Sunday, December 30, 2018

Reviewing: Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

 ...publisher's notes....

Raised among the Amish of Indiana, 18-year-old Marianna Sommer plans to get baptized into the church, marry Aaron Zook, and set up life in the only community she has ever known. But when her older brother chooses the world’s path following his rumschpringe, and a younger sibling begins showing interest in Englisch ways, Marianna’s parents move the family to Montana.
Although she is also in her rumschpringe years and not obligated to move, Marianna makes the journey to dutifully help her mother who is expecting another child. Surprisingly, from strangers on the cross-country train ride to the less rigid stance of the new Montana community, many Englisch influences awaken within Marianna—and even her father—the desire to pursue a deeper kind of joy and love for God.
After an accident, Marianna tells her friend Ben a defining story about the Sommer family, and his response further illumines the active relationship God seeks with His followers. In due time, she learns the move from Indiana was not about losing anything, but finding out who God really is. Despite all the shake-ups, Marianna feels a sweet peace, like still waters, in her soul. thoughts....

What a wonderful story!  Sometimes you find that one book that just captures your heart and Beside Still Waters is just such a book.  The characters are well developed and seem to come alive. I wasn't sure what to think when the story began with an unthinkable tragedy.  The story really begins when the family moves to Montana and leaves their stifling Amish community behind.  Our heroine Marianna longs to return and marry her childhood sweetheart.  Once she opens her heart to see God's plan for her she has some new decisions to make.  Tricia Goyer has a gift in helping things sort out nicely.  I can't wait to see what happens in Along Wooded Paths, next up in the Big Sky Series.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Searching For You By Jody Hedlund Is the Final Stop in The Orphan Train Series

 All Aboard for the Final Stop On the Orphan Train! 

 ...from the publisher....
 Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help? thoughts....

I couldn't wait to read this book!  This series is wonderful and while I didn't want it to end I wanted to know what happened to Sophie Neumann after she was separated from her sisters.  Like so many children in New York in the late 1850's, Sophie and her two sisters became orphans.  Times were desperate and many lived and worked in squalor.  Jody Hedlund introduced the series with her novella An Awakened Heart and I was  immediately hooked.  Each sister has her own story on the train and along the way the lives of many are changed.  Searching For You is Sophie's own story.

Sophie is the youngest of three sisters but has every ounce of sheer determination as her older sisters to survive in the cruel world that surrounded her.  She was charged with the care of little Olivia and Nicholas who were left in her family's care after the death of their mother.  When her sisters found work she cared for them. When she was separated from her sisters she took full responsibility for them.  After that, they became her world.

When circumstances became too dangerous, she left New York on the Orphan Train with the children and her friend Anna.  They were determined to stick together no matter what happened.  Sophie promised she would do the right thing for the children she loved.  Just older than a child herself, she had given of herself fully to Olivia and Nicholas.

Reinhold Weiss, a former close friend of Sophie's family in New York plays a prominent role in our final story.  He had been in love with her sister Elise before she left New York when she found a job in Illinois.  When Marianne was in Illinois searching for  Sophie the year before he offered her his protection with a marriage proposal.  Now, little Sophie was before him, but she was not so little anymore.  I am not sure if Sophie or Reinhold was more surprised to see the other!  It was a very long way from the tenements of New York to a growing farm in Illinois.

Jody Hedlund's writing ties this book up neatly and leaves no questions unanswered for the series.  The characters are well developed and it is easy to get hooked on their situations  immediately.  Jody's careful research and attention to detail gives a telling glimpse into the lives of how it must have been living as an orphan riding the orphan train to places unknown.  I recommend this book with 5 stars. 

 About the Author....
Jody Hedlund is the author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she's learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she's not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Tradtion Began in The Christmas Heirloom A Special Collection of four Holiday Novellas

Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through The Generations each have a voice as different as each woman whose story is told. The Christmas Heirloom written by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas and Becky Wade will capture your imagination as you follow its history. At once it is a rich treasure and in another moment it may be lost forever.  As I get older and am reminded of my heritage, stories such as this warm my memories like a cup of fine tea shared among friends.  I hope this collection will find its way into your hands as this wonderful season rich with holidays begins. 

