Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stones For Bread

by Christa Parrish
Thomas Nelson Publishers

A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.
Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.
But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl’s recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour—a single father with strange culinary habits—seems determined to win Liesl’s affection.
When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.
Filled with both spiritual and literal nourishment, Stones for Bread provides a feast for the senses from award-winning author Christa Parrish.
"A quietly beautiful tale about learning how to accept the past and how to let go of the parts that tie you down." —RT Book Reviews, 4.5 stars, TOP PICK!

My Review:

The random bread facts just threw me off. I love bits of information, and incorporated correctly, it can add to the story immensely. But in this case, it just made for an odd feel to the novel, and added to the overall depressing mood of the story. The writing style was different; direct and to the point; no eloquent turn of phrases or complicated explanations. 

That being said, the part history, part memoirs, made for a very interesting tale. It was intriguing because it was unlike anything I've ever read before, and it was unique and uncommon telling of something that almost feels as it can be true. Liesl felt rather distant, but that only added to the charm of the book. A wonderful addition to anyone's library. 

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

Purchase your copy here:

Connect with Christa through her website:

Cloak Of The Light

by Chuck Black
Multnomah Books

Drew is caught in a world of light - just inches away from the dark.
What if...there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? What if...our world wasn’t beyond their influence?
Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn, but college offers Drew a chance to start over—until an accident during a physics experiment leaves him blind and his genius friend, Benjamin Berg, missing.
As his sight miraculously returns, Drew discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond the normal man. When he begins to observe fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist?
With help from Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl who offers encouragement through her faith, Drew searches for his missing friend, Ben, who seems to hold the key to unlocking this mystery. As the dark invaders close in, will he find the truth in time?

My Review:

I had a great deal of interest in this book from just reading the description, and I was in for a treat by novel's end. It is the first book in the Wars of the Realm series, and a stellar beginning for what is to come. This was an epic war of souls that was exhilarating from the very first chapter. The unseen world between good and evil will get your pulse racing and your heart beating to the cadence of the excitement that Black weaves into the story. Part mystery, part adventure, and part spiritual truth, Cloak of the Light will keep your mind reeling, your imagination alive, and you will fall in love. 

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Christmas Quilt

by Vanetta Chapman
Abingdon Press

Annie's life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community's minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie’s sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the boppli arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.

My Review:

I know it's probably wrong to find enjoyment from Adam and Leah's marital problems, but it made the story so much more interesting. It wasn't the typical Amish story, and I enjoyed the well-written description of the quilt that was in the making by Annie. The nine squares represent the nine gifts of the spirit, and I thought it was beautifully detailed. 

Between all the drama of one couple's relationship issues, the dramatic baby story, and the way nothing seems to go right; the author clearly states that God is a vital part of these stories. This novel is all about learning to love, even though I wouldn't say it is a romance. 

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

Purchase your copy here:

Read more about the series here:

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Moses Quilt

by Kathi Macias
New Hope Publishers

The Moses Quilt, a contemporary novel that bridges racial and generational divides, gives a clear presentation of the gospel as readers are introduced to a confused and apprehensive Mazie Hartford. Mazie is facing major decisions about the love of her life and her future. Her great-grandmother comes to her rescue when she shows her the Moses quilt. As she learns that each patch represents a story of courage and freedom, Mazie finds the courage and freedom to make the right choices for her life.

My Review:

This novel is very slow paced in parts, but the end result is worth it! Edward and Mazie are an inter-racial couple, and I was frustrated that it wasn't made known from the beginning. It was alluded to, and hinted at, but Macias didn't come right out and say it till later in the book. Race is still somewhat of a controversial topic, and I think as a culture/society we should all be way past all that. Macias takes it all in stride and gives a realistic look at what it is like, even today, for couples that are different because of race, culture, etc.

The quilt bears mentioning, and I particularly enjoyed the way Macias presented this aspect of the story. I think it may be hard for some readers to be patient with the telling of the quilt story, but I enjoyed how Mimi told the story in snatches as her life fades away. Granted, I wasn't happy she was dying, but I appreciated the way that the story was told in fragments; piece by piece, bit by bit. The background history on Harriet Tubman was also fascinating, and overall, this book was wonderful!

