Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Goodbye to Yesterday

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Luke and Meredith Stoltzfus have been married for barely over a year when their financial situation reaches it's breaking point. Out of a job for some time, Luke is barely making ends meet. But when an irresistible opportunity comes for him to travel to Middlebury, Indiana he persuades Merrie to let him go. Despite her reservations, Meredith lets Luke leave their home in Lancaster County to pursue a new trade that could bring them out of the troubles surfacing their new marriage. But circumstances no one can anticipate come between them while they are apart. Can they find their way back to each other despite the fact that their lives have been destroyed?

There have been a good many complaints to how this series is being marketed, but despite all of that, I have to say I've found myself wondering how it will all end. Brunstetter's simplistic writing style isn't exactly my favorite, but this series got my attention - if nothing but to satisfy my curiosity in the Stoltzfus's story. One thing that stood out to me about the character of Meredith is that she clings to her faith despite her fears and uncertainties. Short and sweet, it will leave you wanting more. And with five more installments to the story, there is plenty to look forward to.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


by Travis Thrasher

Faith Words Publishers

Laila has the money and the means to live any kind of life she wants. But when she makes a bad choice, she believes she is beyond redemption and becomes a call girl in Chicago. When a client becomes dangerous, she shoots him to protect herself. Six months later, she is full of guilt and self-recrimination, and every shadow is a piece of her past trying to get her. Haunted by the things she's done and all the things she never will get to do, Laila can only run so far from herself.

When a complete stranger approaches her claiming he knows what she's done, Laila first instinct is to run. How can anyone know the truths of her past she has been so careful to hide - even from herself? Convinced that no one could possibly have discovered the secrets she has never voiced aloud, she begins to see the man she killed even as she runs away from the truth of every evil thing she's ever done. As she tries to run from herself, will her plea for grace come too late? Or has the past truly caught up to her and the time of redemption long gone?

Thrasher's novels always makes me contemplate the deeper meaning of life. This one is no different. I try to fill my life with one activity or another, trying to pass the time, trying not to face about the things I've done. But he forces me to stop and reconsider the way I live, and what is in my heart. Laila has made some bad choices. But the heavy questions of redemption and grace, and whether it's ever truly too late to change who you are gives you cause to question your life and re-evaluate where you stand in anticipation of eternity. A though provoking novel that caused me to wonder how broken I am willing to be before I surrender to the One who can heal any kind of broken life, heart or soul. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lassoed in Texas Trilogy

by Mary Connealy

Barbour Publishers

Petticoat Ranch

Sophie Edwards has been a widow in Mosqueros, Texas long enough to know exactly what she's doing. She knows how to protect herself and her four daughters, and she has life down pat. That is, until an oddly familiar man nearly kills himself on her property and then has the staunch audacity to turn right around and insinuate her family needs protection. When the family of five women discover who the mystery man is, does Clay McClellan stand a chance against the toughest women he's ever met in his entire life? Do these gals even really need the protection he feels he can offer them as husband and father?

Calico Canyon
Grace Calhoun is a teacher on the run from a man who is determined to catch up to her. Her past has been anything but pleasant, but she strives to look forward to a better future. But somehow, trouble seems to dog her every footstep, and she encounters something even worse - the six R's. Rowdy Daniel Reeves and his uneducated, motherless sons have more energy than a bull right after being branded. As a matter of fact, she's surprised any of the boys have survived to live as long as they have. And their bull-headed father Daniel, is not much better. Can Grace bring order to the six Reeves boys? Or are they a project just too big to handle? 

Gingham Mountain

Hannah Cartwright has been raising orphans for as long as she can remember. She considers herself their "sister" and gives them as much love as she wishes she would have had. When one of her orphans accidentally gets adopted by a man named Grant, she is determined to ensure the safety of her mute sister, Libby. What she finds out displeases her immensely; as she finds out this man has been adopting children since he was 17, not married, and has had over 20 children in his care for the last ten years. Set on thinking he is forcing the orphans into child labor, she goes out on a limb to ensure the safety of all the children. Will Hannah realize that Grant is doing the best he can for those who cannot provide for themselves? Or will other things get in the way - namely a certain seamstress in town - that will ruin the good thing Grant has going?

I have heard so much about Connealy's books, and as soon as I was able to get my hands on some of her writing, I quickly found out why she has so many rave reviews. I laughed so much over this book, my husband actually got irritated with all the noise I was making. The shenanigans from the girls in the first book were hilarious to read. Grace's primness versus the Reeves in book two had me bursting in giggles almost every page. And while book three was a little more serious, I had to just laugh at Hannah and her overactive imagination. A very enjoyable read, and one I will revisit again and again.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wings of a Dream

by Anne Mateer

Bethany House Publishers

It is 1918, and Rebekah Hendricks has her life planned out perfectly: marry the dashing, handsome, pilot Arthur, see the world and the experience the excitement it has to offer. But some things stand in the way of her dreams; the small town that she lives in is so stagnant nothing ever happens there. And her overbearing, obnoxious mother who really isn't doing a thing by constantly matchmaking her to the local grocer, is unknowingly fueling Rebekah's dreams for life outside of  their tiny town in Oklahoma.  