....from the publisher...

In Kristi Ann Hunter's "Legacy of Love," Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman's grandson, a man far above her station.

A beautiful amethyst brooch is a treasure for  ... and  an heirloom passed through generations from mother to daughter.  Sarah was a blessing to an old and largely ignored woman. From the moment they met they connected, mostly because Sarah saw her as the person she always was,not as the old woman nearing the end of her life. 

....from the publisher...
In Karen Witemeyer's "Gift of the Heart," widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

Ruth treasured the brooch she received from her mother and was holding it in trust for her daughter.  What a wonderful story of love and devotion.  Coming with nothing but her strength and courage she touched the lives of many.  I particularly enjoyed this story for the generous spirit Ruth  had for all she met. If there is a story to be told about a hard working woman, Karen Witemeyer is the one to write it. In the west, when a woman was all alone, she either rolled up her sleeves and found a way to support her family or floundered. 

....from the publisher...
  In Sarah Loudin Thomas's "A Shot at Love," Fleeta Brady's rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family's brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

I enjoy reading Sarah Loudin Thomas's books and it was good to get a second glace at some characters from the sound of rain. Fleeta is such an unusual young woman the way she can out shoot most men at the turkey shoot.  She is following her dreams and doesn't want anything like a brooch send romance her way.  Her innocence is both delightful and bittersweet.  I liked this novella for people that came alive in true Sarah Loudin Thomas style. Rich with the poignancy of West Virginia in the 1950's where people were doing their best with what they had.  Yet still, that brooch was treasured. 

....from the publisher...
In Becky Wade's "Because of You," Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

The brooch made it to present day Christmas season.  Becky Wade's approach is in tune with the younger generation. The brooch makes its way into Maddie's hands in an almost irreverent manner.  Maddie's mother seemed a bit sheepish when she admitted she had forgotten it in with some of her old things.  Fortunately, Maddie loved the brooch and found it just in time...or are all the stories of this brooch just coincidence? To find out for sure, pick up a copy in time for your Christmas reading season. 

I received a copy of this book with no obligation to write a review but as with all books I enjoy, I just can't keep a good thing to myself!   

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Good Historical Fiction in The Light Before Day by Suzanne Woods Fisher

...from the publisher....
After three years on a whaling voyage, Henry Macy returns to Nantucket to news that his grandmother has passed, bequeathing her vast fortune to him and his sister, Hitty. And it was truly vast. But Lillian Coffin was no fool. The inheritance comes with a steep cost,
including when they should marry and whom--a Quaker in good standing, of course. But if they relinquish the inheritance, it all goes to Tristram Macy, their father's thieving business partner.

As Hitty and Henry seek a way to satisfy the will's conditions, they'll be faced with obstacles on every side--and it may be that Lillian Coffin will have the last word after all.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher surprises and delights with this story of hope and renewal, love and redemption, arriving just when most needed. review...

I was intrigued by this book.  Maybe it was the condition of Lillian Swain Coffin's will or maybe it was the development of the characters.  Benjamin Foulger was a handsome young law clerk who was tasked to make sure all conditions of Henry and Hitty's grandmother's will were met.  He was so accommodating to Henry's ideas, showed up when least expected and seemed to always be at the Grand House when dinner was served.  Grandfather Jeremiah never took to Benjamin.  Nobody knew why for sure and he didn't share.  Both men were complex although many thought Jeremiah to be simpler than he was. You can't be sure what any man is thinking.

Jeremiah Macy was as seasoned cooper and knew plenty about whaling.  He had great advice seasoned with the lore of his sea life.  "If there's no wind, then row." This simple statement showed up many times between the pages of this story and each time it was used it seemed apt.  Had this advice been heeded each time, many troubling events could have been avoided. 