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dear Mr. Knightley

by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.
But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.
Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.
“Dear Mr. Knightley is a stunning debut—a pure gem with humor and heart.” —Serena Chase,USA Today
Includes Reading Group Guide
Plus Bonus Material: Q &A with Katherine Reay and Sam’s Reading List

My Review:

I started this novel with the mindset that the the Austen references were just that: references. I wasn't expecting any characters from Austen's writing to show up, but I was a little confused as to how the title was going to play out in the course of the book. I loved the concept of this book, I really did. But I found it kinda creepy that a benefactor of offering to put a twenty-three through college, and all she has to do is write him letters. I know it wasn't meant to be weird, but it just didn't seem right. 

I will say that they way Reay presented the characters and her writing style was exemplary. The setting and situations were not to my liking, but the overall feel of the book was excellent. I really like the way Reay set up her debut novel, and comprised it entirely of Sam's letters to Mr. Knightley. I enjoyed how Sam developed as a person, from her humble beginnings, to the satisfying ending. A very enjoyable read once you get past the initial way things happen. 

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

Purchase your copy here: 

Connect with Katherine through her website:

Aloha Rose

by Lisa Carter
Abingdon Press

When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt—a red rose snowflake appliquéd on a white background—in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he’s come to regard as family. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold digger and blocks every move she makes toward her Hawaiian family. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family.

My Review:

The best part of this novel was that how authentic it felt. The Hawaiian scenery was beautifully descriptive with Cater's amazing writing skills, and I felt like I was transported to Hawaii through words alone. The main characters, Kai and Laney, were a good couple, even though I felt their romance was not developed enough. They were attracted to each other from the moment they met, but their romance moved along so fast, I felt it was rather rushed. Their insecurities and doubts were very believable and realistic, and I found myself feeling bad for them even though they are fictional characters. 

The one element I appreciated the most was the fact that this story was not just a romance. Family dynamics, personal identity, overcoming the trauma of the past; all these subjects were explored and masterfully woven throughout. I felt as if the characters were taken straight out of real life - and yes, even their whirlwind romance. The quilt from the cover is the key to everything, but I will let you discover that for yourself. 

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

Buy your copy here:

Read more about the series here:

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

by Olivia Newport
Revell Publishers

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

My Review:

I know it is the peril of every reader to fall in love with a character every time they open a novel, and as a reader of many books, I try to not let that be my fate. Respect for the characters is natural, not all of them, but at least one. An admiration for the depth of character development an author has presented is usually more along the lines of what I take from a book, but I try to not let the people stay with me too long. 

I say all that to simply state this: I love Lucy. I have never met a character from high society that has as much appreciation for those who were not born into money. She doesn't think about others in terms of what they can do for her, but what she can do for them. Lucy's behavior towards Charlotte was admirable, and I really loved how she kept Charlotte's secret despite the scandal that would have caused if discovered. An excellent read that gives us a glimpse of the past, and a story that brings 1893 to life. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beyond These Hills

by Sandra Robbins
Harvest House Publishers

It's 1935, and Laurel Jackson fears the life she's always known is about to become a memory. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and nearly all the families in Cades Cove have decided to sell. Laurel is determined to save the land her family has lived on for a hundred years.
Andrew Brady, the son of a wealthy Virginia congressman, arrives in the Cove to convince the remaining landowners to sell. Sparks fly when he meets Laurel, the outspoken young woman who is determined to thwart his every effort. Will they ever be able to put aside their differences and accept what their hearts already know?
In the third and final book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins brings a dramatic conclusion to the story of the families of Cades Cove.

My Review:

While a romance between opposite sides of a war, religion or culture is a very common theme, I found Robbins's fresh look at this scenario very refreshing indeed. This novel is a continuation of a series that started with Laurel's grandmother in Angel of the Cove, and Laurel's mother in Mountain Homecoming. There were enough twists and turns in the story to keep it exciting, and I really loved how the family is so closely knit.