So when the opportunity arises to care for an estranged, ailing aunt in Texas, the same place where Arthur is stationed, Rebekah jumps at the chance to go help. Making great plans to aid her aunt back to health quickly, then rendezvous with Arthur at his base, she is so sure that her great life adventure is about to begin. But when she arrives, things change quickly with the Spanish flu epidemic and an unexpected situation involving four children. Will she be able to put her dreams on "hold" long enough to keep Arthur's interest and still fulfill her obligations to her aunt? Or will her dreams and plans be turned completely upside down by a family who have lost so much?

Debut novel or not, this book was wonderful. I am always a skeptic when it comes to books everyone raves about, because I'm afraid I'm not going to love it, and I'd feel bad giving a less than glowing review. But this book was so comfortable I felt like I was Rebekah, my dreams rising and falling with each turning page. You won't feel like you traveled or journeyed anywhere in this novel, because you're there, living and breathing through Rebekah's eyes, experiencing her disappointments and rejoicing at her successes. My only disappointment in this book is that it had to end...but that's inevitable, isn't it?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Northern Lights Trilogy

by Lisa T. Bergren

WaterBrook Press

The Captain's Bride

Captain Peder Ramstad and his new bride Elsa Anders, embark on a journey from their homeland in Norway to America, taking some of their closest friends with them. Soren and Kaatje Jansen are wanting a fresh start, and their marriage depends on it. Karl Martensen has been Peder's best friend since childhood, and though he carries a torch for Elsa, he keeps it hidden from them both. Last, but not least, Elsa's seductive and stubborn little sister Tora, stows away and accompanies them as well, causing more chaos and heartbreak than one person should ever be allowed. Will they find the peace they seek in a new land? Or will the things they run away from in Norway follow them even to the New World?

Deep Harbor

Peder, Elsa, Karl, Soren, Kaatje, and Tora find out exactly how high the price of a new beginning really is. Soren disappears without a trace. Kaatje is left alone with two daughters to raise. Elsa faces the greatest tragedy of her life and a hopeless future. Karl finds disappointment at every turn, and finds no real satisfaction in living. Tora discovers the true meaning of consequences of her actions, and is unable to live with them. Will the price they paid to have a promising future have cost them more than they are willing to pay? Or have their dreams be as empty as the promises they made to themselves - and each other? 

Midnight Sun

Kaatje want to know the truth - once and for all - of Soren's fate. Her new found friendship with a humble Tora Anders strengthens her resolve to go find him in the land of the midnight sun. Elsa Ramstad is the captain of Peder's ship, and she is alone in raising her two children. Karl has never found the companion of his dreams, finding only disappointment and disillusionment in his quest. Will their friendships, old and new, be able to sustain them in the trials and troubles that await them? Or will their darkest days become a bright light of hope of a better future for all of them?

This has to be the most suspenseful, romantic trilogy I have ever read. Something about the way Bergren portrayed all her characters in such a flawed, human way captured my interest and held me to the last page. None of these people were perfect, far from it, but I felt so invested in each of their lives I couldn't help but be transported to the time and place in my imagination. It was with a heavy heart I read the last page, unwilling to let it all end. This e-book edition really makes it too easy to become absorbed, forever lost in the pages of the tale, and I will never be able to forget any of the characters that became so dear to me in so little time. Recommended to anyone who wants to read an unforgettable tale of love, loss, and faith.

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


by Jill Eileen Smith

Revell Publishers

Bathsheba and her husband Uriah, are followers of Adonai. Though Uriah is a Hittite, he not only follows the law to the letter, he believes that the God of King David is the only One that deserves man's praise. Uriah is a member of the Mighty Thirty that protect the king and are part of David's inner circle. It is a life that takes him to the battlefield often, and leaves Bathsheba alone. She misses him when he is away, and resents that even when he is home, his mind is often on military matters. 

Lonely, missing Uriah, and no children to occupy her time, Bathsheba fills her life with the keeping of the feast and the purification rituals that Uriah insists she keep even in his absence. One such night, she is taking a bath, alone, and King David spots her from his fortress. With all the men gone to war except for him, the king is restless and bored. But when he spots Bathsheba bathing from his rooftop, he seeks to find who she is. Will the resulting events cause God to turn His face away from David and Bathsheba forever? Will David ever be able to atone for his sin and be restored in the faith to the Lord who gave him everything he has?