Good historical fiction is mingled with facts and people who made a difference in that era. Our country was about to face a tumultuous era as the Abolitionist Movement was just beginning.  Anna Gardner was a well known Abolitionist Speaker and held conferences on segregationist issues.  Including her within the story was well done and fitting for the time and events. Frederick Douglas made his first appearance at one of her conferences.  While it took some time for slavery to be abolished, this movement had a an impact on the people of Nantucket who seemed to be a bit separate from the mainland.  The Quakers, who are noted for friendship and peace were just as caught up in the issues of the day.  I recommend this book for the story but also for the good writing by Suzanne Woods Fisher and her impeccable research.   There is a little bit of mystery involved with this story and it will keep you guessing until the story comes to fruition.   There is much to read and learn in this book!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Studying the Gospel of John Day by Day

...from the publisher....

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Great Britain was home to some of the greatest preachers, biblical scholars, and Christian writers in all of church history. Legendary names such as Charles Spurgeon, George MΓΌller, Hudson Taylor, Catherine Booth, and George MacDonald stand out as giants of the church. Their predecessors, such as John Wesley and Matthew Henry, left them a rich tradition of biblical and evangelical excellence to follow. Americans R. A. Torrey and Charles Finney and South African Andrew Murray were cut from the same cloth.

From the classic writings of these revered saints, Lance Wubbels has edited and compiled the best of the best of their inspirational insights into this 365-day devotional. Verse by verse through the Gospel of John, readers will gain an unforgettable understanding of the life, words, and ministry of Jesus Christ. Here is a one-year devotional that is packed with profound biblical commentary, brilliant wisdom, and practical application that will enrich readers and be read for a lifetime. thoughts....

I don't know how many times in my life have I heard these words on a Sunday: "A reading from the Gospel of John..."  So many times! What a blessing to have an in-depth study into the Gospel of John through this day by day devotional edited by Lance Wubbels.  This book with words from Charles Spurgeon, Catherine Booth and John Wesley to name but a few is a resource for anyone seeking further study into God's powerful word.  This book is not one to be read quickly but to be savored and studied and read yet again.  We grow up with these words of wisdom read from a pulpit yet often it is a quiet moment of an evening when we take notice and hear it anew as though for the first time. I recommend this book with 5 stars. I received this book from the publisher with no obligation to review.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Romancing the Bride.... Another Good Read by Melissa Jagears

....from the publisher.....
Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another.

Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes—without laughing in her face?
Jacob Hendrix has never fully let go of his ranching dreams despite ending up as a small Wyoming town’s marshal. The job wouldn’t be so bad, except he’s more errand boy than lawman. When Annie proposes marriage without a single coquettish bat of an eyelash, can he commit himself to a woman he hardly knows for a choice piece of property he’d be an idiot to pass up?

But taxes aren’t all that threaten Annie and Jacob’s plans. Cattle rustlers, crumbling friendships, and wayward children make this marriage of convenience anything but. When they lose what they’ve sacrificed everything to save, will the love of a stranger be enough?

Romancing the Bride is the first book in the Frontier Vows Series by award-winning Christian romance author Melissa Jagears. If you like heartwarming marriage-of-convenience stories, you’ll love this sweet romance filled with endearing characters. thoughts...

Romancing the Bride is such a compelling story. I can't imagine facing the hardships women like Annie faced.  Life in the old west was hard and on any given day a man or woman could lose their spouse.  Like many who sunk their money into land and cattle, there wasn't much money left over.  Under most circumstances for a woman to lose her husband meant losing her livelihood.

I could almost feel Annie's desperation when she decided to ask Jacob to marry her.  I could almost feel how she felt moving to town and seeming to live as his wife to a town that wasn't sure what to make of her.  Melissa Jagears has made the characters of this book come alive.  Between the pages of this book you can see the tension in the air when church services are over and everyone prepares for the wedding.  It cracks in such a way you aren't sure what is going to hit this couple next. Take a surly teenage girl, unsupportive friends and a flirty young beauty and even the best bride or groom might want to turn around and leave the altar.

So many things backfire and it takes a great deal of faith sprinkled with patience. I found myself thinking about Cassie, Annie's daughter.  She is so full of anger and disappointment over her father's death that she does her best to make everyone in the family unhappy. Yet, through it all, Jacob, as her stepfather deeply cared about her.  He would do whatever he could to make her see he wasn't trying to replace her father.  Jacob's prayer for his marriage and his new family are an inspiration.  He was a strong man who was humbled by his faith, and that faith is what made him strong.