I have yet to read the first two books, but I'm sure that would have added to my reading enjoyment. Now I really want to backtrack and find out their stories for myself, as I enjoyed Laurel's story immensely. I am not very familiar with the Smoky Mountains, but I really got into the setting of this novel. I really appreciated how Robbins pulls you into the story by giving us characters we can really admire and look up to, and I look forward to more excellent work from this author. 

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

Frame 232

by Will Mara
Tyndale House Publishers

The time had come, she decided, to rid herself of this burden, to take the steps necessary to put the matter to rest once and for all. And the first step, she knew—against every instinct and desire—was to watch that film.

During the reading of her mother’s will, Sheila Baker discovers that she has inherited everything her parents ever possessed, including their secrets. A mysterious safe-deposit box key leads her to the answers to one of history’s greatest conspiracies: Who killed John F. Kennedy? Not only does she have the missing film, revealing her mother as the infamous babushka lady, but she has proof that there was more than one shooter.

On the run from people who would stop at nothing to keep secrets buried, Sheila turns to billionaire sleuth Jason Hammond for help. Having lost his own family in a tragic plane crash, Jason knows a thing or two about running from the past. With a target on their backs and time running out, can Jason finally uncover the truth behind the crime that shook a generation—or will he and Sheila become its final victims?

My Review:

This book was a winning combination of mystery, suspense, and history at it's finest. Personally, I've never quite read a story with all these elements, but I do enjoy these genres. Putting them all together was absolutely amazing and unbelievably fascinating! Before reading this novel I didn't know a lot about JFK's assassination. It was just a snapshot of the past that didn't affect me and merely a part of history. But now I am truly and completely captivated by this spellbinding  piece of the past, and it actually means something to me. 

This is certainly not a work of fiction that I would hand to a younger reader. One of the villains partakes in some morally wrong activities, and I understand the author did that to establish the type of person he was. But it is not something I would want children to read. Other than that minor detail, the book was wonderful! The characters were compelling, (I mean, who doesn't love Jackie!) and the fictional character of Jason Hammond was the main reason I enjoyed the novel. Frame 232 is suspenseful, historically accurate, and action packed! A wonderful way to spend an afternoon, but I don't recommend starting this if you can't sit down for an extended period of time - you won't be able to put it down. 

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Marriage In Middlebury

by Anita Higman
Abingdon Press

Charlotte Rose Hill has been serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky but beloved customers for more than 10 years. But for her, marriage seems like an elusive butterfly, always out of reach. At 18, Charlotte fell in love with a young man, Sam Wilder, but his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. She did, and then became engaged to another man, who later died before they were married. Now, more than a decade later, Charlotte finds that she still has feelings for her first love. Initially thrilled to learn that Sam has come home to Middlebury, Texas, Charlotte is devastated to learn that he’s brought someone with him: his fiancée. But all is not lost when the townsfolk decide to get involved. Will Charlotte and Sam find their way back to each other?

My Review:

My absolute favorite part of this book was when Audrey somehow convinces Charlotte to cater the wedding. Charlotte is really too nice for her own good, and Audrey is too needy to ever gain my sympathy. But aside from the two rivals for Sam's heart, I found all the characters warm, pleasant and homey. Middlebury is the kind of place that makes you regret having to leave (or rather, finishing the book!) 

Reading this fine piece of fiction makes me wish with all my heart that Higman is planning to continue writing and making this a series - I mean how hard could it be? This is the perfect book to read on a lazy weekend afternoon with your favorite cup of tea, a fuzzy blanket and plenty of time. You won't want to put it down. 

