What an interesting and unusual story! I have long been a fan of British mysteries and am delighted to discover the medieval mysteries of Mel Starr. Seventh book in the Hugh de Singleton series, The Abbot's Agreement is centered around Eynsham Abbey in the fall of 1368. It's a world of castles, knights, monks, heresy, creative doctoring, and my favorite type of detection methods - questioning and observation. This is not an action-packed, fast-paced novel, but rather a steadily moving drama set during the 14th century, and all these elements are fleshed out by a narrative that contains some profound insight. Strong secondary characters - Abbot Thurstan, Brother Gerleys, and Arthur - added much richness. The Abbot's Agreement fascinated me and completely held my attention.
Master Hugh, surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbot, is a husband and father, with another child on the way, and we don't actually see Lord Talbot in this volume. The Abbot's Agreement stands alone, although I think reading the previous books would provide a deeper understanding of characterization and setting. These opening lines create a great sense of atmosphere . . .
"My life would have been more tranquil in the days after Martinmas had I not seen the birds. . . . It is said that curiosity killed the cat. It can prove hazardous for meddlesome bailiffs as well."
While I enjoyed the mystery element, this book's strength was the picture beautifully conveyed of medieval life in England. Not only does Mel have a wealth of knowledge and obvious love for those times, but he is able to communicate it in a way that draws readers in. With a lack of modern technology, medical practice and criminal detection were greatly challenged, yet triumphs occurred in ways that would surprise us today.
There's another strength as well, and that is the spiritual insight that flowed throughout and gives cause for reflection. For example, in contrast to today - when Bibles are easily obtained, yet often gather dust - Master Hugh greatly desired his own copy of the Scriptures, and that's the meaning behind the title. In return for investigating the murder of a young novice, Abbot Thurstan promised to have scribes prepare a Bible for him, in the time between Martinmas (November 11) to St. John's Day (June 24).
But I think my favorite part was when Master Hugh recited Scripture passages with a dying Abbot Thurstan - Scriptures about being forgiven and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" . . . presented "holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight." These words that bring us so much comfort and assurance were heretical thinking in those days, as evidenced in the words of Brother Gerleys: "Who will give us lands and shillings to pray for their souls if there is no purgatory from which they seek release?"
I enjoyed The Abbot's Agreement very much and hope to read more of this series soon. Recommended, especially to those who enjoy historical mysteries.
Thank you to Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Across the Blue is a captivating novel that I enjoyed from the very first page. It's a story that not only historical romance fans will enjoy, but all readers as well. Carrie Turansky gently and skillfully weaves together faith, historical detail, romance, and even a little mystery. The design team did a beautiful job with the cover, for it conveys the story's mood and theme in a way that draws readers to it.
I love British settings, so the 1909 world of Edwardian England was my âcup of teaâ so to speak. I don't know how Turansky does it, but I was caught up in the sights, sounds, and culture of this era as I learned new things. It was a fascinating time historically because, for one thing, the woman's place was considered to be at home, a norm that the journalistically talented Bella wanted to break out of. Secondly, Germany's desire to control the European Continent was already obvious to many, and England's hesitancy to encourage aircraft development threatened to put the country at a disadvantage. I knew very little about the competition and prestige to be first at successfully flying over the English Channel and found this very interesting.
James and Bella felt real and believable, but with the societal differences and backgrounds between them, the possibility of their match seemed unlikely. Romantic tension was great and I enjoyed how their relationship slowly deepened as each pursued their dreams. James and Bella grew spiritually as well, as they realized the importance of following God's path for their lives.
Across the Blue is a beautiful story in every way. Carrie Turansky is a skilled, consistent writer and I look forward to many more stories from her talented hand. Highly recommended.
I was provided a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and Multnomah. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
A strength of the Quilts of Love series is the uniqueness of each quilt, the meaning behind it, and the love of family it symbolizes. In Aloha Rose, Lisa Carter uses the beautiful Lokelani quilt to guide Laney to her birth family in Hawaii, and blends exotic setting with appealing storyline to create an interesting read overall.
