Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: The Bridesmaid by Beverly Lewis

Book Description

September 11, 2012 Home to Hickory Hollow (Book 2)
The Latest in Chart-Topping Amish Fiction from Beverly Lewis

Twenty-seven-year-old Joanna Kurtz has made several trips to the altar, but never as a bride. The single young Amishwoman is a closet writer with a longing to be published something practically unheard of in her Lancaster County community. Yet Joanna's stories aren't her only secret. She also has a beau who is courting her from afar, unbeknownst even to her sister, Cora, who, though younger, seems to have suitors to spare.

Eben Troyer is a responsible young Amishman who hopes to make Joanna Kurtz his bride--if he can ever leave his parents' farm in Shipshewana, Indiana. Yet with his only brother off in the English world, intent on a military career, Eben's hopes for building a life with his dear Joanna are dimming, and patience is wearing thin. Will Joanna ever be more than a bridesmaid?

My Review

After my disappointment in The Fiddler, I'm happy to say this book is all we've come to know and love from Beverly Lewis.
The characters were very real, believable, and endearing. There are also appearances from old-time Hickory Hollow favorites, like the Wise Woman, that make this a bit more interesting.
The plot was paced just right and had enough interesting twists to keep the reader interested until the very end.
What I most appreciated about this book was that it was NOT about teens in their "running-around" time. That plot has been done so many times, that it was really refreshing to have one that was completely different.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who love Amish fiction.
*I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

  Preview It


The Bridesmaid

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review: Whispers in the Wind by Lauraine Snelling

Book Description

August 1, 2012
Book Two in Lauraine Snelling's Exciting Wild West Wind Series
After fleeing North Dakota and the now defunct Wild West Show, Cassie Lockwood and her companions have finally found the hidden valley in South Dakota where her father had dreamed of putting down roots. But to her dismay, she discovers a ranch already built on her land.Cassie's arrival surprises Mavis Engstrom and forces her to reveal secrets she's kept hidden for years. Her son Ransom is suspicious of Cassie and questions the validity of her claim to the valley. But Lucas Engstrom decides from the start that he is in love with her and wants to marry her.Will Cassie be able to build a home on the Bar E Ranch and fulfill her father's dream of raising horses, or will she be forced to return to the itinerant life of her past?

My Review 

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel to Valley of Dreams. The continuity of plot from the first book was excellent and I enjoyed seeing "what happened next."
The book contained all the rich historical detail that longtime readers will have come to expect from Snelling. The glimpse into the day-to-day lives of people in that region during that time was detail and interesting. The tensions that would naturally arise in such a situation were very believable.
The strong message of faith was refreshing, as was the gentle way that Mavis interacts with Cassie when it comes to things of the Lord.
It was a bit slow, but I would still highly recommend this book.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

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Whispers in the Wind

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: Rare Earth by Davis Bunn

Book Description:
Marc Royce stares down from the helicopter on the Rift Valley slashing across Africa like a scar. Tribal feuds, drought, and dislocation have left their devastation. And he sees a new wound--a once-dormant volcano oozing molten lava across the dry landscape--and clouds of ash obscure his vision. His undercover assignment is similarly obscured. Supposedly dispatched to audit a relief organization's accounts, Marc finds himself amid the squalor and chaos of Kenyan refugee camps caught in a stranglehold of corruption and ruthlessness.

But his true task relates to the area's reserves of once-obscure metals now indispensable to high-tech industry. The value of this rare earth inflames tensions on the world's stage as well as among warring tribes. When an Israeli medical administrator, Kitra, seeks Marc's help with her humanitarian efforts, they forge an unexpected link between impoverished African villages and another Silicon Valley rising in the Israeli desert. Precious metals and inventive minds promise new opportunities for prosperity, secure futures, and protection of valuable commodities from terrorists. As Marc prepares to report back to Washington, he seizes a chance to restore justice to this troubled land. This time, he may have gone too far.