I received an advance reader copy of this book but was under no obligation to review it.  However, I can't help but share when I read such a good book.  I recommend this book with 5 stars: great story, wonderful characters who are superbly developed and lovely description for a glimpse back into historical times in Wyoming.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Holly Quinn's New Series Debuts with A Crafter Knits A Clue

A Crafter Knits a Clue: A Handcrafted MysteryA Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn is set in a small town full of caring folks.   Sammy's craft store seems like the center of town with crafters selling their wares and clubs meeting to work on special projects.  When a murder occurs in the local yarn shop it seems like so many clues are placed in front of Sammy she can't help but get involved.  The cast of characters in this cozy mystery is about as long as there are residents of little Heartsford WI.
The author weaves a lot of clues within this story and just when one suspect appears another one seems more likely to have committed the crime.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of mystery mixed with crafting and a touch of romance.  Sammy just can't let a clue get by her and when she has a brush of danger there is a certain Lieutenant Liam Nash who is close on her heels.  This book is the first in a new series by Holly Quinn and likely to develop a following.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Holley Gerth Offers Encouragement in Hope Your Heart Needs

...notes from the back of the book....

Understanding more of God's character and how he loves us changed bestselling author Holley Gerth's life in beautiful, powerful ways. She realized that she didn't have to settle for "I'm fine" when there was someone whispering to her in every moment, "You're mine." The hope, joy, peace, and purpose she longed for were already there, in the heart of God.

Now in 52 devotional readings, Holley shares with women the answer to the restlessness they feel in their hearts that keeps them hurrying, striving, pushing. She shows them that "the God who scattered stars like diamonds across the velvet of the universe, the keeper of every sparrow, the maker of us all, is inviting us to draw closer to him. He is the place where our hearts can go on the hard days and the happy ones, in the highs and lows, when we are sad or frustrated or downright giddy. He is what we've been searching for all along."

...notes from my journal...

Wow!  In 52 ways Holley Gerth has written a devotional to cover many topics that face us today.   Honestly, this book has earned a home on my bookshelf for a long time coming.  The messages are timely, and hit the target.  This inspirational book could be read cover to cover. It can be studied as a day by day devotional.  However, when I got this book in my hands, I looked up a topic you that called me and from there, the rest has been a pleasant journey.  

Holley's style of writing and the encouragement she gives.  Her down to earth style makes her feel like you have just sat down with a friend to discuss God's encouraging words.   The format of this book is just right for someone who wants to pack inspiration into their tote to be pulled out for quiet moments in the day.  It is a treasure trove of God's word and how they apply to our modern day lives.  I was given my copy as a gift with an option to write a review or not, from Revell.   I had to share my thoughts as this book is too good to keep to myself.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Sound of Distant Thunder by Jan Drexler

...notes from the back cover....
Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents' insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation?

From the talented pen of Jan Drexler comes this brand new Amish series set against the backdrop of the Civil War. She puts her characters to the test as they struggle to reconcile their convictions and desires while the national conflict threatens to undermine and engulf their community. thoughts...

If you have followed Jan Drexler's writing you find this book a bit different.  Set during the Civil War in 1862, this story is compelling because of the role the war will play within the Amish community.  The Amish people do not fight, choosing pacifism instead.  When Jonas chose to take his brother's place in the Army, the war had a profound effect on him.  He was a true believer and his faith was a light in his actions.  HIs love for God, Katie and his family were as much a part of him whether he was home in the cornfields or along the battlefield in Fredericksburg. 

I was inspired by Jonas.  He was definitely a young man who wanted to marry young but he was willing to work hard to show was ready to marry Katie.  Rather than get upset when Katie's father asked them to wait a year, he decided to take that time to clear land and build the home they would settle in.  

I wasn't as sure about Katie.  She was sure she was ready to marry at seventeen and it took Jonas to make her realize that the wait would make no difference, they would just be better prepared with their home.  As the time passes and Jonas leaves for training, she began to change.  She began to see how her actions could help others.  She gained new understanding of her mother's dark moods and did what she could to ease the pain of old memories.  Her love for Jonas never faltered and she grew into a formidable young woman whose strength stood difficult times.  In the course of the story my admiration for her grew.  

