he wants and has; the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred. Will he ever be able to pull himself out of the miry pit that has been dug, or is it too late to save himself?

There are so many emotions I felt after reading this book, I don't even really know where to start. Being inside someone's mind for a big part of the novel was challenging. Not able to see things for myself, but relying on Colin's fragmented memories was hard. But even though I was warned he was headed for a nervous breakdown, I never saw it coming. I was so shocked to read the final pages, I felt as if I should just start over, see the evidence for myself. I was utterly transfixed by this book; completely confused, awed, surprised, and grieved all at once. A splendid book that will make you re-evaluate what is most important to you in this life, and a reminder not to take those we love for granted. Because once they're gone it is too late.    

Oliver Twist

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

Tyndale House

Having read Oliver Twist all my life, and being an avid reader, not a listener; I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this, or simply listen to it for the sake of a review. How wrong I was!!! This dramatization of one of my favorite classics of all time was breathed into being by a cast of voices by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. I listened to it while driving, and it had me captivated from the very first moment the narrator began his introduction into the tale. I had to keep reminding myself it was an audio, not a movie, it was well done with not only the character voices, but the realistic background noises as well.

You can clearly see in your mind's eye every detail that is portrayed, and though I am not a visual person, (hence why I read) I was able to imagine through the cast's voices everything that was taking place. This full cast audio production captures the voice of 19th century England, and takes us back to a time and place where corruption was a frightening happenstance, compassion was scarcely found, and redemption an unattainable feat.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Reluctant Queen

by Joan Wolf

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Esther is a simple girl; an orphan alone in the world with her uncle Mordecai as guardian, and raised in  Jewish faith and traditions. One day, Mordecai has a dream that will change Esther's life forever - he dreams of the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. A solution to the problem comes in the form of the current king of Persia; King Ahasuerus.

When King Ahasuerus puts away Queen Vashti for refusing to appear at a feast, he is on the hunt for a new wife. Woman after woman is paraded in front of him, but no Persian woman catches his eye. Esther enters as a candidate soon after her uncle's dream, hoping the king won't even give her a second glance. She was wrong. Shortly after making her his queen, she is faced with an impossible choice that will forever change history. Save her people, or preserve the love that has blossomed between Ahasuerus and herself. Will telling him she is a Jew forever destroy any love the king has for her? Or will she be executed along with the rest of her people?

As usual, it's the little things that distract me from the bigger picture. The book was very good. I can't deny I laughed a couple times. But Mordecai calling his niece "chicken" was an abrupt and rude awakening to the Biblical time setting and brought the flow of the story to a halt. While the nickname is cute, it just doesn't fit with the time period. It somewhat disruptive to the story as a whole, though thankfully, there is a nice chunk of time where they don't see each other and it is absent from the text. As a whole, the story was entertaining and the love story between Esther and the king was a very satisfying read.