Lisa very effectively conveyed the setting and flavor of Hawaii through such images as erupting volcano, rain forest, rainbow, waterfalls, dancing the hula. I was also drawn to the secondary characters of Laney's family and they way they supported each other - welcoming Laney unreservedly, making a memory book of major events and people for Laney's grandmother who had Alzheimers, Teah passing on a family tradition by teaching Laney to quilt.
Several characters are introduced at the beginning, which was a little confusing, but they quickly become familiar and the narrative really picks up about halfway through, along with a couple of surprise twists that readers will love.
Kai suffers from PTSD, and both he and Laney have emotional issues that they have worked to hide. Teah points out to Laney: "You and Kai are a lot alike. High walls. Self-protective barriers between you and the rest of the world."
The main negative for me was that, while Laney and Kai have great chemistry from the very beginning, their romance was my least favorite part, as I missed seeing their relationship move beyond surface attraction to a deeper level. And I'd like to see less character monologues where they keep mulling over their thoughts. Still, Aloha Rose is a good story overall and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. I loved the heartwarming ending and think this is a novel many inspirational romance fans will enjoy.
This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity and Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review.
An Amish Garden is a collection of stories from four talented and popular authors: Beth Wiseman, Vannetta Chapman, Kathleen Fuller, and Tricia Goyer. Uplifting and encouraging, these stories emphasize aspects of faith and simple living.
I started reading this book in the middle of an extremely busy time in my life, and found it so relaxing and enjoyable, peaceful and inspiring. Each story is well written, with characters and plot that left me wanting more. This is one of the best collections I've read in a long time.
Vannetta writes: "Gardens are a place of comfort for many of us. For Amish families, they are also a source of nourishment, a family gathering place, and sometimes a place where healing can be found." And she is exactly right, because when I reflect on the word garden, this is what comes to mind: beauty, sustenance, new life, God's provision, sanctuary.
Let me first confess that I am not a gardener in any sense of the word, yet I love to gaze on the beauty of a simple daffodil that my husband picked for me. And vegetable gardens remind me of the years when my Dad came home from a long day's work and delayed his supper until he had spent several hours tilling and planting our family garden. Or working beside my mother and grandmother in the canning/freezing process. So while An Amish Garden entertained and inspired, it also brought back treasured memories with loved ones I look forward to seeing in heaven someday.
Rooted in Love Beth Wiseman - I was drawn to Saul and Rosemary, loved the chemistry between them. Many readers will identify with Rosemary's spiritual growth as she comes to realize that she can't have it all, but that's okay. Contentment only comes from a close relationship with God and finding that what He provides is more fulfilling than anything we could desire.
Flowers for Rachael Kathleen Fuller - This sweet story has a delightful twist toward the end. I also loved the way Kathleen began each chapter with a quote. This one by Martin Luther was a favorite: "God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars."
Seeds of Love Tricia Goyer - An enchanting bachelor scribe character, heirloom tomato seeds passed down through generations, Amish proverbs - there's so much to learn and enjoy in Tricia's story! How true this proverb is: "A garden is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow." This story also has a surprising twist at the end, and a lesson that we often find difficult to accept in Sadie's words: "What I tried to hold on to, I lost. What was given up - shared - is the only thing that was saved."
Where Healing Blooms Vannetta Chapman - I can't put my finger on how she does it, but Vannetta has a unique way of writing that makes me care about the characters on the page and feel their emotions. And she injects a subtle humor that kept me smiling as I turned each page.
I love it when an author uses an older couple as leading characters, and I don't see how anyone can help but be drawn to Emma and Danny. The relationship between Emma and her mom, Mary Ann, is touching, almost hitting a little close to home for me at times - but in a good way.
Of all the things that spoke to me in this story, I think it's the idea that no matter our age, God isn't through with us. If we can just be completely open, we might be shocked at how God blesses and uses our surrendered lives!
An Amish Garden is a thoroughly enjoyable read, one that I highly recommend.
Thank you to Vannetta Chapman and Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Emily T. Wierenga's Atlas Girl is quite different from the type of book I normally read, but I really enjoyed it and found it very inspirational. Emily is a wordsmith who writes in an unusually beautiful lyrical style that I first came to love in her Quilts of Love novel, A Promise in Pieces - prose that at times reads like poetry.