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

Purchase your copy here:

Connect with Anita through her website:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Heart's Lullaby

by Jen Stephens
Sheaf House Publishers

After two years of trying without success to have a baby, Elizabeth Truman learns that her husband may already be a father. While he bonds with the son he never knew he had, Elizabeth’s increased desperation to have a baby of her own causes her to choose a path of deception. When it dead ends in despair, however, she questions both her faith and the faithfulness of the Lord. Amy Beauregard arrives in Harvest Bay with her ten-year-old son, harboring secrets that could destroy her chance at happiness, and the conviction that God has long since abandoned her. But while she picks up the pieces of her shattered life, things start to fall into place that she couldn't have predicted. A strange twist of fate reminds both Elizabeth and Amy that even in the darkest times God is guiding His children, drawing them together in a way neither could have imagined. Will their renewed faith be strong enough to withstand another devastating blow—or will The Heart's Lullaby be left unsung?

My Review:

Elizabeth and Amy are two women that have one man in common. Elizabeth desperately wants a child, and Amy has one that was a product of the past. But despite their common denominator, they both have something the other one wants. Achieving your dreams can be difficult, but with big things like infertility and remarriage on the table, things are bound to get complicated.

Even as a stranger looking in, you can't help but feel the desperation of these two women's plight. I don't know how I would feel in either woman's shoes, but I can only imagine it would be hard either way. I wanted to fix everything for Amy and put her family back together. I wanted to grant Elizabeth's wish to have children, because I know what that feels like. But the ending was not what I was expecting at all, and it I enjoyed every bit of the journey. 

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Heart's Journey Home

by Jen Stephens
Sheaf House Publishers

Three years after the unexpected death of Kate Sterling's husband, she moves back to Harvest Bay, Ohio, with her young daughter. She soon discovers that things have changed in the sleepy little community she grew up in. When she suffers another devastating loss, she finally understands that the One who loves and cares for her has given her a second chance at love. But is God leading her to a love linked to the past... or to one who will walk with her into the future?

My Review:

This was a very nice, romantic story, with a heroine and two heroes. My qualms with two choices in men, is that I never know who to root for! In some stories, the choice is obvious. But in this one, both had a place in Kate's heart, and I just couldn't choose for her. The characters were believable in their triumphs and struggles, and I loved how the author choose to write them as people we can really relate to and identify with. 

The one and only thing I had trouble with this novel was when the author makes it seem that the only thing you have to do to enter the kingdom of heaven is believe. Yes, belief is a first step, but not the only one. Many people "believe" but that alone will not assure you a place in His Kingdom. Other than that, this novel was a wonderful read with solid Christian values and morals.  

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seasons of the Heart

by Donna Kelderman 
Reformation Heritage Books

A queen, an educator, a missionary, a pastor's wife. Some of them single, some married, some widowed, some mothers. All of them, like women today, knew the joys and heartaches of life. But the bond that drew this generation of women together and connects them to women today was their heart for God and devotion to Christ. In this year's worth of devotions, you will find spiritual insights from godly women of the past who, like us, struggled with sin, loneliness, and disappointments yet rejoiced in God's love, mercy, grace, and providential blessings. Join them in the various seasons of their hearts and find timeless encouragement and wisdom from one generation of women to another. Authors include Ruth Bryan, Anne Dutton, Isabella Graham, Elizabeth Julia Hasell, Frances Ridley Havergal, Sarah Hawkes, Susan Huntington, Harriet Newell, Katherine Parr, Susannah Spurgeon, Anne Steele, and Mary Winslow. 366 days of Scripture verses and brief devotional meditations that provide timeless truths, encouragement, and wisdom for your daily walk with God - Updated language makes meditations accessible to modern readers - Brief, inspiring biographies of each of the contributing authors - Excellent gift for Christmas, graduation, Mother's Day, and birthdays for women of all ages.

My Review:

This devotional contains devotionals from women in the 1700's and 1800's. They contain journal entries, letter and poetry from great women of faith. I was most familiar with Katherine Parr (King Henry the 8th's sixth and final wife) and Susannah Spurgeon from the historical perspective and I was thrilled to learn about them in their private lives. In my personal life, I have no female interactions. Yet I found myself being able to relate to all these women in the different stages of their lives and faith. 

