Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Silent Night by Colleen Coble

Book Description

As Christmas day nears, Bree and her faithful search-and-rescue dog Samson follow the trail of a troubling mystery into the snowy forests of Rock Harbor.
Bree Matthews is preparing for Christmas guests, but her heart is reeling from the recent and tender loss of her unborn child. Her sister-in-law, Lauri, suddenly turns up on the doorstep of the lighthouse home Bree shares with her husband, Kade, in Rock Harbor. Secretive and withdrawn, Lauri seems curiously intent on discovering what happened to a parachuter who disappeared in the North Woods along Lake Superior's icy shore.
As Bree and Samson, her search-and-rescue dog, plunge into the search, Bree wonders if Lauri may know more than she’s admitted about the parachuter. And then the clues lead them to the trail of a young woman whose family fears the worst about her disappearance.
Will the search on this snowy, silent night lead Bree and Samson to more than clues about the missing girl? And will Bree’s prayer for a baby ever be answered?

My Review:
I had high hopes for this book. Colleen Coble is one of my favorite author and so far I have enjoyed the Rock Harbor series.

This book had a lot of potential. The look back into the lives of characters I've come to know in previous books was nice. The plot started out looking like it would be the complex and multi-faceted plots I have come to expect from Coble. And, in some ways she delivered. The plot moved very quickly and there were a very subplots that were interesting. There were unexpected twists in the plot that kept it interesting. But, in the end, I was just a little disappointed.

First, it really lacked the depth that I had expected. As I said, it started out looking like a complex plot, but it ended up seeming like there were just a few details thrown in to keep the smaller storylines going.Perhaps some of it was just a bit too ambitious for a novella.

And then, the storyline seemed very rushed. While I tend to expect a fast moving story from Coble, this one seemed very rushed.  It seemed like the foundation for a great book was there, but it needed more time and development to really make the story come alive. When I reached the end I couldn't help but think "That was it?" It just seemed too short, even for a novella.

Overall, it is a good book, but it's less than what I have come to expect from Coble.

*I must mention I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: Christmas at Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

Book Description:

Three-in-One Collection: The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing, NEW! The Dawn of Christmas

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, in these touching novellas centered around love, romance, heartache, and restoration from best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler is unable to let go of a past tragedy, but when she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds. Determined that her niece meet the gifted artist, her aunt tracks him down, but it’s not that simple – will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love?
The Christmas Singing
Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Brokenhearted, Mattie moves away and pursues her longtime dream of becoming a cake decorator, and even finds a new beau. But when Mattie is forced to return home three years later, will learning the truth behind Gideon’s rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?
The Dawn of Christmas
Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together? 


View Book Trailer

My Review:

I enjoyed this collection of Amish Christmas stories.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells was probably my favorite of the three. The characters, especially Beth and Jonah, really touched my heart. While both struggle to overcome tragedies of their past, they form an unlikely though deep bond. I thought the author really brought this story to life with her colorful descriptions and also showed a deep understanding of the heart of an artist. The themes of hope and forgiveness come through clearly.

I previously reviewed The Christmas Singing and will share my thoughts again here:

This short, easy to read story is OK, but not something I would highly recommend.
Though Mattie is funny, quirky, and a bit scatterbrained, the rest of the characters are quite dull and lack depth. 
The storyline is very predictable – you basically know what is going to happen right at the beginning of the book. 
I was also disappointed that there really wasn’t much of a Christmas theme to the story at all. 
Overall, it’s a quick and easy short novella with a bit of romance and humor, but anything spectacular.
 The Dawn of Christmas is the new story in this series. I found it to be entertaining and enjoyable to read, though a bit predictable. Sadie and Levi are very likable characters and the author does a good job of making the reader feel what they are feeling. The story moves along swiftly and draws the reader with it. 
What I most liked about this third story was the way the author ties in the other two and gives you a peak into their continuing stories.
Taken as a whole, I like the collection. None of them are very heavy on the Christmas theme, which makes it nice reading for any time of year. Some of the themes from the first story follow all the way through the other two, making them very cohesive and best read together rather than as separate stories.
If you enjoy Amish fiction, I think you will enjoy this collection.
*I must mention that I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: The Truth About the Lordship of Christ

Book Description

"Becoming a Christian means being sick of your sin, longing for forgiveness and rescue from present evil and future hell, and affirming your commitment to the Lordship of Christ to the point where you are willing to forsake everything. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it isn't just holding up your hand or walking down an aisle and saying, 'I love Jesus.'" ―John MacArthur
Best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur brings his deep knowledge of Scripture to this foundational subject. Step by step, he walks through the impact of God's sovereignty, our submission, the characteristics of holy living, and our assurance of salvation. MacArthur makes the case that the Christian life is full and rich―but not easy. It requires sacrifice, perseverance, and transformation in the ongoing process of becoming more like Christ. And it is absolutely worth the cost.
The Truth About Series 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

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This book was everything I have come to expect from John MacArthur. Pastor MacArthur opens God's Word to clearly teach the powerful and sobering truths about the Lordship of Christ in a manner that is easy to follow and understand.
It was a little different than I expected, yet in a good way. In The Gospel According to the Apostles MacArthur clearly laid out the case against No-Lordship salvation, and I expected that this would would be along the same lines, but it really wasn't - and that's OK. This book focused on the truths, clearly expounded and applied to the lives of believers. It is a powerful yet short book that will really help you understand what lordship really means.
If you are wondering about the no-lordship salvation issue, I would recommend The Gospel According to the Apostles in addition to this book.
*I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from BookSneeze.