Part spiritual memoir, part relationship story between Emily and her Mum - Atlas Girl is really a journal and a journey, a journey in which Emily Wierenga takes you by the hand and invites you into the broken places in her life. In her struggles with anorexia and disillusionment with organized religion, Emily bares her soul with complete honesty and I grew spiritually right along with her. By the time I finished reading, I felt like Emily had become my friend.
These words by popular speaker and writer, Liz Curtis Higgs, beautifully describe Atlas Girl . . . The best memoirs combine the storytelling elements of a novelsmart pacing, tactile details, people you care aboutwith the deep insights and spiritual takeaway of great nonfiction. Emily Wierenga deftly serves up that rich blend in Atlas Girl, a nonlinear, wholly moving account of her lifes journey so far. Her honesty is raw, real. Her faith is hard-won. And when it finally pours out, her loveoh, her love soars off the page and makes a nest in our hearts. Brilliant and beautiful.
Here are just a few quotes that spoke to me in a profound way . . .
"Funny how the two go together, grief and wonder, kind of like when Jesus died and his murderers realized he was God even as the sky tore."
"How does a girl tell a boy that she is damaged? That their love, no matter how poignant, strong, or special, can't reproduce? And so I told him I didn't want kids and then I starved myself as punishment. For not being the woman he needed me to be. For not knowing who I was apart from my eating disorder."
"You can't become healed, truly healed, unless you revisit the past. Unless you revisit all of those aching, pulsing places and invite God into them."
"The closer we let ourselves get to Jesus, the more we learn the way he sees. We learn the way he loves. And we learn the way he gives. And he never stops giving and we never stop receiving."
Atlas Girl will touch so many people - those who have battled with anorexia or know someone who has, those with a passion for world missions, anyone who has been disappointed or frustrated with organized religion, moms and daughters, and anyone who wants to be inspired by a real-life journey. Recommended to everyone!
Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
In The Bargain, Stephanie Reed has written a different type of Amish fiction, one where the main character is placed in the English world, living with a dysfunctional family and working in a harness shop. Opposites in both character personalities and cultures make for an interesting read.
The story is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam years. Having been a graduate school student in 1971, I can vividly recall the unrest, tension and heartbreak of that era and I think Stephanie did an excellent job creating a realistic feel of the time.
Betsie is struggling to deal with her parents' leaving the Amish church in order to become followers of Christ, and Stephanie brings out an element of the Amish faith that is often hidden in fiction. Betsie reflects: "Joining the Amish church and keeping every rule in the Ordnung, that was the surest way to maybe go to heaven someday. . . . But even the Amish couldn't know which place they were going to end up in until they stood in front of the good Lord Himself and He revealed it. It was prideful to believe otherwise." But Betsie's parents had read the Scriptures for themselves and sought freedom in Christ. Betsie's Dat wants her to understand why they made the decision to leave and to come with them. "Do you want to know what true wickedness is?" he asks. "It's teaching people that they can't be sure of their salvation before their time on this earth is up."
Michael, a college dropout, is a troubled young man, greatly affected by the Kent State shootings on a day when he was walking to class. "They died, but I'm still here. And I don't understand why. Because apparently I escaped death solely so I could be drafted and sent to Vietnam to die." Betsie and Michael gradually form a friendship, maybe because they each sense a need in the other. And I loved the humor in the scene where Betsie uses her sewing skills to "repair" Michael's torn hippie jeans.
I'm not always a fan of storylines where an Amish character is thrust into the English world, but Stephanie did a good job at creating an unusual story that goes beyond traditional Amish fiction. She also gives some deep and thought-provoking questions at the end, perfect for group discussion.
The Bargain is the first book in the Plain City Peace series - and while it reaches a satisfactory conclusion, it's obvious there is much more to come. I believe fans of Amish fiction will enjoy this novel.
This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity and Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Bearly Departed begins an adorable new cozy mystery series by Meg Macy. It had strengths and weaknesses, but I enjoyed this story overall and think the series holds lots of promise.
