Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

I confess I had never heard of this book or this writer until I signed up with Blogging for Books. The cover caught my eye and since I was headed into my Christmas readathon it seemed to be the perfect book to review. How right I was!

Co-workers Cora Crowder and Simon Derrick barely know the other exists, but then a chance encounter at a strange vintage book store changes all that.  Warner, Werner and Wizbotterdad's is far from a normal bookstore and books are not all that they deal in. Each year the booksellers host an enchanting Christmas ball in hopes of creating life long matches between couples they have brought together. Cora and Simon have NO idea what is in store for them... and neither do the booksellers, as they find Cora and Simon to be a challenge to say the least!

So will the 2 opposites find that they do indeed attract? Will they be able to set aside their differences and focus on their shared faith and the chemistry they have bubbling? Or will this match made on Sage Street be the booksellers first flop?

A totally delightful read! I gobbled it up in 2 sittings.... it is definitely one of those books you don't want to put down.

And now I am giving it away!  This is my first book giveaway... a grand way to start 2011.

Here is what you need to do to enter....

Leave a comment for this blog entry. Include your name and email address (write your email like this to prevent spammers:  name (at) whatever (dot) com

AND share 1 Christmas book that you have read and love. I am always looking for Christmas books for my annual Christmas readathon!

I will taken entries until midnight (CST) Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.  Then on Wednesday, I will "pull" a name from the bunch and see who wins this wonderful book!

The Promise by Robert J. Morgan

I have quickly become a fan of Mr. Morgan's writing.  In The Promise, he focuses on a very familiar verse... Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (NIV) What a powerful promise!

In the first half of the book, Morgan takes this verse apart bit by bit. That might sound silly to some, after all the verse makes total sense. But there is so much more here than meets the eye. I was wowed from the start when he was able to get a chapters worth of wonderful insight from 2 simple words.. "We know".... 

The second half of the book looks at other scripture that echoes the promise of Romans 8:28. I love seeing God repeat the same thing in more than one part of the Bible. Especially when the same promise is found in the Old and New Testament.  It drives home how important this is to the Father.

So why learn about Romans 8:28... isn't knowing the verse enough? Well, maybe it is. But Morgan challenges the reader to do more than know it. He wants us to LIVE it.. to pray and act and love and serve and everything else according to the truth found in this verse. And in The Promise, he not only teaches us many of the treasures hidden in this Word, but he also shares ways to walk it out.

Excellent book!  Mine is marked up and will be referred back to often, I am sure.

Homespun Christmas by Renee DeMarco, Birdie L. Etchinson, Colleen L. Reece & Janelle Burnham Schneider

Four Novellas that center around the same small town.

Hope, Washington was founded a century ago by pastor Fergus McKay who came to the small logging village full of hope.  Over the years that hope has died and so has the logging industry as environmental group seek more protected lands for endangered species.  As the town seeks new direction, a small boy reminds them of their heritage and sparks a fire to fight to keep Hope alive.

Hope for the Holidays by Colleen L. Reece -- Sarah McKay, Hope's pharmacist, is determined to revive the town and keep it going so her son, Mike, can grow up there. Ben Macklin, the sheriff, loves Hope too and wants to see it thriving again. Can their drive and desire be the catalyst to get others involved? And will their time together spark a romance that has been lying dormant since High school?

More Than Tinsel by Janelle Burnham Schneider -- Susanna grew up in Hope and ran from their as soon as she was able. She wanted more out of life than a small town with their judgemental ways and tongues. Now she is back caring for a dear friend and finding that her perception of Hope might have been off. Will she find happiness and romance where she least expected it... in Hope?

The Last Christmas by Birdie L. Etchinson -- Walt and Dee have been married a lifetime... well, 25 years... and they are tired. Tired of the routine and each other. They have grown apart and apart is where Dee plans to stay.  Walt decides they need to get away... one last chance to rekindle what they once have. And when he sees an ad for Hope's Homespun Christmas, he knows that is just the place! An old fashioned Christmas removed from the hustle and bustle. Dee is not keen on the idea, but agrees to go.. mainly to prove that their marriage cannot be revived. What she doesn't realize is love and God are waiting in Hope.

Winter Sabbatical by Renee DeMarco -- Brinn Colston is coming into her own as a reporter ... just waiting for that big break... and she knows it is coming. To her surprise, she is not sent to Chicago to cover the big story, but to some small town in Washington state to write about their Homespun Christmas. Determined to do her job and get back to civilization soon, Brinn heads off. Once in Hope she finds there is more to her assignment than she was told ... it will not be short termed.  Over time she grows to love the citizens of Hope and determines to help them fight for their town. But can she keep her heart in check in the process?

A Season of Forgiveness by Brenda Coulter

Victoria and Sam are as different as can be. Victoria likes order and calm.. Sam's goes looking for risks and adventure. In normal circumstances they would probably not even look in each others direction. Circumstances, however, are not normal. Victoria is in danger and Sam, a stranger, swoops in to save her. Try as they might to avoid each other, they can't. They know something is there, but can Sam curb his dangerous lifestyle and can Tori learn to relax and trust God?

A wonderful Christmas read from Love Inspired!

Simply Christmas by Pamela Dowd, Wanda Luttrell, & Christine Lynxwiler

I am not a huge fan of Novellas or compilations, but I had some Christmas themed ones and thought they would be good for the holidays. I was right. I enjoyed them both.

Simply Christmas is compiled of 4 stories centered around slowing down during the holidays and savoring the joy and truth of Christmas.

All Done with the Dashing by Pricilla Dowd -- Maggie does it all.. she cooks, cleans, shops.. she is in charge of making everyone's holiday bright. Well, no more! It is her turn to breathe and enjoy Christmas. She is determined to worship this season instead of work. Can it be done? Will her family help and will it really make a difference? This is a challenge to all of us "superwomen" who feel the need to do it all!

No Holly, No Ivy by Wanda Luttrell -- Loraine is spending her first Christmas alone and she is determined to enjoy it. After all she will have no frenzied cooking and cleaning and wrapping.. it will be easy and relaxing. She soon finds that easy and relaxing translates to boring for her.... but not for long.  her neighbor (a feisty Jewish widow),  the owner of a local shop she frequents (who happens to be Muslim) and an intriguing new minister in the area stir the pot and give Loraine a Christmas she will never forget. This story is respectful of the other cultures and beliefs shared without compromising the author's (and this reader's) faith. No Holly stresses the need to reach out to others and show them the love of Jesus, even when it appears they don't want it.

O Little Town of Progress by Wanda Luttrell -- Octogenarian Mary Martha is happy to live out her life in her late husband's dark old house caught up in past hurts and Charlie  Justice (Mommy-to-be) is stressing about her current circumstance... specifically the expectancy of her first child. She and her husband have a plan and a baby is part of it.. but not now! A chance encounter (is there really such a thing?) brings them together and teaches both to look beyond themselves.

My True Love Gave to Me by Christine Lynxwiler -- Penny is Mrs. Christmas.. she is completely organized.. has everything mapped out to a tee! But then her husband decides they are taking Christmas on the road this year... literally!  He has borrowed a friend's RV and is taking Penny and the kids on a cross country trip full of surprises.  He is beyond excited, but Penny and the kids are less than thrilled. In fact, they are wondering what has happened to a normally rational man.  On their journey they all learn that traditions, while wonderful, are not the key to a joyous Christmas. They will learn about true love and sacrifice and the true gift of the season.