My Review:
I loved this book. It is a powerful story that contains everything to make a great novel - political maneuvering, action, suspense, a hint of romance, faith a strong message of faith.
Marc Royce continues to show the strength of character, faith, and wisdom that we saw in Lion of Babylon. His continued personal growth as he overcomes tragedy added continuity from the previous book.
The book appears to have been meticulously researched and the author showed a deep understanding of tribalism and tensions in Africa.
I strongly recommend this book.
I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House. Rare Earth

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Short Straw Bride

Book Description:
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?

My Review:
I loved this book and read it in one day. It is a great historical love story.
First, the characters were lively, unique, and endearing. The author does a great job really making them come to life. Some you will love, some you will loathe but all are very interesting.
The setting is described in detail and is very easy to imagine.
The story is paced very well and keeps the reader wanting to know what happens next. There is suspense along with light-hearted humor.
What I most appreciated about this book was the way the author captured some true-to-life newlywed experiences. Even without a "shotgun wedding" most of us experience some growing pains in those newlywed days, and the author added quite a bit of humor using some of those moments in the book.
I've never read anything by Karen Witemeyer before, but I do have another of her books on my Kindle, which I will be sure to read soon.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Preview it:

Short-Straw Bride

Review: The Fiddler

Book Description:
Amelia "Amy" DeVries, a 24-year-old violinist, is disillusioned with life and love after the collapse of her long-running romance. Weary of endless rehearsals and performances, Amy sets out on a road trip through the Pennsylvania mountains. She leaves her cell phone behind so life's demands can't intrude on her solitude. She doesn't know, nor care, where she will end up.

When her car breaks down deep in the mountains, Amy realizes the flaw in her "no cell phone" plan. She abandons her car and walks the winding roads, searching for help. Following the smell of woodsmoke and the sound of music, she finds a rustic log cabin. There she meets a young Amish man--and through him a community--that will change her life forever.

My Review:
I've read most, if not all, of Beverly Lewis' books. I've always loved them and she is one of my favorite authors. That is why it is so hard to write this review. For the first time, I've read a book of hers that just wasn't that good. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I've come to expect from her.

To begin with, it just wasn't very Amish. Much of the story is about Amelia and her musical career and fiddle playing.  Even when she meets Michael its outside of them Amish community.

Then there were also some parts of the storyline that were just too difficult to believe. I'll refrain from including any spoilers here, but I will just say that some of the situations were unrealistic.

However, it was fun to catch a glimpse of some of Hickory Hollow characters we know from previous books.

Overall, it was OK but not great.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Preview it:
The Fiddler

My Stubborn Heart

Book Description:
Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When Kate's grandmother asks Kate to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Yet, she discovers a different kind of project upon meeting the man hired to renovate the house. Matt Jarreau is attractive and clearly wounded -- hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Kate can't help but set her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light... whether he likes it or not.
My Review:
I really expected more from this book. The potential for a nice love story along with they added interest in restoring a historic home is what drew me to this book, but I was disappointed.
Most of what there was to know about the characters was revealed in the first few chapters, which made finishing the book a chore. I found that I really didn't care what happened once all the mystery to the characters was gone. The story moves very slowly and there is little suspense.
I was also disappointed in the lack of detail in regards to the home. It would have been interesting to be able to visualize it, as well as the progress made in restoring it, much better than I was able to.
I also thought that the storyline was very predictable.
The one thing I did like about it was the quirky seniors and their role in the story. Its too bad there wasn't the depth of character in the main characters.
The potential for a good book was there, but in the end it really fell flat.
I must mention that I did receive a complimentary review copy of the book from Bethany House.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Arms of Love by Kelly Long

The year is 1777. America is in turmoil. And Amish life is far different than today.

Pennsylvania in the late 18th century, once called William Penn's Woods, was an assortment of different faiths living together for the first time in American history. Included in this tapestry was a small and struggling population called Amish.