The format of the book is very user friendly, with dated entries for every day of the year. There are biographies of the women in the back of the book, as well as a Scripture index. I recommend this devotional to women of every age, culture and marital status. You will be greatly blessed to take a peek at the lives of these women - and to see that they have the same struggles and triumphs that we do. 

This book was provide by the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews for free in exchange for an honest review. 

An Amish Miracle

by Beth Wiseman, Ruth Reid, and Mary Ellis
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Always Beautiful by Beth Wiseman
Becky Byler is eighteen and overweight. She is overwhelmed by the embarrassment she feels when comparing herself to other girls her age. Having lost all hope, she considers taking her own life. As she stands before rushing water, unable to swim, Becky begs God for a miracle. In just several months, Becky sees her prayers answered as food and temptation lose their hold over her. She’s finally pleased with how she looks, but does she like the person she has become? And has the man she has dreamed of been right beside her all along, loving her exactly as she is?
Always His Providence by Ruth Reid
Widow Rosa Hostetler has one month to pay her delinquent taxes before the county auctions her farm. She’s prepared to sell whatever is necessary to pay the lien, but she isn't willing to request money from the community’s widow fund. She’s embarrassed and refuses to admit she needs help. Rosa depends on income from selling eggs, but when that income is threatened, only a miracle can help Rosa accept the kindness of a neighbor.
Always in My Heart by Mary Ellis
Hope Bowman believes God is punishing her for giving up her firstborn son when she was a teenager. She’s hidden this secret from her husband, who is thankful for their daughters but longs for a son. Hope prays desperately, but the son God sends her isn't a new baby but the fifteen-year-old boy she gave up years ago.
Includes Reading Group Guide and Old-Order Amish Recipes
My Review:
In Always Beautiful, Wiseman portrays an all-too-common truth in America these days - too much good food. As good as Amish food is, I'm not surprised Becky ends up overweight and unhappy with herself. But I just about cried when I read she wanted to end her life - and was very relieved when she survived. I can speak from personal experience when I say I know exactly what's is like to be in her shoes, and I not only related to her as a character, but this story was a tool to remind me again that being beautiful on the outside is not important - it's what's inside that counts.

In Always In His Providence, Reid shows us that community is everything. So is love, if you'll only let God work through others to bless your life. When Rosa's husband dies in a fire trying to save his best friend, life as she knows it is over. As the surviving man in that fire, Adam feel responsible for his best friend's wife Rosa. So when Rosa is going to loose the farm her husband worked so hard for, Adam must find the courage to tell her about his feelings before it's too late.

In Always in My Heart, Ellis writes a heart-wrenching and moving story of a family affected by the past. I can only imagine telling my husband that I have a baby he doesn't know about. The characters never made me feeling that I had to choose sides, and I really enjoyed seeing relationships being repaired and restored, and lives being forever altered by ONE action. I did appreciate how Hope's husband reacted to the news...guess you'll have to pick up a copy and find out.   
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Road Home

by Patrick E. Craig
Harvest House Publishers

Author Patrick Craig continues the story of Jenny Springer, the child rescued in A Quilt for Jenna with a story of reconciliation and healing.
Jenny Springer is the local historian for the Amish community in Apple Creek, Ohio. As a child, Jenny was rescued from a terrible snowstorm, and when no trace of her parents could be found, the Springer family adopted her.  Since then she has had a burning desire in her heart to find out who she really is. 
When a drifter, John Hershberger, comes to town looking for his own roots, Jenny gets serious in her search for her long-lost parents.  As she opens doors to her past, she finds the truly surprising answer to her deepest questions. And as John discovers the story of his own heritage, his growing love for Jenny causes him to reexamine his lifelong atheism. In doing so he discovers his need for a real home, a family, and a relationship with God.