A Dropped Stitches Christmas by Janet Tronstad

This is book 2 in the Dropped Stitches series.  I strongly recommend reading book 1 first.  These are definitely books that build on each other. I have been saving this one for my annual Christmas readathon. As expected, I enjoyed it very much. I am not a huge fan of the first person style you find with Chick Lit, but somehow it works with this series. Even though the majority of the story is told from one person's view point, there are moments when someone else interjects via a journal that all members of the Dropped Stitch Sisters share. (Again, you need to read the 1st book to totally understand the significance of the group and the journal.) 
In book 2, we focus on Carly Winston, the former Rose Queen and cancer survivor. Carly, like most of us, has secrets... one big one she has kept from her "Sisters" and it is weighing her down. Will they understand when she tells them or will it cause a mistrust among them? And what about Randy and their evolving relationship? Will he understand? 
Carly has a lot to learn about being comfortable in your own skin... being open and transparent with those you love... and letting God heal you of your past hurts.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Reading Adventure

Several years ago I started a tradition of reading Christmas themed books from Thanksgiving to New Years. I collect them throughout the year. Not all are new... I find them at book sales, online book swaps, in local book stores.. wherever I see them throughout the year.

Here are the books I have for this year's adventure... as noted I have already read (and reviewed) 3 of them.

Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska by Loree Lough (Read & Reviewed)

@HOME for the Holidays by Meredith Efken (Read & Reviewed)

The Perfect Gift by Lenora Worth (Read & Reviewed)

A Dropped Stitched Christmas by Janet Tronstad

Operation Married by Christmas by Debra Clopton

Holiday Illusion by Lynette Eason

A Season of Forgiveness by Brenda Coulter

The Christmas Journey by Winnie Griggs

and 4 Christmas Novella Collections:

Patchwork Holiday - Brunstettler, DeMarco, Mills & Reece

Homespun Christmas - Demarco, Etchison, Reece & Schneider

A Currier & Ives Christmas - Coleman, Grote, Mills & Raney

Simply Christmas - Dowd, Lutrell, & Lynxwiler

That should keep me busy between now and the end of the year! Be watching for reviews!

The Perfect Gift by Lenora Worth

A lovely weekend read for a semi-lazy weekend... Goldie Rios has travelled to the small town of Viola, Louisiana to care for her grandmother following surgery.  After a few weeks, she is able to leave her grandmother in order to take a small outing to meet a friend and do some shopping. She does not plan on ending up passed out on a stranger's couch only to be discovered by the man of the house and his 2 sons... a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears.

Rory Branagan is living life one day at a time since his wife's senseless death... just working to keep his family together and on track. The last thing he is looking for is a woman, but it seems that is what he has found... in his home... unexpectedly.

What is God doing here? Throwing two wayward souls together in the most unlikely way.  Add in 2 young boys, a matchmaking grandmother, a skeptical mother, and a lost pup and you have a heart-wrenching and funny adventure to usher in the holidays.

@ HOME for the Holidays by Meredith Efken

Book 2 of the SAHM series and also book 2 in my 2010 Christmas book reading adventure. I just love these books.  I reviewed the first book, SAHM I Am, earlier today.  The story line centers around members of an online e-group and consists of their emails on the list and off... nothing else. I love the characters.... I know them... I am parts of them.  As the title indicates, this is a Christmas tale, although there is a lot more going on than the holidays.  Once again, the reader is privy to the various members lives and all that they are dealing with.  Another fun read from Efken.

Love Finds You in North Pole Alaska by Loree Lough

Let the Christmas reading begin!  Each year I read Christmas fiction from Thanksgiving to New Year's.  I will post a bit more on that and include a list of the books I have for this year in a bit.

I began with one of the Love Finds You books. I have only read 2 others in this series of stand alone books, but so far I love them!  I am a sucker for romance... well written and not raunchy... and these books fill the bill!

Sam Sinclair has decided it is time to leave the nest and her older protective big brothers and head off to find her own life. After studying culinary arts, she is ready to find her niche as a chef. So she buys an RV and heads off from her Maryland home to a job in North Pole, Alaska!  After traveling across country, Sam arrives to find her job has been given to someone else.

She begins seeking employment.. anything.. only to find that her timing is perfect. Bryce has inherited his family's Christmas shop and he is not happy. His Aunt Olive, who runs the show, is retiring and Bryce has no intention of working indoors with all that Christmas nonsense! He gives Olive the task of finding a manager and in walks Sam.  Bryce is floored to find that Sam is Samantha.. not at all what he planned!  And to top it off, Olive has given her the other half of the upstairs duplex to share with him.  Could it get worse?

Well, yes, it could... because Bryce's life is about to be turned upside down and inside out in a way his hard marine heart can not imagine!

SAHM I Am by Meredith Efken

SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mom) I am is a fictional email group much like many groups found at Yahoogroups and Google and other list servers.  When I first opened this book I had my doubts. It is made up entirely of emails from this group, as well as personal emails between group members.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy a book full of emails. But wow... once I started reading I was hooked!  I have been on email lists and still have one of my own for wives and moms, as well as belonging to a small close knit quilting group, so though the names were different, these women seemed like old friends.

Throughout the book, the reader gets a look into the lives and minds of women from various walks of life, various seasons and backgrounds. We have women with many children... women with few... women dealing with infertility and those with unexpected pregnancies... financial struggles.. parenting difficulties... emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties and so much more.  And you can relate to them... if you are a wife and/or a mom you will definitely relate!  You have either been through some of the very things they are dealing with or know someone who has.

This is a very real look at real life via the cyber world. Truly a delight to read!

Mainely Mysteries by Susan Page Davis & Megan Elaine Davis

This is another in the America Loves Mysteries series. Mainely Mysteries is a compilation of three books -- Homicide at Blue Heron Lake, Treasure at Blue Heron Lake and Impostors at Blue Heron Lake. Each book is based in the same small town in Maine with a main set of characters running through each storyline and there is an overall storyline for the 2 central characters which runs throughout the books building in each one.

We start out with Emily, an investigative reporter,  returning to her home and reuniting with her old flame, Nate, over a dead body.  Not the most romantic way to go about it! In book 2, Emily and Nate are once again drawn into a mystery as a friend calls on them for help concerning puzzling happenings at his hunting lodge and the death of one of his guides and in book 3 two heirs with the same name show up to collect an inheritance.  Emily is determined to find the truth and the rightful heir.

These books fit my definition of a "cozy mystery" nicely.  Just enough suspense and intrigue to keep your mind guessing, but light enough to be enjoyable and not scare the wits out of you!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber

I love love love Debbie Macomber's books. The first I ever read was 16 Lighthouse Road.. the first book in the Cedar Cove series.  At the time, Macomber had written books 1 - 7.  I devoured them all in a row and then had to wait!  She writes 1 book a year for this series. It is delightful and torturous!  I am soo excited when I see the next book out, but I hesitate to read it once I have it. I know that all to quickly I will be done and have to leave Cedar Cove for another year.  Like so many other fictional towns (Lumby, Mitford, Mayberry.....) I feel as if I live in Cedar Cove.  I know the residents so well and truly care about their comings and goings.