I received a copy of this book with no obligation to review it.  I am happy to recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Historical Christian Fiction.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Reviewing: The First Love by Beverly Lewis

...from the publisher...

It's the summer of 1951, and Maggie Esh is in need of some hope. Sweet-spirited and uncommonly pretty despite struggling with chronic illness, she is used to being treated kindly by the young men of her Old Order Amish church district. Yet Maggie wishes she were more like other courting-age girls so she could live a normal, healthy life.

To make matters more complicated, Dat has recently remarried, less than a year after her mother died. And while her stepmother is kind, Rachel is much younger than Mamm, and she simply doesn't understand Maggie or her illness the way Mamm did.

When tent revival meetings come to the area, Maggie is curious, and the words of the Mennonite preacher challenge her to reconsider what she knows about faith. Can she learn to trust God even when hope seems a distant dream? thoughts...

I was inspired after reading The First Love by Beverly Lewis.  Maggie is such a wonderful young woman.  She doesn't wish to be defined by her illness although she could be if she weren't so determined to be thought of as whole. Her faith is strong yet when she is offered a chance to attend the tent revival meetings there is a turning point.  Her  Old Order Amish faith is accustomed to silent prayer, not the exuberant prayer she encounters.  It is intriguing and she is led to learn more about prayers for healing.  Once she begins to seek healing scriptures she is surprised at who reveals their own discoveries of faith and healing.  When she begins to feel stronger it is a wonder...did her faith heal her or was it the new herbal supplements that were recommended she try?

Maggie is one of my favorite Beverly Lewis characters.  She is pivot-able in this story not just because of her health issues but because she is a magnet for her family.  They are drawn to her for her wisdom.  In our story she celebrates her 18th birthday but she is mature beyond her years.  She is patient to her elderly aunt, kind to her stepmother, while acting as a buffer between her and the other children.  She listens first and offers advice only when it is sought.  She is a glue that bonds deep.  I appreciate how her family respected her and helped her on her bad days with patience and love.  I think we have all had a Maggie in our life.  I recommend this story for those who enjoy a story rich with faith, hope and love. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Fiction in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sister Agatha & Father Selyn Sleuth Again in The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

...from the publisher....

Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn make sleuthing a work of art. But will they paint themselves into a corner when they investigate the Village Art Society president’s death?As Yuletide settles upon Gwenafwy Abbey, the rural Welsh convent’s peace is shattered when Tiffany Reese, president of the Village Art Society, is found dead on the floor of the parish hall. Sister Agatha, whose interests lie more with reading and writing mystery stories than with making the abbey’s world-renowned organic gouda, is not shy about inserting herself into the case. With the not-entirely-eager assistance of Father Selwyn, she begins her investigation.

Sister Agatha has no shortage of suspects to check off her naughty-or-nice list, until finally, Tiffany’s half-brother, Kendrick Geddings, emerges as the prime suspect. There never was any love lost between Tiffany and Kendrick, and of late they had been locked in a vicious battle for control of the family estate. But if Sister Agatha thinks she has the case wrapped up, she’ll have to think again.

As the days of Advent tick by, Sister Agatha is determined to crack the case by Christmas in The Hour of Death, Jane Willan’s perfectly puzzling second Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery. thoughts....

  This is my first Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn mystery! Author Jane Willan has really set up quite a mystery in the little village surrounding Saint Anselm's.  So many suspects and so little time before Christmas!  The clues are in abundance yet seem to take a turn as yet another suspect is added or deleted from Sister Agatha's purple notebook.  

I do enjoy a good mystery and this one has a lot to offer. The writing is so descriptive I could easily see myself sitting in the back booth at the Buttered Crust for a cup of Glengettie tea and a cranberry scone.  In the end, all is neatly tied, minus the bow on a Christmas package.  No spoilers here but I  will recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who enjoys a mystery. The setting in Wales at Christmas is just a bonus!  I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Could Be Better than A Christmas by the Sea!

I've gotten a jump on Christmas reading list and so far they have been wonderful! A Christmas by the Sea is no exception. A Few years ago I was introduced to Melody  Carlson and every year since I look forward to her annual Christmas book.  