My Review:
The 1960's was an odd time in history, and I thoroughly enjoy Amish books in this time period. Add to it that a man wrote this novel, and I must say it made for a winning combination! The Amish genre is sugar-coated quite a bit these days, (that's not to say I don't enjoy them) but this is an eye-opening view of what life was like for them back then. 
Jenny Springer and her parents are back in this second book to the Apple Creek Dreams Series. Adopted by Reuben and Jerusha Springer, Jenna's life is forever changed. Now grown up, she can't help but want to know what is in her past, and she is drawn into a world where drugs, hippies, crime and freedom of choice is the norm. She meets a young man (but of course!) who is also looking for his roots, and they instantly connect as they journey into the past for answers of who they are. 
The element in this book that was a winner for me, was that the message of salvation is plain to see in the writing. Craig is a former pastor, so I expected no less, but I was pleasantly surprised with the richness of the writing, and the power of God's Word throughout the story. The final conclusion is that this is a must-read from the Amish genre; different, but inspirational and uplifting. 
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

The Shadow Lamp

by Stephen Lawhead
Thomas Nelson Publishers

The quest for answers—and ultimate survival—hinges on finding the cosmic link between the Skin Map, the Shadow Lamp, and the Spirit Well.
The search for the map of blue symbols began in a rainy alley in London but has since expanded through space and time and includes more seekers.
Kit, Mina, Gianni, Cass, Haven, and Giles have gathered in Mina’s 16th-century coffee house and are united in their determination to find a path back to the Spirit Well. Yet, with their shadow lamps destroyed and key pieces of the map still missing, the journey will be far more difficult than they imagine. And when one of their own disappears with Sir Henry’s cryptic Green Book, they no longer know who to trust.
At the same time, the Zetetic Society has uncovered a terrifying secret which, if proven, will rock the very foundations of Creation. The quest for answers is no longer limited to recovering an unknown treasure. The fate of the universe depends on unraveling the riddle of the Skin Map.

My Review: 

This novel was more of a continuation than an addition to the Bright Empires Series. There was a superficiality to the characters, but they had no depth. The story moves along agreeably, but I was neither impressed or moved by anything in this novel by Lawhead. This book was all over the place, and included a lot of repetition of something that just happened.

I did like the amount of historical places explored, and how Lawhead deals with time travel. The timelines were not confusing or hard to follow, and I did enjoy those two aspects in the story. I typically have a lot more to say about books I review, but I was somewhat disappointed in this one.

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

Check out some other blogs that reviewed The Shadow Lamp as well: Julie Bihn Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Beckie Burnham Jeff Chapman
a href=" Karri Compton Theresa Dunlap April Erwin Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Becky Jesse Becca Johnson Jason Joyner Carol Keen Rebekah Loper Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirriam Neal Writer Rani Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Jojo Sutis Rachel Starr Thomson Robert Treskillard Steve Trower Rachel Wyant Phyllis Wheeler

Merlin's Blade

by Robert Treskillard
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Merlin's Greatest Weakness Could Become His Greatest Strength 

When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow---a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur's kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith's son named Merlin. 

As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil ... without losing his life? 

Book includes location map and detailed character index.

My Review:

For me, book covers are not a heavy influence on whether I pick up a book or not. If a cover is awesome, I will want to read it, but if a cover scares the living lights out of me, I tend to avoid it, if possible. This novel has such a cover. My first thought was "what in the world am I looking at?" I took it for an animal of some sort, and I almost skipped the novel. Bring geared towards the younger reading set, I didn't know if I would enjoy and appreciate the story. While I enjoyed it after all, I there were a few things worth mentioning... 

While there are a lot of exciting things going on in the story, I don't know that I would recommend it to the younger readers it was meant for. There is an enchanted demonic stone that makes trouble for everyone, and while God is thrown in there for good measure (called Jesu in the book) it really seems that evil is stronger than good. There are more books coming in the series, so I'm not overly worried that such will ultimately be the case. But it was depressing to see the constant prayer and no results. 

This story is filled with demonic worship, friendship, faith, betrayal, spiritual vision, loyalty, and forgiveness. A lot of things are covered in this novel that make you think twice about the traditional legend we all know a little bit about, and Treskillard brings new life into a story that has been retold countless times. Overall, it was an thrilling read, but if your children have nightmares and rather tender hearted, give it a few years before you hand them this book. Some graphic scenes were included, so definitely hold off if you've got squeamish ones. 

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