Surrounding this peaceful people were unavoidable threats: both Patriots and the British were pillaging land and goods for the sake of the war, young Amish men were leaving the faith to take up arms and defend freedom. A simple walk in the untamed forests could result in death, if not from bullet or arrow, then from an encounter with a wild animal.

Amid this time of tumult, Adam Wyse is fighting a personal battle. To possibly join the war efforts and leave his faith, which would mean walking away from the only woman he's ever loved: Lena Yoder. But for that love he's made a promise that may keep them apart permanently.

When Adam withdraws from Lena, she's forced to turn to his brother, Isaac, for support. Must Lena deny her heart's desire to save Adam's soul? And will life in this feral and primitive New World be more than this peace-keeping people can withstand?


My Review:
My two favorite genres are historical fiction and Amish fiction, so I was naturally drawn to a book that combines the two.
There were a few things I liked about the book. I enjoyed reading the historical detail of Revolutionary War times, and particularly the Amish view of it. It did seem that the author put a lot of research hours into this one.
However, I found the book to be very stilted. The growth in the characters happens very suddenly, rather than progressing through the book. Changes in the storyline also seemed very abrupt, which made it a little unbelievable.
The thing I most disliked about the book was the false inner-healing teaching. Now, I'm fine with ignoring theological error in fiction. It is, after all, just fiction. However, this book contains a "Bible Study" in the back that is designed to teach, and I was very disappointed in it both theologically, and in that it had nothing to do with the Bible - it was based on the book instead. Healing is not found in our past, but in Christs shed blood on the cross at Calvary.
Because of that, I cannot recommend this book.
I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Book Sneeze.

*For more information on Inner Healing I recommend Healing of Memories or Cleansing of the Conscience?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: The Messenger

Book DescriptionPublication Date: March 1, 2012

A Riveting Tale of Faith and Romance by an Acclaimed Novelist

Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith
...until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?
Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith.
With skill and sensitivity, Mitchell tells a story of two unlikely heroes seeking God's voice, finding the courage to act, and discovering the powerful embrace of love.

My Review:
This book is rich in historical detail of Revolutionary War era Philadelphia and also in detail of the Quaker faith. Clearly much research was done in regard to both.
The characters are intriguing and the setting is described in great detail.
The story moves a bit slowly, but its still overall a good piece of historical fiction.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Read an excerpt here:
The Messenger I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Review: Finding Our Way Home

Book Description:
When the road home becomes daunting—sometimes a very capable girl on a bicycle can help find the way.

When principal ballerina Sasha Davis suffers a career-ending injury at age thirty-eight, she leaves her Boston-based dance company and retreats to the home of her youth in Minnesota. But Sasha’s injuries limit her as much as her mother’s recent death haunts her. Concluding she can’t recover alone, Sasha reluctantly hires a temporary live-in aide.

Enter the ├╝bercapable Evelyn Burt. As large-boned as Sasha is delicate, Evelyn is her employer’s opposite in every way. Small town to Sasha’s urban chic, outgoing to Sasha’s iciness, and undaunted where Sasha is hopeless, nineteen-year-old Evelyn is newly engaged and sees the world as one big, shiny opportunity.

Evelyn soon discovers Sasha needs to heal more than bones. Slowly, as the wounds begin to mend and the tables tilt, the two women form an unlikely alliance and discover the astounding power of even the smallest act done in the name of love. Finding Our Way Home is a story of second chances and lavish grace.
My Review:
This book was charming, delightful, and overall fun to read. The characters are endearing and unique. The story moves along at just the right pace. Little pieces of the mystery revealed throughout the story make for just enough suspense.
The is the first book by Baumbich that I have ever read, but I will be looking for more.
I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy from Waterbrook Multnomah.
Finding Our Way Home by Charlene Ann Baumbich (Chapter 1 Excerpt)

Review: The Truth About Grace


Book Description

Is the experience of God’s grace in your life a thrilling thing? Just thinking about the fact that God, by His own sovereign plan, decided to be gracious to me is overwhelming. There is nothing greater than receiving grace upon grace.” —John MacArthur

Simple definitions can make grace feel like an obvious―even mundane―concept. Nothing could be further from the truth. Grace is the defining feature of the Christian faith. Once we understand how undeserving we are and how much favor we’ve been given, grace becomes shocking, thrilling, inspiring, and contagious.