1022 Evergreen Place is a cute little house that has been converted to a duplex. Mack McAfee lives in one half, while Mary Jo Wyse and her infant daughter, Noelle, live in the other half.  There is no doubt of the attraction between the two, but each has been through so much in the past year.. together and individually.  Both are a bit hesitant to take their relationship to another level for fear they might spoil a good thing.

Enter a romance from long ago. Mary Jo has discovered some letters hidden in her side of the duplex.... love letters from World War II.  She and Mack decide to discover all they can about the writer and receiver. Through their digging they discover that life is too short and love to precious to worry about the "what ifs."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan

Morgan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. A dear friend told me about this book and I kept thinking "Hmmm.. that name is familiar."  Well it should be!  One of my absolute favorite devotional types books is He Shall Be Called (based on the names of Jesus) and the author is Robert J. Morgan.  I also have a devotional that my husband and I gave his mother years ago entitled Then Sings My Soul which Morgan also wrote. Each devotional thought looks at a classic hymn.

The Red Sea Rules has 2 subtitles... 10 God Given Strategies for Difficult Times and The Same God Who Led You in Will Lead You Out.

Morgan looks at Exodus chapter 14 and gleans from it truths that most of us miss when reading. We see a story... we look at the action... but rarely do we look at the events and wonder what can I learn from this.  Morgan shows us just that.  Moses and the children of Israel were caught between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea... trapped.. overwhelmed... we have all been there! But God delivered them and He will deliver us too.

The Red Sea Rules shows the reader how to see God in the midst of turmoil.  How to trust Him and let Him guide you.  Morgan has ten strategies based on the Israelites' situation that will teach you to move from fear to faith.

An excellent read whether you are in the midst of a Red Sea moment or on the other side.  A reminder that God is in control and that "the God who led you in will lead you out."

(I stated at the beginning that Morgan was quickly becoming a favorite author. I am currently reading his book The Promise based on Romans 8:28.  A review will be coming soon.)

Colorado Crimes by Lisa Harris

A while back I discovered a series called "America Loves a Mystery." Each book consists of 3 romance mysteries set in a specific state. I have read one other in the series before this one.... Alibis in Arkansas  In Arkansas each story was written by a different author. In Colorado Crimes, Lisa Harris pens all 3 mysteries.

Pricilla Crumb, a widow and professional chef, has come to her son's hunting lodge to help out... permanently, she hopes!  What she doesn't plan for is a guest dying after sampling one of her salmon-filled tartlets.  Pricilla determines to save her reputation and find out the truth behind Charles Woodruff's death. Along the way romance is sparked for her son and for Pricilla. Maybe God has more for the rest of her life than just growing old after all!

Just as Pricilla is trying to learn to balance a long distance relationship while running the kitchen of a lodge, her favorite baker is found dead.  Once again Pricilla plays amateur sleuth in a search for the truth.  Can Max handle being in a relationship with such a risk taker? Or will they come to realize that it is too late to teach old dogs new tricks.

And in the final mystery, Pricilla is the emcee for a prestigious cooking contest. She and Max use this time to get away and explore the possibilities of their future. But when one of her former students is arrested for murdering one of the contest judges, Pricilla feels obligated to help out in the investigation.

The 3 mysteries in Colorado Crimes are "cozy" mysteries.. a bit like watching Murder, She Wrote (which I love!).  They are well written and very entertaining and fairly clever plot lines that will keep you guessing.

I will soon be reading and reviewing another of these "cozy" mysteries -- Mainly Mysteries by Susan Page Davis and Megan Elaine Davis.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

One of the Elms Creek Quilts' books, Chiaverini does a wonderful job of blending the old with the new.  Sylvia Compson and the reader are transformed back in time as she ponders and reads about Joanna, a runaway slave who made her way to Elms Creek Farm prior to the Civil War.  Wondering what happened to Joanna, who was captured by slave catchers and returned to her master, separated from her new born son, Sylvia delves into a bundle of letters she finds stuck in an old desk.  The tale woven through the pages of The Lost Quilter is one of sadness and hardship and also of perseverance and hope.  Learn of Joanna's life through slavery and the heritage she left behind.

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Forgotten God is a powerful book about the Holy Spirit... the often forgotten part of the Holy Trinity.  It seems believers know all the right things to say about the Holy Spirit, but don't really understand who He is nor do they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available to them.  Chan shares how God puts the Holy Spirit in us to empower, guide, comfort, reveal and more.  We are not alone... we are not powerless.. so why do we act as if we are?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love Finds You in Miracle Kentucky by Andrew Boeshaar

Boeshaar is a well-known often read Christian Fiction author, so I was not surprised to find her among the Love Finds You In series.  The premise to Miracle is a unique one and very intriguing to me.  The main character, Meg, has been reared by her single mother all over the U.S. traveling from city to city, guy to guy. The book opens with Meg living with someone in Chicago.  But life has taken its toll and Meg is ready for some rest and a new start. She moves to Miracle, Kentucky to live with her grandmother... a grandmother whom she loves but really doesn't know.  She will also be near her father and his second family.. the one that works.  Can Meg make peace with her dad... her mom... herself... and more importantly with God.

My one negative with this book and it happens in other Christian Fiction is the lack of pointing the reader to Jesus. Meg starts going to church and cleans up her life, but there really is no mention of Jesus or of her working through her life and hurts with Him. It is like she is just all fine after she starts hanging out with church folk.

Love Finds You In Lahaina Hawaii by Bodie Thoene

The Love Finds You series is a wonderful collection of love stories set all over the U.S. and written by different Christian Fiction authors.  Bodie Thoene is well known and loved and this is the first book written by her that I have ever read. It very likely will not be the last.  I know so very little about the History of Hawaii and Thoene is so thorough in her research.

Lahaina provides a story within a story.  It is 1973 and Sandi Smith is trying to live a life in limbo while her husband is MIA in Vietnam. She becomes involved with a project to write a history of each state and is sent to Hawaii to do research and find her story.  Sandi meets Aunt Hannah, a dear friend of the last princess of Hawaii who has written out the entire tale in great detail.  Sandi is drawn back in time as Princess Kaiulani, Hannah and others watch the Hawaii they know and love be swallowed up by the United States and the monarchy placed on a shelf along with much of their heritage. As Sandi delves into Kaiulani and Hannah's stories, she finds herself also drawn into her own story.  She comes face to face with the truth and need to let go and move forward.

Previous books in this series (I have only read 2 prior to this one) were fun and light-hearted, not so Lahaina. There is a depth here that spoke to my heart and made me feel as if I were there watching everything unfold.  A truly wonderful book!

