Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Echoes of Mercy

by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Water Brook Press

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

Traitor's Wife

by Allison Pataki
Howard Books

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shadows of The Past

by Patricia Bradley
Revell Publishers

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Vicar's Wife

Katharine Swartz
Lion Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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


by Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Be Still, My Soul

by Randy Petersen
Tyndale House Publishers

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Serenity To Accept

by Elizabeth Maddrey
Hope Spring Books

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

My Review:

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

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

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