...from the publisher...…

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beachside cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

Join award-winning author Melody Carlson for a Christmas story that will warm your heart and have you dreaming of your own enchanted seaside holiday.

I couldn't help but get hooked into the story of their plight and cheered when Wendy and Jackson seemed to fit right into life in Seaside.  When it seems like life doesn't seem to have any more chances, being in the right place at the right time can give you a little boost. 

Sometimes even a mom can learn to have a little faith from her child. A Christmas by the Sea is for the reader who wants to be inspired by some Christmas cheer spurred on by the hopes and dreams of a boy like Jackson.  I enjoyed watching this story unfold better than any cookie-cutter themed movie laden with commercials! 

Each character in the book, like the people in our own lives, serves a purpose.  When Wendy started digging into the repairs of the cottage she found so much more than what waited back in Ohio.   Many thanks to Revell Books for the opportunity to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I recommend you pick up a copy of this book and discover Melody Carlson's gift for putting the spirit back into Christmas.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

9 Sweet Novellas to Warm Your Christmas Sprits....9 Authors to Tell Their Tales

The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection
from the publisher...

Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love? thoughts...

This collection of novellas just in time for the Christmas reading list is perfect for the reader who loves to read but feels they don't have time for a complete book.  Each story is just enough to tempt the senses yet complete in the telling.  Many dream of the simpler times in Queen Victoria's day yet enjoy the trappings of modern times with central heat and a handy grocer.  Yet these stories beckon and like Dickens, will hook you in once you begin.  I recommend you brew a pot of tea for your afternoon leisure or pour a glass of sherry to sip by the fire of an evening.  

Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley
1837 Framlingham, England
 An uncle comes to claim his new ward at Christmas but has to face Child's mother married his late brother years before, leaving him with a broken heart....

 One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase
 1855 Devonshire, England   
 How can a man face the woman who jilted him with no explanation five year ago? Can she face him with her altered status without showing her true feelings?  Love isn't always perfect yet it can remain true even under the most tying times.  
Love  Brick  by  Brick by Kathleen L. Maher
1857Elmira, New York
A wealthy man is rebuilding his English estate in America where his mother is regaining her health in a special clinic.  He is falling for a beautiful young woman pursuing a medical degree but whether he will still want to see her when he discovers she is an orphan is not so certain. 

The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels
An engagement announced in the paper is as good as a formal arrangement. Set in Detroit and Ontario, this story opens when a young woman nearing the end of her prime is being tricked into an engagement to a man who is not what he appears to be.  Reading about her "engagement" in the newspaper, she seeks counsel from her attorney to dissolve this scandal only to meet a handsome barrister from Ontario.  In a series of comical events, they are drawn together for a purpose neither had planned for but with aplomb resolve to a mutual plan...but the results are nothing they could have planned. A fun story that will tickle your humor.  Enjoy the possibilities a do-gooder woman can have with the help of her little Sugarplum ladies to help save the day!
Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze
1875 County Durham, EnglandArranged marriages, diamond necklaces and conditions that this has to happen on this date at this time is enough for any couple to digest.  While both want to please their parents, they would rather marry for love.  When plans fall apart, can they truly find something better than their parents had?
A Christmas Promise by Gabrielle Meyer

1899 Cambridgeshire,England.

When Ashleigh Pendleton and Christopher Campbell met the first time, they were young. They also had a tremendous dislike for each other.  Imagine their shock when they find out that their late mothers signed a contract for the pair to marry.  The mothers had a long-lasting friendship and thought this marriage would be a blessing for all. They have until Christmas Eve to become engaged to someone else or the engagement stands!  I enjoyed this match-up!  The long guest list for the house party, complete with a handsome suitor to foil Christopher and competition in an old fried for Ashleigh

Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad
 Chicago, Christmas 1880
Widowed harpist Beatrix Kent succumbs daily to the guilt his unforgiving mother-in-law dishes up every day at tea. A piano teacher, she devotes the remainder of her time to her students, hoping to forget the death of her husband.  Hugo Sherman, the father of one of her students would love to hear her perform and with a few obstacles he strives to make it happen. Along the way, the inevitable happens as Christmas arrives and hearts have the possibility to become whole...