Touching Stars by Emilie Richards

Touching Stars is book 4 in Richards Shenandoah Album series.  (A delightful series!)  Gayle Fortman is a single mom teenage boys.  Her ex is a hot shot journalist seen all over the world reporting the latest crisis or scandal or other big news item.  They bought an inn together when the boys were you, but Eric quickly realized he was not meant to stay in one place... and so he left.  He has been in and out of his boys lives over the years, never really taking time to get to know them. Now he is recovering from a near-death experience in Afghanistan and he needs a place to rest.  Gayle opens her home, the Daughters of the Stars Bed-n-Breakfast to Eric hoping that while he is there he and the boys will make peace and connect.   
What she doesn't expect are all the emotions that will resurface with Eric there.  The anger.. hurt.. love.. from days gone by.  Gayle finally realizes what everyone else has known, that she needs to step back in time and deal with her divorce and the feelings that have been pushed down all these years. Then and only then can she move forward with her life and love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum

I am hooked!  I have fallen in love with Sea Harbor and the characters who live there... and I cannot wait to read the other 2 books out in this series and hope there are more to come!

Death by Cashmere is book 1 in Goldenbaum's Seaside Knitters Series.

Izzy Chambers has left the corporate world to return to the quieter pace of life in Sea Harbor where she opens a knitting shop and forms a small group called the Seaside Knitters. No doubt they thought they would spend their time together knitting and talking certainly not trying to solve a murder!  Izzy rents the apartment above her shop to Angelina Archer, the town bad girl, who shows up dead.  The authorities feel it is a random act by a stranger passing through, but the Seaside Knitters know better and are determined to find the truth.

If you like cozy mysteries and rich eccentric true to life characters, this book is for you!

Family of the Heart by Dorothy Clark

What a sweet story.... Sarah Randolph has left her family home in the lap of luxury to travel to Cincinnati, OH to serve as a nanny for an orphaned little girl.  Her family is in no way pleased, but Sarah is determined to make a life for herself after the death of her finace'.  Clayton Bainbridge is not what she expected to meet. One minute soft the next harsh.... refusing to call his daughter by name or have her in the same room.  What is Sarah to do?  She sit by and watch Nora grow up without her Father's love and yet she could be dismissed and sent away if she interferes.  Circumstances arise that throw the three together and slowly God is able to heal hurts and brokenness and bring renewal.

Very sweet heart-tugging story from Love Inspired Historicals.

The Manning Sisters by Debbie Macomber

This is a 2 for one read... 2 of Macomber's older books republished together in one.

The Cowboy's Lady is a super fun read!  I have a friend who reminds me so much of the leading lady in this story and she is married to a cowboy!  Taylor Manning is running away to find herself... to reinvent her life after a relationship disaster. Her plan... to hold up in a Montana town and teach for 1 year.. isolated from the rest of the world.  What this city girl didn't expect was a man like Russ Palmer. From the first time they meet there is friction and chemistry. These 2 can't decide if they love or hate each other and neither knows how on earth they will survive when Taylor moves back to Seattle.

The Sheriff Takes a Wife is the 2nd book in The Manning Sisters and is set in the same Montana town as The Cowboy's Lady. Christy Manning has come to visit her sister, Taylor, and while there she meets newly elected sheriff, Cody Franklin. Sparks fly and Christy is thrown into a turmoil of confusion. Recently engaged to a long time boyfriend, Christy has to decide where her heart belongs and who determines its fate.

Really fun stories! Macomber never lets me down.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Law and Miss Mary by Dorothy Clark

The Law and Miss Mary is part of a relatively new line of books -- Love Inspired Historical.  I have purchased Love Inspireds over the years and will continue to do so, but also like that our local library has started stocking them.

The Law and Miss Mary is set in St. Louis in 1840. While I am not from that area, I did grow up on the Mississippi River and love tales that revolve around it and steamboats and such.  It was quite easy for me to picture the setting for this story... the boats and the scoundrels that frequent the docks.  But the foe Miss Mary, new to St. Louis, finds herself fighting is not on the docks... he's in the mayor's office. It seems the "fine" people of St. Louis don't like seeing the orphan children on the streets... much like "fine" people today who complain about the homeless. They want them to go away, but are unwilling to do anything to help their plight.

Mary steps in to rescue a young lad named Ben and before she knows it she has a house full of children, but there are still many more who need help. The Captain of the police feels for the children and Mary, but he has plans... to advance politically and socially... and being a do-gooder will not help his efforts... in fact, it may hinder them.  When the mayor passes a law that any child under the age of 12 found on the streets without an adult shall be arrested, the Captain realizes he has to reevaluate his dreams and goals.

The Law and Miss Mary is a nice read, especially for those of us who enjoy Historic settings.  This was my first encounter with the author, Dorothy Clark.  I look forward to reading more of her works in the future

Friday, August 6, 2010

Downpour by James MacDonald

It has taken me a while to read through this book. You could certainly fly through it, but I decided to take my time and chew on what MacDonald had to say and to apply the various exercises he gives at the end of each chapter.

Downpour is a book about revival... renewal... refreshment... reinvigoration... and it is a book that holds no punches.

There are five pictures MacDonald paints..

God on the Throne: A Picture of Holiness
Sin in the Mirror: A Picture of Brokenness
Self in the Dirt: A Picture of Repentance
Christ on the Cross: A Picture of Grace
Spirit in Control: A Picture of Power

This is not a 5 easy steps to a better relationship with God book... in fact, I would say it is more like 5 difficult steps.  But it is worth it! Downpour will lead you to look at yourself and your relationship with God in a new light. To really see God as holy... to see your sin as God sees it, not just as some little "bad" stuff you do every once in a while... to understand that repentance takes more than words.... to grasp what Jesus truly did on the cross and how that Grace still flows down today... and to realize your need for a continual infilling of the Holy Spirit to live as Christ would have you to live.

It is a wonderful book that will challenge and encourage you to seek more in your walk with the Lord.

Love Finds You In Humble Texas by Anita Higman

This is the second "Love Finds You" book I have read and they were  both good reads.... totally different, but both fun!

Trudie is just Trudie... no frills.. what you see is what you get.. and she is fine being that way.  But then her 30th birthday rolls around and her sister, a life coach, gives her two gifts. First, sessions with her to create the new and improved Trudie and second, a date with Mason Wimberly.  Trudie is less than amused, but trapped and endures the date only to find she is attracted to Mason and he appears to be attracted back!

And then it happens... a bump in the road... Trudie's sister, Lane, who went out with Mason a few times in the past decides she should have stuck with him.  Trudie decides to hide her feels and step aside for Lane, but Mason is not interested in that.

It is an odd love triangle.... sort of a wonky one... that only God can work out.

Greater Love by Robert Whitlow

Book 3 of Whitlow's Tides of Truth series was as wonderful as the first two (both reviewed on this blog in the last few months).  White Whitlow does a great job of tying up some loose ends, he leaves enough hanging so that each reader can "suppose" what happens to various characters. I, for one, like that.  I can place them where I want them and with whom I want them to be. :-)

Greater Love  Has a powerful message of faith and of growing into who you are in Christ. He also did a wonderful job of showing how we, as individuals, influence and affect others lives in ways we are unaware.

Tami Taylor is on the threshold of her life. She is finishing up law school and will move from the security of her North GA home and family to Savannah. Will she work at an established firm where she has clerked the past summer or will she strike out with two other young female lawyers to start a firm of their own? Not only does she have two job possibilities, she has two men vying for her affection.  Who will she choose or will they make that decision for her?

Add into the midst the elderly woman she stays with in Savannah who suffers from severe dementia, a young runaway with a deep dark secret, a prophetess with a message and a businessman determined to keep everyone quiet.