This is the final novel in the saga that is the Wives of King David series. I was anticipating Bathsheba'a story, and I was not disappointed. While Smith had to "imagine" a lot of emotions and actions on Bathsheba's part, I did enjoy getting a different perspective than the wide range of possibilities out there. We don't know a lot about Bathsheba's spiritual beliefs from the Biblical perspective, nor do we know how things really happened between her and David. But Smith gives us a glimpse of what could had been, and I have no complaints about the slightly romantic portrayal between David and Bathsheba. It could have finished sooner with the event of Solomon's birth, but it was nice to walk with David to the end of his life. A satisfying conclusion to the series. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


by Jill Eileen Smith

Revell Publishers

Abigail's marriage to Nabal was doomed to failure from the beginning. A handsome man, Nabal arrested her attention from the first and gave her hope for their future together. But when he begins their marriage by behaving shamefully, she still strives to honor her husband despite his drunken revelries almost every night and his blatant disrespect of Adonai.  

David and his band of men protect Nabal's herds from being harmed in the wilderness, and when Nabal hears of it, he refuses to recognize David's service to him and recompense the men for their trouble. In a fit of anger, David orders Nabal and all the men of his house to be executed. Abigail intervenes by bringing food to David and his men, successfully keeping them from killing the men of her household. When Nabal dies suddenly, she is free to become David's wife. But some serious problems remain in her way: how can God bless David if he continually goes against His commands? And how can she be happy to share her husband with all the other women David keeps on marrying? Was she really better off the only wife to a man that abused her, rather than one of the wives of one of a future king?

This was an interesting twist to the well-known story of Abigail in the Old Testament. While we do not know if the real Abigail struggled immensely with having to share the king with his other wives, it stands to reason that women have not changed much over the centuries. This being the case, it was probably very hard to share David. Somehow, it was important to have her story included in the Biblical narrative, and Smith does a wonderful job of bringing her story to life, giving Abigail a voice that clearly echoes a desire to please the Lord in all things. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


by Jill Eileen Smith

Revell Publishers

Michal is the daughter of King Saul, the first King of Israel. But when her father beings to have nightmares after disobeying Adonai, only the young harpist David can sooth the king's guilty conscience. Her attraction to David is undeniable, but it is with great disappointment that she realizes her sister Merab must be given in marriage first. 

David becomes a great warrior from King Saul, to the point that the king seeks his life in the jealous rages that shadow his reign more and more frequently. When circumstances allow Michal to become David's first wife, has she just sentenced herself to a life of heartache and misery? Will David ever be the true king of God's people? Can she ever dream of being his queen?

This book is a dramatically beautiful re-imaging of the story of King David's first wife. Michal has always captured my imagination from the Biblical account. I've always wondered how it must have been for her; barren, given to another man by King Saul, and missing her true husband while he was a fugitive from her own father. How hard it must have been to be a woman during Old Testament times - and Smith breathes new life into a story that is centuries old. A good read for anyone that is interested in the could-have-beens of Michal's story. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hawaiian Crosswinds

by Linda Lee Chaikin

Moody Press Publishers

Rafe Easton and Eden Derrington agree to postpone their wedding for another year. Rafe is busy on the Legislature, and Eden is still doggedly pursing her dream to meet her mother on the leper island of Molokai. Eden wants to work with her father, Dr. Jerome in his new clinic, as she wants to strengthen the bond with a man that has been away on medical research trips for most of her life. Despite Rafe and Eden's difference of opinion in regards to the Annexation of Hawaii, they are determined to hold on and see their year of waiting through.

But then an old enemy of the Easton family threatens Rafe's newly adopted son Kip and his mother. Having to drop everything and sail for San Francisco does not bode well with Rafe, or his fragile relationship with Eden. Will Rafe be able to convince Eden that they should marry before the year is up? Will Eden be forced to choose between the love for Rafe and or that of her father? Will the secrets of these missionary families be exposed and destroy them all?

With the groundwork for this novel set in place by the first book, "The Spoils of Eden" Chaikin sets the stage for a wonderful sequel. Combining events in the timeline of Hawaii's history, adding historical characters along with her fictitious cast, made for an informative yet enjoyable lesson in this little known part of Hawaii's history. I can't say I was glued to this novel, but I savored every chapter of this story and enjoyed it very much. 

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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Better to be Broken

by Rick Huntress

Sable Creek Press

Rick Huntress had his whole life mapped out and perfectly planned. He is climbing the ladder of recognition and success in the business world, has a wonderful wife and two daughters, and is important in his own eyes.  But an almost fatal accident leaves his paralyzed and forever condemned to a life in a wheelchair. Will Rick learn the true meaning of a humble and broken spirit before the Lord? Or have his plans for a perfect life truly be gone for good? 