The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch
1880s London
Melisande Verity is a lovely young woman who runs the chocolate counter at Garamonds, the exclusive department in London.  Every year at Christmas there is a contest to choose who will design the windows. The town has an annual contest among the shop and Garamonds has never won. She has worked hard on a special design.  Every year the same man has been chosen and this year she hopes her design is chosen. In the history of the store that honor has always gone to a man...and it wouldn't be a good Christmas story if she didn't get the chance to use her designs and manage the project.  With the reluctant help of Gray Garamond, the grandson of the Mr. Garamond, she embarks on a challenge that will not only challenge her talents, but also the world view of a handsome young man bent on changing the way things are done...delightful story.
 A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer
London, England, Christmas 1899
Lady Ashleigh Pendleton is hosting a houseful of guests for Christmas when railroad executive Christopher Campbell unexpectedly arrives from America with a mysterious agreement signed by their fathers before their birth.

The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach
1900. Small town along the Potomac near Washington DC
Lily Morningstar and British antiquities expert Andrew Stapleton, meet at last after a lecture she attended. In a bold move, she invited him to supper to see some letters written by a naval officer to his wife. Upon discovering who the man was they also found something more for each other.

Jane Kirkpatricks latest....Everything She Didn't Say a Compelling Story

...from the publisher...  

In 1911, Carrie Strahorn wrote a memoir entitled Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, which shared some of the most exciting events of 25 years of traveling and shaping the American West with her husband, Robert Strahorn, a railroad promoter, investor, and writer. That is all fact. Everything She Didn't Say imagines Carrie nearly ten years later as she decides to write down what was really on her mind during those adventurous nomadic years.

Certain that her husband will not read it, and in fact that it will only be found after her death, Carrie is finally willing to explore the lessons she learned along the way, including the danger a woman faces of losing herself within a relationship with a strong-willed man and the courage it takes to accept her own God-given worth apart from him. Carrie discovers that wealth doesn't insulate a soul from pain and disappointment, family is essential, pioneering is a challenge, and western landscapes are both demanding and nourishing. Most of all, she discovers that home can be found, even in a rootless life.

With a deft hand, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick draws out the emotions of living--the laughter and pain, the love and loss--to give readers a window not only into the past, but into their own conflicted hearts. Based on a true story.

….my thoughts.....

Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick is an amazing book.  I just put the book down after spending the day between the covers.  Carrie Adell Strahorn was called the "Queen of the Pioneers" or "Mother of the West" by many and once you read her compelling story you will agree.  

What a life this pioneering woman led.  The book begins on the day she married Robert E Strahorn, and from that day on she literally embarked on a trip that would take her by stage, foot, train, steamer and foot on journeys white women never ventured.  She rode in a cow catcher, scaled a mine, laid on her belly overlooking Yellowstone Falls in the snow.  Her stay in a Wyoming hotel with electricity contrasted with harrowing stage rides amid war with the Bannocks.  I can't imagine living up to those challenges but she was determined to be supportive of her husband in his endeavors as an author who wrote travel pamphlets for the Union Pacific Railroad.  He was always one step ahead of settling down with what she longed for; a home and family.  

What really impressed me about Carrie Strahorn was the depth of her faith and perseverance.  I loved that her travels intersected with my own travels and life in Spokane. It was in Spokane that Robert bought the Pines for Carrie and under the direction of famous architect Kirtland Cutter it was redesigned as she wished.  She felt so at home in Spokane, a feeling she hadn't had since leaving her beloved Caldwell.  

As with all of her historical novels, author Jane Kirkpatrick engages the reader into historical events with wonderful story telling and impeccable research.  I highly recommend this book to the reader who loves historical fiction, especially when it includes how this wonderful west was settled.  Many thanks to Revell Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Reviewing: More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

...from the publisher....

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes--one bright blue, the other dark brown--Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world's judgments, and Eva has two--Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers. 
More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #1) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father's death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach's sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline? thoughts....