Greater Love is full of intrigue, romance, and faith.  A lovely end to a wonderful series!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Love Finds You in Holiday Florida by Sandra D. Bricker

I have been hearing about the Love Finds You books for a while and have been wanting to read them, so imagine my surprise when my daughter brings in a stack of books to take to the library for a book sale and there is this book... Love Finds You in Holiday Florida.  I snatched it up quick!  Now my daughter doesn't read much fiction and when she does she sticks with the classics... or a good mystery... but no historic romances or chick lit or the likes for her! A friend gave her this book to read, but she never did.  So mom got it... and loved it!

Bostonian Cassie Constantine is trying to tie up loose ends and find her new normal in life after the death of her beloved husband, Zan.  One of those loose ends is there vacation house in Holiday, FL... a kitschy hamlet full of retired folks and pink flamingo studded yards.   Cassie's daughter has Christmas plans, so she decides to spend Christmas there getting the house ready to go on the market.  What she doesn't expect to find are friends... and adventure.... and new side of herself... and love.

This is a cute fun read... very much for those who love a good fairy tale... and the nice thing is the prince and princess in this one are mature!  I like that!  LOL!  Nice to read about someone my age who is the heroine and not her mom!

I have already started my 2nd Love Finds You Book... and I plan to read more! I am a sucker for Cinderella and Prince Charming!

Higher Hope by Robert Whitlow

Book 2 of the Voices of Truth series and I was not disappointed at all!  I loved the first book! Deeper Water Review  I feared the second book wouldn't be as good. I had no need to fear!  And now I feel confident book 3, which I received from the library today, will be great too!

I have to confess that I love pretty much anything to do with law and legal stuff like trials etc.  I am a certified paralegal... minored in Criminal Justice... toyed around with being a lawyer... am a nut for murder mysteries and legal thrillers in book, movie or television show form!

Higher Hope continues the story of summer law intern Tami Taylor. Tami comes from a very conservative rural Georgia background and has been tossed into mainstream Savannah head first.  Her convictions cause a bit of warring within.  I love that she does falter and struggle (as we all do) and there are times when she is able to stand firm (as we all should).  Whitlow, while providing a wonderful legal tale leaving out no necessary detail, paints a very realistic picture of the struggle between the Spirit and the Natural Man.

In Higher Hope, Tami is drawn into a case that hits a bit close to home... too close. An outspoken charismatic preacher has been accused of slander and libel and the firm has been hired to prosecute her. Tami prayerfully searches for the truth and finds more than she bargained for.

Again, a wonderful book!  Looking forward to book 3 in this series...  Greater Love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

I don't read much secular fiction these days.  Years ago I did, but over time the amount of coarse language and sex became a bit much for me and I discovered Christian Fiction.  However, there are a few secular series I read with relish (anything by Debbie Macomber... the Elms Creek Quilters series by Chiaverini... the Shenandoah Album series by Emilie Richards to name a few).

I have shared on the blog that we have a new amazing library in my little corner of the world... so close that I could walk... if the temp and humidity ever become bearable!

As I have been perusing the shelves and just marveling at this treasure, I have picked up some books by authors that are new to me.... stretching myself a bit.  Some forays have been delightful.. others not good at all (See previous post on Delta Belles).  Shakespeare's Landlord falls somewhere between the 2 leaning a bit more toward the delightful side.

This is book introduces amateur sleuth Lily Bard of Shakespeare, Arkansas.  I have to admit the Shakespearean link is what caught my eye. I am a huge fan of the Bard... having read most of his works and wrote my Senior Thesis in college on the use of Light and Dark in his plays.  The town's name and Lily's last name are pretty much the only links to ole Will... at least in this book.

The characters are fun.. quirky and eccentric at times... the storyline is fun and well done.  I am one of those folks who usually figure out a mystery early on, but I was very near the end before "whodunit" became clear to me. 

Lily is a loner... with a secret... so she is not thrilled when she stumbles upon a dead body. She does her best to distance herself from the crime, even making an anonymous 911 call... but to no avail.  Her link to the body and her secret soon come rolling out and her life is turned upside down.  Her best bet is to get this crime solved so people can move on and forget it and go back to ignoring her.  

I would caution that there is some coarse language in this book... only 3 or 4 times, but still.. and while there are no grand detailed scenes,  unmarried characters sleep together.  To some these things are trivial.  To others they are deal breakers.  I use to be of the first school... I am finding myself moving more and more towards the latter.  Neither added anything to the story and while I know they are real-world occurrences, I just don't know that I want to read the real world... I spend a lot of time there and when I read, I like real people and settings but cleaned up a bit as the world should be.

Still, all in all it was a nice read.

No Distance Too Far by Lauraine Snelling

This is book 2 of the Home to Blessing series.  Snelling has several series that center around the fictional town on Blessing North Dakota:  Red River of the North (6 books), Return to Red River (3 books), Daughters of Blessing (4 books) and Home to Blessing (2 books so far...with a 3rd releasing soon).  I absolutely love all of these!  They are easily some of my favorite books!  I enjoy the setting, which is very "foreign" to this Southern girl, and I adore the characters who have become old friends.  Each time a new Blessing book comes out I get excited to catch up on the families and meet their new neighbors and friends.  It is like going back home for a visit.

So there was no doubt I would love No Distance Too Far... and I did.  The focus of this series, so far, is on Astrid.  A young woman who has completed medical school and is now struggling with where she should go to serve the Lord in her calling.  Will she head into the jungles of Africa to work as a Medical Missionary or to an Indian Reservation near her home of Blessing where the need for medical care is great or will she go home to Blessing and serve the people there along side her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund? Only God knows and He is not making it as clear to Astrid as she would like.

Following some advice of her mother's, Astrid decides to take a step of faith and heads to Athens, GA to attend Missionary School.  There are those who believe a single woman, no matter how educated, has no business heading off into the dark heart of Africa. They advise she find a husband and try again.  But Astrid pushes on... determined to complete the training there even though she has no certainty that Africa is God's plan for her.

All the while Joshua is settling in Blessing, building a home that he hopes Astrid will share with him, and wondering how to get her to settle back in ND instead of going to Africa.  He is also learning that God has a plan for his life and things for him to do.  Family and friends in Blessing struggle with Astrid's choice as they anticipate a new hospital and wonder how Elizabeth can manage as the area's only doctor.

It is intriguing to see all this play out on the pages of this book.. to read the thoughts and prayers of those involved... to see God's hand at work.  A wonderful read.  I look forward to the next book in the series!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

I forget where I heard about or read about this book, but I am so glad I did!  It is a wonderful book to breathe some fresh air into your prayer life.  In the last section, Miller covers some practical points like using prayer cards and journals and such, but through out the first 2/3s he just shares prayer stories and what God has taught him as he has developed his praying life. 

His thoughts will encourage and challenge... they will make you stop and think about how you pray and why... and whether or not you pray just because it is something Christians do or if you really expect an answer.  He  prays about everything with unabashed boldness... after all, God wants to be a part of our lives.. ALL of it. 

This is not a 5 steps to a better prayer life book.. nor is it a theological tome on prayer... it is an open and honest look at prayer and how it looks in one man's life and how it could look in yours.