This true life story was eye opening, if not humbling. Here is a man who lost the normal functions of his lower body, but gave God the glory for gaining his soul in return. This brought me to the question in my own life: How far am I willing to go before I am either broken in spirit or lost forever? How many more days will God look down on me and let me continue in my own way? Rick took the worst thing that had ever happened to him, and turned it into good. He is a better father, husband, brother, and son for having experienced what he did. His story should inspire us to never take life for granted, and never expect the breath of life that only God can give.

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wings of Glass

by Gina Holmes

Tyndale Publishers

Penny is a woman who is used to being poor. Growing up, her parents never had much to offer her. But then she meets Trent, and he is more than a chance to get away from the poverty and abuse of her childhood. Feeling as worthless as her name con-notates, she sees him as an opportunity for love and true happiness. But something she never expected was the beatings of an angry husband who drunk away what little money they did manage to bring in.

When Trent has an accident at work that puts him out of commission, Penny meets some gals at the local food bank that offer her a job cleaning houses. Thrilled at the opportunity to prove her own merit and worth as a person, she is crushed when something comes up that will keep her from permanently enjoying her new freedom. Suddenly, everything changes. She's not just watching out for herself anymore, and Trent's abuse becomes dangerous not only to herself, but others as well. When will it become too much? Will she ever truly be brave enough to stand on her own two feet?

Holmes takes a very sensitive subject, and portrays both sides of the abuse with grace and fairness. She realistically weaves a spell that is grounded in truth, and gives us a peek of what might go on in a marriage littered with abuse of many kinds. I loved the way the author was very frank, honest, and gracious in the way she portrayed Trent; while not making Penny to be a martyr, but a victim of circumstances. Recommended to anyone that either needs the courage to grow wings and fly, or for those who are already free.

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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Sound Among the Trees

by Susan Meissner

WaterBrook Press

Susannah Towsley Page is nothing but a girl caught up in the War between the States in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Born in the North, she and her mother have sojourned home to the Holly Oak plantation after her father's death. Accused of being a spy for the North, Susannah does what she has to do in the name of love. Will the choices she makes prove to be more costly than she first realized?

One hundred and fifty years later, Susannah's great-granddaughter Adelaide, is the owner of the old southern plantation that survived the devastation of the War. At ninety years old, she truly believes that both she and Susannah have fallen victims to the tragic feelings of the house that had seen so much sorrow.

Marielle Bishop marries into the family, knowing nothing of the superstitious belief that Holly Oak bears a grudge against it's past and brings misfortune to all the women who make it their own. Will she discover the truth before it's too late? Or will the past finally bring about the resolution Holly Oak so desperately needs?

This novel encompassed two of my favorite elements in fiction: past and present. There is just something so romantically poignant and hauntingly beautiful about times and places we can re-create, but never live or experience for ourselves. Meissner takes up from past to present with such smooth transition, you never realize it happened. She draws you into the mystery of the house and the stories of all the women who were trapped there with such ease, you will loose yourself. I know I did. 

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Private Justice

by Terri Blackstock

Zondervan Publishers

Mark and Allie Branning never planned on a marriage that turned out like this. One night of weakness on Mark's part, Allie discovering his not so platonic relationship with the beautiful paramedic Issie, and their marriage is over as far as Allie is concerned. Not willing to get a divorce on the spot, they choose to separate instead; Mark moving out to his own apartment, and Allie staying at home and continuing to run the florist shop they own. 

But when a firefighter's wife is shot and burned in her own home, the game they are playing becomes a dangerous one. Thinking a murderer is on the loose, Mark wants to protect Allie from any harm that may come to her. When a second firefighter's wife is killed, the stakes grow ever higher for the Branning's dying marriage. Unsure of whether Allie will be safe as Mark is also a firefighter, he does everything to protect Allie from the murderer who seems determined to leave firefighters as widowers. But when Allie becomes a target, will Mark be able to save her from her fate? Or will the decision to save their marriage be completely taken from both of their hands?

I first read this novel as a girl. I couldn't have been more than 10 years old when I saw my mom was reading this book and I just HAD to see what was so great about it. Naturally, my mother said it was way above my head, and this of course, fueled my determination to read it despite her thinking it was above my maturity level. But as it was then when I first read went through this novel, and still remains true; Blackstock brings to life a story that pulses with excitement, danger, romance, and lots and lots of mystery. And while I might not give this to my future ten year-olds to read, if they are anything like me, they are going to take it anyway and discover a whole new world waiting to be explored.