Silver Hollow â a small town outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan â is a delightful setting that feels so real that I'd love to visit it. And nothing could be more engaging than the family-owned teddy bear gift shop and factory managed by Sasha Silverman. There's plenty of characters, family dynamics, and red herrings to hold interest. Sasha's Uncle Ross is one of my favorite characters, and the mention of his ex-wife coming to work in the shop at the end sounds like a fun theme for the next book.
There are a few things I wish had been different â¦ Maybe it was just me, but a lot of people were introduced in a short space of time â Sasha's family, factory workers, and village people. There wasn't much character depth and I had trouble keeping them straight (a cast list and description at the beginning would have been very helpful). Secondly, while the storyline was interesting, detail slowed the action down. More conversation and action would have been great. There wasn't much profanity, but even a little is a turn off for me. And most importantly of all, it was the teddy bear business that attracted me to this book and I wanted much more of it. In fact, one of my favorite parts was Sasha giving a group tour of the factory in the early pages. Between the shop, community-related events, and families buying the bears, a lot of interest could be created by developing this theme more.
I enjoyed Bearly Departed overall and would like to see how the series develops.
I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
In the Amish fiction genre, Wanda E. Brunstetter is a solid, dependable writer; I know what to expect and am never disappointed. Her characters are relatable and have depth, it's easy to get caught up in the storyline, and spiritual themes are gently woven throughout, in a way that comforts and even makes me think.
The Blessing, continuing the Amish Cooking Class series that began with The Seekers, is about family and relationships. While there's some overlapping of characters and themes, sufficient background is given so that this book can stand alone. But if you're like me, you'll want to go back and read the previous one if you haven't already.
I loved the cooking class theme because ordinary people from various walks of life are pulled into the story. They all have some type of problem or insecurity, because that's life â and the story reflects how life in Christ is to be lived. I was entertained and impressed by how the lives of all these characters interconnected. But best of all was the way Heidi, while dealing with her own personal struggles, shared her faith in a creative way â by writing a Scripture verse on the back of each lesson's recipe card. Each verse seemed to be exactly what someone needed to hear at the time, and this reminded me of how easy it is to witness in the simplest of ways, then step back and let God work.
The Blessing comes to a satisfactory conclusion, but with the promise of much more to come. Several recipes are included at the end â¦ âChicken in a Crumb Basketâ sounded delicious and I will be trying it soon.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to The Celebration in February 2018. Recommended.
I was provided a free copy of this book from Barbour Publishing. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Blowing on Dandelions, set in Baker City, Oregon in 1880, is the first book in Miralee Ferrell's Love Blossoms in Oregon series. Like other books I've read of Miralee's, this story deals with life/family issues - namely, long-running conflict between a mother and daughter. Both narrative and plot are strong, and we are introduced to some very interesting characters.
Katherine is a character I sympathized with and admired from the beginning - a daughter who felt unwanted, unable to measure up to her domineering mother's expectations. "Always her memory returned to those times when the dandelion fluff had carried her away to a place where mothers were loving and kind, and little girls didn't need to be afraid of cutting words or sharp voices." The quiet, rugged strength of Micah Jacobs is exactly what Katherine needs, and while the mother/daughter conflict takes center stage, their romance is sweet and enjoyable.
Miralee very effectively uses the vehicle of a boardinghouse to place an unusual assortment of characters in close vicinity, and even more conflict is introduced with the arrival of guest Wilma Roberts, who I grew to love. Wilma is an imposing and proud woman, yet she senses that Katherine's mother is lonely and determines to become her friend. And then there's the mysterious Jeffery Tucker, who I suspect we will see much more of.
Katherine's mother, Frances, is an extremely abrasive character who made me even more thankful than I already am for the wonderful mother I was blessed with. Anyone who has experienced family conflict can relate to this story and be inspired by the hope that it offers. I like the slow, but steady spiritual growth that several characters experience.
One of the best things about a series is getting to continue on with certain characters, and I look forward to what Miralee has in store for us in Wishing on Buttercups, which releases on February 1, 2014. Recommended to those who enjoy historical romance and relationship drama.
I found The Body under the Bridge to be an intriguing read pretty much out of my comfort zone, but really good. Paul McCusker's writing is excellent, characters are very well developed, and the plot not only entertains, but gives readers much upon which to reflect from a spiritual standpoint.