Delta Belles by Penelope Stokes

Years ago I read a book or two by Stokes... The Blue Bottle Club... The Amethyst Heart... are 2 I remember. I also remember at the time that I felt certain she and I would not see eye to eye on some doctrinal issues, but I was never offended or bothered by those differences.

As I was wandering through our local library recently I saw she had a number of works out I had not read... I also noticed she had a sticker on her books that indicated she was a Mississippi writer (I live in Mississippi).  I read the summary of Delta Belles and immediately knew I would like the story. 4 friend who all went to Mississippi College for Women (know as the W in Mississippi) who are now all grown and coming back together for a reunion. And I did enjoy the stories... the characters reminded me of people I knew.. much of the topics of conversation were familiar to me as they centered around places and events I know or at least know of. 

But I never finished the book.  I rarely.. RARELY.. don't finish a book. I will push through the worst written drivel due to some self-possessed obsession with finishing any book I start. That said.. I often never start a book if I feel I won't enjoy it... if I don't start it, I don't have to finish it. So was Delta Belles that poorly written? No.. in fact the writing is wonderful.. the characters full and real.. the story lines completely believable and uncontrived.. but there came an issue.. at first I felt I could over look it.. but as the book progressed it went from being a side line to a strong point. That issue is homosexuality.

I will not toss aside a book just because there is a homosexual character or characters... most of us know people who are gay... consider them friends... care about them. But  not all of us consider the choices they make to be sin. I do.  I believe with every ounce of my being that the Bible is clear on this and so, for me, reading a book that goes beyond just condoning it, but actually spends a great its time promoting it, was not a good use of my time nor something I felt best to place in my mind. 

I debated not writing a review at all.  I don't think I have ever written a negative review.  But then I thought maybe someone would like to know ahead of time about this book. I guess is could actually draw someone to it.  But it may also prevent someone from starting a good story only to feel the need to walk away from it as I did.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

the happy room by Catherine Palmer

I am struggling with how to review this book.  I didn't love it but I didn't hate it.  Not so much due to writing style or such, but I think the subject matter is what caused this less than positive feeling. It is, to me, a rather depressing book from the get-go and while there are some good things that happen along the way and it is written with some upbeat happenings at the end, it still ends on a sad note to me.  

the happy room (the author has the title in all lower case) is a book that focuses in on three siblings... sibling who grew up in the Mission field in Africa.  They are all grown now and each have lives that were greatly effected by that time and their personal perception of it.  One sister is married and living the perfect life letting no one see any unrest or sadness or struggle in her life or her family... one sister is battling for her life with anorexia... and the brother is angry with the world and God and himself for allowing his wife to leave with his son.  Truthfully, they are all a mess!

Debbie's illness brings them together and forces them to face the truth of their upbringing and of their current life.  They find there were some good memories and a lot of hurt that came from not fulling understanding why their life was as it was.

It i interesting to see how 3 siblings live essentially the same life and yet interpret it so differently.  

I have no doubt there are those who will love this book.  Maybe the timing was just wrong for me. If you are looking for a fun uplifting read, this is not it.  If you want something that challenges or digs deep, this is not it.  But if you want a glimpse into the lives of a dysfunctional Christian family and how God can work even in the midst of the mess, then this book is for you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow

I have a new author to add to my "favorites" list.. Robert Whitlow.  I loved this book!  I am a bit of a legal nut... contemplated law school.. have a criminal justice minor and am a certified paralegal.. I love just about anything to do with the law! 

Deeper Water (Book 1 of the Tides of Truth series) was one of the books I stumbled upon as I wandered through our new local library.  Terri Blackstock (one of my favorite authors) praised it... the back cover write up sounded good... and on one of his books he was compared to John Grisham, who I enjoy, so I decided to give Whitlow a try. I am sooo glad I did!  I look forward to reading the other books in this series as well as his other works. Fortunately our library system has all his books! Only a few are at my local branch, but I can request the others to be sent here as I get ready for them.  No doubt a large portion of my summer reading will be his books!

Deeper Water is set in Georgia.. Savannah, GA.  Tammy Lynn Taylor has left her home in rural north Georgia to spend the summer clerking at a prestigious law firm in Savannah. Tami (as she now spells her name) has lead a shelter life growing up in a conservative fundamentalist church and being homeschooled. I have to say Whitlow treated both those aspects of her upbringing with great respect and dignity.  While our family is conservative, we are no where near as fundamentalist as Tami's (Blue jeans are regular attire for everyone here and, obviously, we have the Internet.. among other things!)... but we are conservative and we homeschooled (I have one child entering college this year and one that just graduated college.)  There are times when homeschoolers are depicted as social misfits with extremist views.  No doubt some are... but most homeschoolers are normal folks who want what is best for their kids like most parents.  So, again, I appreciated Whitlow's portrayal of not only Tami, but her parents and siblings as normal folks.

Back to the story... Tami is in Savannah working for a law firm about to try her first case, a misdemeanor trespassing charge.. but her client's ramblings reveal something more sinister ... possibly the solution to a cold case.. the death of a young girl many years ago.  Tami decides to dig a bit and soon discovers a link to the firm and its founders.  Does the conspiracy continue on to the current day partners? Is Tami safe working there? Can she prove who murdered little Lisa Prescott all those years ago finally bringing justice to this forgot tragedy?

Excellent book... and no doubt the others in the series will be just as thrilling to read!  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Georgia on Her Mind by Rachel Hauck

Recently, my local library has close and a new amazing one has been opened!  We have gone from an old 6000 square ft. building (where books were ruined due to mildew) to a phenomenal 25,000 square feet oasis!  Stone.. natural elements... in a wooded setting with a large pond... glass walls that provide amazing views.. it truly is a wonder!  And best of all the new library is within walking distance of my home!

My husband and I were there for the Dedication and Grand Opening, but there wasn't time to wander the stacks and browse through the books.  So I went back last week to do just that. I brought home 3 novels to read... one of them was Georgia on Her Mind by Rachel Hauck. I had never see or heard of it. The cover caught my eye ... it just looked like a fun book.. and it was!  This was one of the "funnest" reads I've enjoyed in a long time.

Macy Moore has it all... a great guy... a great career... great clothes and stuff... life is .. well, great! And then it all starts to fall apart... a demotion...  a break-up... and to top it off a class reunion looming. What's a girl to do!?

This is Chick Lit at its best... faith mixed with a lot of laughter. .... a perfect book anytime, but with summer coming I have to say this would be a great beach / poolside read.

The Hand-Me-Down Family by Winnie Griggs

This is the first book I have read by Griggs. It will not be the last!  In fact, I ordered her A Christmas Journey through the Paperback Swap today.  The Hand-Me-Down family is a Love Inspired Historical novel. It is the tale of a mail-order bride, but with twist... she arrives to find she is a widow.  Callie Gray never expected to marry, so when the opportunity to become a mail-order bride came along she took it... going so far as to marry via proxy before travelling west.  Looking forward to life on a ranch with her husband and young daughter, Callie arrives to find that he has perished in a fire along with his sister and her husband and now there are 3 children who need parents.  Callie is ready to take on the role, but her husband's younger brother, who knows nothing about Callie's coming, has arrived in town ready to take over the family ranch and his nephew and nieces.  Who will win the battle of the wills... or is there a compromise they both can live with.