Review: No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

Book Description:

Publication Date: October 1, 2012 | Series: Edge of Freedom (Book 1)
The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

My Review: 

This book is packed with suspense, many twists in the plot, intriguing characters, and historical situations. The story was very believable, and I found myself genuinely caring what happened to Cara. The characters were well developed and I enjoyed the way the author slowly revealed details of their past throughout the whole book.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the way that the author feeds the reader just a little more information than what the characters have without giving anything away. Doing so made the book that much more of an adventure to read.
I would recommend this book to those who love historical fiction.
*I must mention I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Preview It:

No Safe Harbor

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

Book Description:

Publication Date: November 1, 2012
Rollicking Debut from an Exciting New Author

Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.


My Review:

The book is a wild ride right from the first page. It is very fast-paced with unexpected twists in turns in the plot that kept me reading late into the night. There was much to love about this book:
~The characters are witty and full of personality - a combination that made them easy to love. Quirky kids and English aristocracy, quite a combination.
~The author did a nice job of weaving important social issues of the day into the storyline.
~The shifts in the point-of-view were very easy to follow.

My only complaint about the book was that it, at times, didn't flow very well. It seemed a bit choppy with several very abrupt changes. It seemed that slowing down just a bit and filling in some details might have made it just a bit better.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
*I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House.

A Change Of Fortune

Review: Waiting for Morning

Book Description

April 5, 2002
“I’m afraid there’s been a car accident...”As Hannah Ryan waits for her family to return home from a camping trip, she realizes she has everything going for her—a husband other women admire, two charming teenage daughters, and a loving Christian home. As the sunny afternoon turns into twilight, her uneasiness grows along with the shadows. Then a car pulls into Hannah’s driveway, bringing two police officers...and devastating news that shatters her life forever.
In the days that follow, Hannah struggles with unspeakable feelings of sorrow and rage—feelings that fuse into one chilling purpose for living: revenge against Brian Wesley, the drunk driver who has caused all her pain.
In her fury, Hannah shuts the Lord out of her life. She’s determined not to forgive Wesley or the God who allowed this tragedy to happen. Can two caring people help Hannah rediscover her faith...before bitterness destroys her?

My Review:

This book is packed with emotion right from the beginning. To say it is a tear-jerker is an understatement. It's a story that, as a wife and mother, would truly be my worst nightmare. Kingsbury does a great job of putting the reader in the story, making you feel what the characters feel.
However, I didn't like this book as much as previous Kingsbury novels. The main reason was that I found myself really disliking Hannah Ryan. Her selfishness and anger were very irritating to me.
The other problem I had with the book was that it felt the charges against the drunk driver were a bit far-fetched and unlikely to ever really happen.
Overall, it is a decent book and most Kingsbury fans will probably enjoy it.
*I must mention that I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah.

Preview it:

 Waiting for Morning by Karen Kingsbury (Chapter 1 Excerpt)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review: A Perfect Word for Every Occasion

Book Description

September 1, 2012
Timely Words for When They're Needed Most

The right words don't always come easily. For those who want to bless others with words that go beyond cliches, A Perfect Word for Every Occasion offers examples and guidelines for things to say, lines to write, and Scripture verses to share. Readers will find words to use anywhere: Facebook messages, emails, cards, receiving lines, birthdays, anniversaries, texting, graduations, emotional occasions, and more. They'll even discover what not to say.

Full of encouraging messages organized by category, A Perfect Word for Every Occasion will save readers time while strengthening their relationships.

My Review:

This book is perfect for doofusses like me. I'm the one who never has more to say than "Happy Birthday" or perhaps "I'm sorry for your loss." I never know what else to say (or not to say). I love the way so many of my friends always have this way of expressing the nicest birthday wishes, thoughtful thank you notes, and just in general always seem to have "the perfect word." Yet when I pick up the pen (or log in to Facebook) I have nothing. And if you can relate to that, this book is for you.
In the short and easy to follow book the author does an excellent job in showing the reader how to identify what is is they want to say, organize your thoughts, and write what your heart feels in many different situations. There are also suggestions Scripture quotations for various situations. What's more, she very clearly lays out what not to say - with humorous illustrations featuring the Queen Doofuss, Aunt Me-me. 
This is a book I will hang on to, as it is laid out in such a way that it will be easy to quick look up anything from sympathy cards to wedding thank-you notes and write something heartfelt and meaningful.

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


Preview It


A Perfect Word for Every Occasion