I doubt anyone loves small-village English settings for cozy murder mysteries and police procedurals as much as I do and with the "amateur" detective of Father Gilbert, that's just what I was expecting. Indeed, Paul McCusker does the small-village setting extremely well. But while this story has the picturesque setting of Stonebridge in Sussex, England, there were a few surprises along the way. Foremost of these was the paranormal element a secret Society, pentagram symbol, the unmistakable presence of evil, an ancient curse, and demon possession. Amidst all this, Paul injects a subtle humor that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I found Father Gilbert to be a very appealing character. At some point in the past, he resigned his position with Scotland Yard to become an Anglican priest, and as such, brings a unique combination of investigative skills and spiritual intuition. This book is preceded by nine Father Gilbert Mysteries produced as audio dramas by Focus on the Family, and I imagine more of his back story can be found in these programs.
Father Gilbert has fascinating visions that are unexplainable, vivid scenes that he perceives to be real, and are relevant to events that are about to unfold. I don't presume to understand anything about spiritual warfare, yet I know that Satan is constantly at work and that spiritual warfare is very real. Father Gilbert sees evil as a personal and supernatural force and that the powerful motivators of greed, power, lust, and glory have always been and always will be in play.
I appreciated how strong the spiritual themes were throughout, one particular example being the struggle with temptation that we all face, reflected in Father Gilbert's words: "The line between temptation and action was razor thin and easily passed over without resistance, control, or reasoning. Deliver us from evil... that I so readily embrace."
Paranormal is a genre I almost always avoid, yet I enjoyed this mystery and hope to read more of Father Gilbert's stories. Recommended to all who enjoy a good mystery with supernatural elements.
Thank you to Kregel/Lion Hudson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors, part of the Following God series by AMG Publishers, is an eight-week Bible study that takes an in-depth look at the life of Joseph, beginning with his ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. Each week's study is divided into five days and follows a specific time period or event in Joseph's life. All that is needed for the study is this workbook and your Bible. It also works well for either personal or group study. The Following God series is excellent, and Mary Englund Murphy's Joseph is no exception.
Numerous books and studies have been written on the life of Joseph - so why this particular one? That's easy . . . Mary is a good teacher and communicator; she sends you straight to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. But one thing I particularly like about this study, as well as all of the Following God series, is that it works well for both the mature believer and new Christian alike. These studies point us to God's Word so that we can apply its truths to our own lives.
For someone who has grown up in the church, like me, the story of Joseph is very familiar. But through his humility, wisdom, willingness to extend forgiveness to those who harmed him, and acceptance of his small part in God's big picture, there is so much richness to be reminded of and continually apply to my daily life. This is something at which Mary excels. We all have to deal with life's trials, and this study gives a deeper understanding of how important my attitude is and how I can grow personally through these trials.
Quotes really speak to me - they are quick to get my attention, make me think, and are easily remembered. These are just a few of my favorites from the workbook:
"A half-truth is a whole lie."
"Where would you be if God lost His patience with you?"
"Becoming a good leader first requires becoming a good servant."
"We don't always need to know God's purpose; we only need to know He has a purpose."
"Let go of the past, walk in the present, let God hold the future."
"When you say you can't forgive, you're saying your standard for forgiveness is higher than God's."
Joseph, Beyond the Coat of Many Colors is a Bible study which will increase your understanding of a familiar story and from which you will grow spiritually. Highly recommended for personal or group use.
Thank you to BookFun.org for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly is an exquisite novel, atmospheric and emotive, a story that I will eventually take great pleasure in reading again. While I have discovered many outstanding reads in Christian fiction - and occasional rare gems, even - I often bemoan the fact that literary-style writing isn't often found in this genre. And "literary" doesn't mean slow moving and rather boring, as some might think. Instead, this type of fiction tends to focus on complex issues, character depth, and the beauty of the writing itself, which perfectly describes The Boy Who Loved Rain.