The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Elm Creek Quilts series is one of my favorite series.  I want to find a real Elm Creek Quilts and go visit Sylvia, Sarah, Gwen, Summer and all the rest!  Most of the books in the series I have loved... a few I have liked... The Quilter's Kitchen falls into the latter category. It is easily my least favorite Elm Creek book.

Essentially it is a series of recipes that have been wrapped in a short story of memories.  Anna is the new chef at Elm Creek. She and Sylvia are cleaning out the kitchen in preparation of a major redo. Along the way, they unearth family heirlooms and treasures from Sylvia's childhood. She tells Anna stories connected with their finds. 

The stories are entertaining, but truly add nothing to the richness or depth of the Elm Creek books.  If you read the series and skipped this one, I don't think you would skip a beat.  I may find myself wrong when I read the next book, but I truly see nothing it adds to the overall stories. 

That said... there are some yummy sounding recipes in The Quilter's Kitchen, so if you like to collect recipes or cookbooks then you probably will enjoy this book.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I think I am one of the last people in my church to read this book! I have been hearing about it for so long and have had it on my to-read list... but that is a LONG list and it has taken forever to get here!

I can say that all the good things I have heard are true! Crazy Love is definitely a book worth reading. BUT what really made it even more wow for me was to go to the website and read about the author... Francis Chan. I am not one who is easily impressed, but I am with Chan. He is truly a man after God's own heart striving to walk it out every day.

In Crazy Love he encourages all believers to do just that.. walk out their faith... by embracing the enormity of God's love for us and letting it overflow through us onto every one we meet.

This book is drenched in Scripture, so this is not Chan's theory or original idea. He has drawn from God's Word to show us that God wants more for us than living the same ole life everyone else on the planet lives... the status quo... He has the Abundant Life waiting for us if only we will let go and live it!

Alibis in Arkansas -- by Lynxwiler, Reynolds & Gaskin

Alibis is a compilation of 3 Romance Mysteries all centered around 2 sisters, Jenna Stafford & Carly Reece, who fall into the task of solving murders. Fun fact ... the books are written by 3 real life sisters! I would classify these stories as light cozy mysteries... much in the vein of the Murder She Wrote television series or the Mystery Woman movies. Total fun to read!

It all starts with Death on a Deadline when Jenna stumbles, literally, across the murder of the local newspaper editor and then finds her nephew is the top suspect. Next comes Drop Dead Diva, where a trip away to help out a friend and relax a bit ends up with a dead Country Music Singer and more suspects that you can count on both hands. The final story is Down Home and Deadly and once again murder drops in on the sisters when Carly finds a dead body at the back door of her newly purchased diner.

The sisters relationship with each other, their families and the men in their lives runs throughout all three tales, as does there faith.

Fun reads... this would be a great book to take on Summer Vacation!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher

Book 2 of the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series focuses on Cleopatra Arlington... Cleo to her friends. Cleo is the total opposite of her twin, Gwen. Where Gwen is refined, soft, frilly, femine, Cleo is rough and tumble... ready to ride at a moments notice.. doing the work of men daily. In fact, at most times people mistake her for a man in her pants and hat covered in dust from working the ranch. But Cleo doesn't mind, she loves her life just as it is. Or does she?

Enter Lord Sherwood Statham of England. The fourth son of a Duke and a bit of a rogue, Sherwood's father has sent him to American as a form of discipline... to teach him to straighten up and fly right. Lord Statham finds himself in a new world.. working as a ranch hand for Cleo and her father, Griff. And Cleo is not thrilled to be nursemaid to a softie from England.

They grate on each others nerves from day one and yet there is an underlying chemistry that neither can deny. So which one will tame the other? Will Cleo the cowgirl become Lady Cleopatra or will Lord Statham become Woody the cowboy? One thing's for certain, the ride is going to be a bumpy and adventurous one!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher

This is book one of Hatcher's latest series -- The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs. Gwen Arlington is a woman of breeding who knows all the social graces and she is woman who knows her mind. So it is really no surprise that she takes her sister's challenge to run for Mayor of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho. Her 2 opponents are men... a drunkard and a handsome man of means who has her all in a dither. Morgan McKinley is not what Gwen expected. He has a heart for Bethlehem Springs and sees that she does also. He is a man of means, but first and foremost a man of faith. Can Gwen hold on to her independence if she gives her heart away? And what of the election, who will be mayor of Bethlehem Springs?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

I absolutely love every series Snelling has written concerning the Red River of the North. I love the families who settled or went through Blessing, MN. I miss the ones who have gone home to the Lord like Agnes. I have watched wee ones grow into adulthood and have families of their own. And even though these books are set in the late 1800s until shortly after the turn of the century, I feel as if I have been there very moment!

It was no surprise then that I was delighted to see a new Blessing series on the shelf at my local library! A Measure of Mercy is book one of the Home to Blessing series. I have savored ever word... catching up on the Bjorklund's and all their family and friends... meeting new folks... marvelling at the changes in Blessing (and those to come!)... it has been a wonderful trip and I cannot wait for future books to take me back!

Measure focuses, for the most part, on Astrid as she pursues medicine and struggles with knowing God's call on her life. Is it to return to Blessing and start a hospital with Dr. Elizabeth or to go to Africa as a medical missionary? And then there is Emmy, a precious little native American girl left in the Bjorklund's barn on a cold winter night. Who does she belong to? And Benny, a street urchin hit by a wagon who is now a double amputee at the age of 6. How will he survive with no family? Joshua Landsverk has returned to Blessing, not to farm but to find honest work, make his own way, and hopefully win the heart of that special someone he can't get out of his mind.

Life ebbs and flows in Blessing much as it does today wherever you live. There are decisions to be made... choices... that effect more than just yourself. There are lives that need someone to care for them.. those who need to be loved. There are struggles and hardships and sorrows and there are joys and happy moments to celebrate.

No doubt you can jump in with this series, but I highly recommend backing up and reading all the books connecting to Blessing. The 4 series are Red River of the North, Return to Red River, Daughters of Blessing and Home to Blessing. A complete list of books can be found at Snelling's website:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall

Book 2 of the Sisters of the Quilt series.

When the Morning Comes picks up where When the Heart Cries leaves off. Hannah Lapp is now making her way in the English world, trying to reconcile what she knows as an Old Order Amish girl and the new and exciting world around her. Making her way from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Hannah is united with her aunt, Zabeth, who was shunned many year before. Zabeth understands Hannah better than most and provides not only a place to live, but also a shoulder to cry on and words of wisdom. Hannah faces many decisions... will she return to PA and stand up to her accusers or will she move forward with the life she has created in Ohio?

Back in PA, Paul mourns the loss of Hannah and does his best to locate her but to no avail. His family persuades him to return to school and finish out his degree in hopes he will forget his lost love. Matthew and Ellie struggle with their relationship as she has one foot in the plain world and the other among the English. Luke and Mary marry, but the secret she holds could destroy everything she has worked to obtain. And Sarah, Hannah's spiteful sister, appears to be going mad. She searches for Hannah day and night, wandering the countryside muttering to herself about fire and truth.

This book leaves so many questions hanging at the end! But Praise the Lord there is a book 3! When the Soul Mends.

An excellent series!