I enjoyed reading More than Meets the Eye, book one of Karen Witemeyer's new series called A Patchwork Family. Evangeline is an ideal heroine. With her mismatched eyes she could have been bitter and unforgiving to those who ridiculed her yet she was the complete opposite. I admired her for her openness and kindness; just they type of gal you'd want for a friend.  When she met Logan it was her good nature that disarmed all his defenses.   He found out that this sheltered young woman was no match for any designs he might have on her for his plans.

While Evangeline and Logan's story is at the heart of this book I have a soft spot for Zach, Eva's oldest brother.  He had such a hard shell around his heart created by difficult circumstances.  He'd had to grow up quickly after the Orphan train crashed.  He could have escaped on his own but quickly decided to stand by and protect two younger orphans who survived with him. In one moment he went from being a teen with a chip on his shoulder to creating and providing for a new family.  A Patchwork Family he never let down.

This is a wonderful story of resilience, forgiveness and love.  Not just the romantic love but a love story of families who grew out of need in the wild west of old.  Karen Witemeyer is noted for her wonderful stories emanating from the wild west and for that I am pleased.  I enjoy a peek at what life may have been like for those who helped build this great western piece of our country.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Add The Christmas Prayer by Wanda Brunstetter Sure to Be An Annual Christmas Gift

...from the publisher....

Beloved, bestselling author of Amish fiction, Wanda E. Brunstetter takes readers on a journey in 1850 along the California Trail.

Only the brave—or foolhardy—would attempt a cross-country journey late in the season. Three wagons meet up in Independence, Missouri, in April 1850, and their owners decide to keep forging ahead despite many setbacks and 
delays. December finds them in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when a sudden snowstorm traps them, obscuring the trail.
Cynthia Cooper is traveling with her mother and the man she has promised to marry. But as Christmas is upon them and they are hunkered down in a small cabin, she is forced to reevaluate her reasons for planning to marry fellow-traveler Walter Prentice. When a widowed father heading to a California ranch and a gold prospector both show an interest in Cynthia, she weighs her dreams for marriage alongside her responsibility to care for her mother. Can love win over her timid heart? thoughts.....

If you enjoy reading Wanda Brunstetter's books you will also enjoy A Christmas Prayer.  Many women kept diaries in covered wagons along the trail west.  What a treasure if I found one among my grandparents things when I was young. I enjoyed reading Cynthia's accounts in this story while the characters came alive as they chopped wood, argued and learned to work and live together in order to survive under unimaginable circumstance.  

Each person had a reason for their journey.  After months of enduring hardships these reasons shifted.  Certain plans were no longer concrete.  I enjoyed the resiliency and strength of character as it emerged for Cynthia. She began as a young woman eager to find security with Walter to emerging into a strong woman ready to strike out on her own if need be.

We are so used to Wanda Brunstetter writing Amish fiction that this book is a wonderful surprise.  I recommend A Christmas Prayer as a gift-worthy book for anyone on your gift list who loves historical fiction and a copy for yourself!  

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Rumored Fortune Invites A Wealth of Treasure Hunters!

A Rumored Fortune by [Politano, Joanna Davidson]A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano is full of mystery and intrigue.  From the opening pages of the book, Tressa Harlowe came to life for me starting when she is summoned home from abroad only to learn her father had died and she was left to care for a mother who was needy and self indulgent. Under normal circumstances it wouldn't be too bad for a family with their wealth.  However, her father's fortune was shrouded by mystery and uncertainty and well hidden, leaving Tressa no money to run the large estate.  She found new problems at every turn.  

These things provided an interesting backdrop for a fine mystery complete with long lost relatives, a former suitor and a tall, dark, handsome stranger who seemingly was hired by her father to manage the vineyard.  He is not all that he seems...or maybe he is more...

I liked this book for the strong female character who overcame difficult situations that would leave many a Victorian lady to swoon after the first offer marriage simply for protection.  In the end I found her to be a resilient, faithful young woman.  Love and fortune are not always found in the usual places and this author provides  profound  lessons among the pages of viticulturist's journal!

 I am happy that I was introduced to this author's works by Revell Books who provided me with a copy for an honest review.  I recommend it for those who love a good mystery set in Victorian times.