Best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur illuminates this profound concept with verse upon verse of Scripture. He also shows that misunderstandings about grace have led to some of the church’s greatest problems, perhaps because grace is her most precious gift.

For decades, MacArthur has encouraged countless Christians to develop a deeper understanding of the Bible and a greater respect for God’s truth. In The Truth About series, he now gathers his landmark teachings about core aspects of the Christian faith in one place. These powerful books are designed to give readers a focused experience that centers on God’s character and how it applies to their daily walk of faith.

My Review:

Grace is a word we, as Christians, use a lot. But sometimes it seems we don't stop to consider what it really means. This book is an excellent resource for learning what grace truly is and for fully understanding this powerful truth. Packed with Scripture quotations, I was encouraged, uplifted, and edified reading this book.
It is short and very easy to read. Theological terms are defined, making it understanding even for new believers who may not know the "Christianeese."
I loved this book and it is one that I'm sure I will read again.
I did receive a complimentary review copy of the book from Book Sneeze.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

  Product Description:

She's a beautiful young widow. He's a Southern gentleman with a thirst for adventure. Both need a place to call home.

After losing her husband in the Civil War, Carrie Daly is scared she will never have the family she longs for. Eligible bachelors are scarce in Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, but Carrie has found love. Not the weak-in-the-knees kind, but something practical. Still, she isn't quite ready to set a wedding date with Nate Chastain.
Griff Rutledge is a former member of Charleston society, but has been estranged from his family for years. He's determined to remain unattached, never settling in one place for too long. But when asked to train a Thoroughbred for an upcoming race in Hickory Ridge, he decides to stay awhile.

Despite objections from the townsfolk, and her fear that true happiness has eluded her, Carrie is drawn to Griff's kindness and charm. It will take a leap of faith for them to open their hearts and claim God's promise to give beauty for ashes.

My Review:
This was a nice, easy-to-read and relaxing book. The story moves along at a very comfortable pace and there is just enough twists in the plot to keep it interesting.
I found myself very able to relate to Carrie and her struggles. The author has done a great job making the characters very real and easy to identify with. 
There is just enough description of the setting to give you a feel for the area without overloading the reader with boring details.
What I most appreciated about the book is how we see Carrie grow in grace as she learns to trust the Lord through the difficult providences of life, and how she strives to show His love to difficult people.
Overall, this is a very nice piece of Christian historical fiction.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this ebook through BookSneeze.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Saving Grace by Annie Jones

*Image Source

Book Description:

Every year on the night of New Bethany's annual Splendor Belle Gala, reclusive Sera Grayson appears on the porch of her aging antebellum home dressed in a tattered ball gown. Legend holds she is reliving the greatest disappointment of her life: waiting endlessly for the man who stood her up more than fifty years ago. Rosemary, Naomi, Gayle, and Lucy, first introduced in Jones's Prayer Tree, together decide to help out the eccentric old woman-partly to strengthen their own special bond, threatened by time and the demands of everyday life. Will their joint project instead tear them apart forever?
*Description Source

My Review:
I found this book to be rather slow reading. The plot moves along at a snails pace, and I really had trouble connecting with the characters. I was about half way through the book before I felt like I knew who each character was and what their background was.
I was also disappointed in that the book really had little to do with helping the older lady. I felt that the book description given by the publisher did not really convey what the book was about.
Perhaps those who have already read "The Prayer Tree" will enjoy the continuing story of these ladies more than I did.

I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this ebook from Waterbrook Multnomah. That in no way influenced my opinion of it.