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

I usually read Christmas stories during the Christmas season, but when I saw this book by one of my favorite authors sitting on the New Fiction shelf at the library I had to snatch it up! The Perfect Christmas is a fun, light-hearted tale of a girl whose biological clocking is roaring! Cassie is certain she is never going to meet THE guy. And to make matters worse most of her friends seem to have found their perfect mate. A Christmas card, complete with photo of her friend, Julie with her husband and 2 children ready for their perfect Christmas proves Cassie's point. Yes, she knows it is just a photo and while it looks perfect, it probably isn't. That doesn't matter. Cassie wants the look... the family to create that picture perfect Christmas card and she wants it now!

In steps Simon Dodson, professional matchmaker. Cassie's friend, Angie, tells her about Simon. He is very highly sought.... has a high success rate... and costs a fortune. At first the thought of a matchmaker seems ridiculous to Cassie, but then.. what does she have to loose. He does have a money back guarantee. What she doesn't expect it a gruff, rude man who asks all the questions and then gives her tasks to complete before she is able to meet Mr. Right!

So what happens if she invests all this time and energy only to find that Mr. Right is Mr. Wrong and her heart has chosen another... someone determined not to marry, ever.

This novel is full of laughter and tender moments... very much the sweet romance most women love.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

A small book that packs a big punch! Giglio gets to the heart of the matter... our need to see God as who He really is and to see ourselves in light of that.... to realize that it is all about Him... that we can accomplish nothing of value apart from Him. This is not a book that degrades humans and makes you feel worthless, on the contrary... it is a book that frees you from having to carry the load! We have been invited to share in His-story... the greatest adventure of all time! And when life hits us hard and we question it, the answer is found in 2 simple words... I AM! Excellent book! A must read!

The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini

I adore the Elms Creek books! Each one is a gem! I was a bit skeptical when I started The Quilter's Homecoming. It veers away from the main characters and steps back in time to look at Sylvia's cousin Elizabeth and her husband, Henry. Elizabeth and Henry get married and set off to settle on a farm in California. Loaded with excitement, spirit and idealism, they make plans the whole way for their life and their farm.... only to arrive and find that there is no farm... at least not one the one they have purchased. Like many others they have been swindled and find themselves across the continent with no money and too much pride to go home. And so begins the life of secrets... they are determined never to tell their family of their shame. As they work as hired help, their relationship becomes strained and tattered... much like the quilts Elizabeth finds in the abandoned cabin they call home. Having sold her precious wedding quilts, Elizabeth sets out to repair those she has found and to make a home for her and Henry and hopefully one day their children.

Courting the Doctor's Daughter by Janet Dean

This is from the Love Inspired Historical series. I don't recall reading anything by Dean before, so she is a new author to me.

Courting the Doctor's Daughter was a nice read. Nothing hugely deep or life changing, but a wonderful bit of entertainment and escape from the craziness of life. Mary Grave is a widow with three sons and a very skeptical and untrusting spirit. When a peddler comes to town hawking his miracle elixir, Mary goes on the attack... determined to run this charlatan out of town. But Dr. Luke Jacobs isn't so easily bullied. He is on a mission to find his son and nothing or no one is going to interfere with that.

What Luke didn't expect to find was his son and a new life. This is not what he planned and he wants no part of it.... or does he. Mary has plans of her own and she is certain Luke will complicate things and get her off course.

What are two stubborn, lonely, obviously in love people to do?

When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

This is book 1 of Woodsmall's Sisters of the Quilt series. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start another Amish series. I have read everything by Beverly Lewis and most of Wanda Brunstetter's books, but a couple of friends loved this series and recommended it so I decided to give it a try. While some parts of it seem to be typical of books based on the Amish (i.e. the struggle to decide between the Plain world and the English world), When the Heart Cries definitely has twists that are not expected. One thing I liked is the depth of the characters and the insight into their emotions and thoughts. It is difficult to give examples without giving away too much of the story, but one character is involved in a tragic accident and irrationally blames another. His reasoning is so flawed and yet so human and much as any one of us might create. This made the Amish seem more real and more like the rest of us.. not as different as they often seem. It is definitely a story of secrets and poor decisions and misunderstandings that lead to heart break. But it is also a story of hope and while the end leaves you hanging, there is a sense that thigns will come together one day.

The main characters are Hannah Lapp, a 17 year old Amish girl, and Paul Waddell, a college age Mennonite boy. No surprise the 2 are in love and struggle with how to be together and keep peace in their families. Secrets lead to untruths... people jump to conclusions... and tragedy leads to greater loss. While early on their are some fun parts, it is not a light-hearted story. It is a bit heavy and, again, leaves so much hanging. I have already picked up book 2 from the library and will start it soon (Once I finish the Macomber book I am reading!).

92 Pacific Boulevard by Debbie Macomber

I am a big Macomber fan, as I am sure I have stated here before. Her Cedar Cove novels were the first of her works I read and are still favorites. 92 Pacific Boulevard is book 9 in the series (which really needs to be read in order). It was so much fun to go back to Cedar Cove and visit with old friends, get to know some of them a bit better and meet a few new ones. Sheriff Troy Davis is still struggling with his love for Faith Beckwith, but is it too late to make up for his foolish actions? In the meantime, Faith has become the target for some malicious vandalism and is considering leaving Cedar Cove. Maybe it was a mistake to move here in the first place. Olivia Griffin is fighting cancer with grace and the support of her many friends in Cedar Cove. And there are babies on the way.... triplets! Life is never dull in Cedar Cove!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Preparing for Jesus is an devotional for the Advent and Christmas Season. Readings begin December 1 and go through January 7, the day after Epiphany. Wangerin focuses on different characters from the Christmas story. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Angels, the Magi, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna and of course Jesus allowing the reader to get a view of Christmas from the original event. It truly is at times like you are right there in Bethlehem. This is a wonderful way to get your heart in tune and focused on Jesus during a world centered time of year. I just found a copy on Paper Back Book Swap for my daughter so she can read along with me next year! I suggest looking for copies now while Christmas books are on sale.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

What a fun book! I love reading Christmas novels during the holidays and got a bit of a late start this year. I had never heard of The Christmas Bus. I saw it on the Paperback Swap Site and thought it looked and sounded interesting. My library didn't have a copy, so I nabbed one off PBS (great site!)

Edith Ryan and her husband, Charles, live in the Pacific Northwest in a small town called Christmas Village. They own a bed and breakfast ... The Shepherd's Inn. Each year the Ryan's close down for the holidays to make room for their family to come visit, but things are different this year. None of the children are coming home and so they find themselves with no plans and a big empty house. Edith decides to open up for Christmas and prays that the Inn will be nice and full!

Her prayers are answered beyond what she imagined with a cast of characters that turn her world and Christmas Village upside down! And then the bus arrives. An old school bus wildly painted that is providing transportation and shelter for a young couple headed to California and greener pastures. There is no room for them in the Inn, but Charles and Edith see no trouble with allowing them to park there. The town, on the other hand, takes great issue with this.... after all, it doesn't look good.

But the Ryan's win out... the bus is broken down and waiting on parts, so not much can be done. And over time the hearts of the towns folk are softened as they come to see this young couple, with a wife who is great with child, in light of the blessings of Christmas.

Very sweet story.... very funny at times too! A true delight to read!