The prose is simply beautiful - lyrical, elegant, layered, even poetic at times. With themes of child abuse and suicide, the subject matter might seem complex and heavy, but in the hands of an author who cares about his topic, the readers will experience hope and joy. The pace is somewhat slower at first, but I felt like an essential foundation was carefully being laid, one precious stone at a time. Everything picks up about one-third of the way in, and what was already an enjoyable read becomes a thoroughly engrossing one as secrets and motivations are slowly exposed.
Fourteen year old Colom experiences nightmares and violent mood swings, going between an anger and indifference that even he doesn't understand. The thoughts of his mother, Fiona, reflect both her frustration and the beauty of Gerard's writing: "How could their bright, smiling son have become this passive-aggressive teen who slalomed daily between rage and indifference? . . . And then there were the constant eruptions, anger blowing in like a storm and staying as an unwelcome lodger, a fourth member of the family."
I loved how each chapter begins with a foreshadowing fact or literary quote about rain - fascinating to read along the way, but with a meaningful twist that only becomes obvious toward the end.
Sections of this story take place in London and Amsterdam, but the main setting is the quaint harbor town of Portivy and the Côte Sauvage area on the wild coast of the French-Atlantic peninsula. This is another instance where setting practically becomes a main character, for Gerard is gifted at taking what is already an awe-inspiring part of God's creation and describing it in vivid ways that add much richness and completely held my attention.
As to the spiritual element, this story doesn't feature the normal evangelical point of view that is often found in Christian fiction. Fiona's husband, David, pastors a large Anglican church in London - and Miriam, a wonderful woman who reached out to help Collom, had previously been a nun. But The Boy Who Loved Rain is spiritually moving, as Fiona and other characters are drawn closer to the Lord, and there are some touching prayer scenes, reminiscent of the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer.
Secrets are at the very heart of this story - unthinkable secrets thought best to remain hidden in order to protect a loved one, but needing to be exposed so that healing can begin. What a beautiful word picture Fiona's thoughts paint . . .
She imagined the sea itself laid bare; its every rock and secret channel uncovered. Formations of stone and sand submerged for centuries, caressed by the ocean's currents, hidden from view by a dark weight of water: brought now to the light, laid open for all to see. A single fork of lightning; a wind like the very breath of God. Secret things, exposed at last.
The Boy Who Loved Rain is one of the best stories I've ever read. Highly recommended to everyone who enjoys a multilayered, emotionally nuanced drama with the promise of hope.
Thank you to Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Reviewed at The Power of Words: http://tinyurl.com/meyatt5
Although I'm not naturally a suspense fan, there's a small group of authors in this genre that I really do enjoy, and Irene Hannon is one of those authors. The themes of her stories, at least the ones I've read so far, are police-type dramas that could easily be found in today's headlines. Buried Secrets is book #1 in Irene's new Men of Valor series featuring the three McGregor brothers, and let me just say that romance fans have much to look forward to.
I love cold-case themes and was intrigued by this 24-year-old case, especially seeing guilt's affects on the involved parties over the years. It was the villain - a psychopath who was intelligent, driven, and ruthless - who captured my attention the most, and I appreciated glimpses into her background that showed contributing causes to her behavior.
If I had a minor complaint, it would be that Buried Secrets was a little heavy on romance, especially physical attraction, and that the romance between Mac and Lisa didn't always seem to flow naturally out of the story. Also, the use of descriptive terms like "babe" and "hottie" make me uncomfortable - but that's just me. About a third of the way through, however, the mystery becomes front and center, and this was written really well. The logical, step-by-step gathering of evidence and questioning of suspects was my favorite part.
Mac and Lisa have a godly faith at the center of their lives, which I appreciated. And the physical attraction between them quickly grows into something much more meaningful. Readers of Irene's previous novels will enjoy the appearance of Mitch as he works with Mac. I also enjoyed meeting Mac's brothers, Lance and Finn, and look forward to their future stories.
Irene's novels have yet to disappoint and I enjoyed Buried Secrets very much overall. Recommended.
Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Cake & Punishment, book #1 in Maymee Bell's new series, is a delightfully satisfying cozy mystery. The âcity girl returning to her small hometownâ theme that works so well for Hallmark works here also. It's easy to feel Sophia's uncertainty â¦ go back to her job at The Manhattan in NYC job or put down roots in Rumford, Kentucky? The setting and community are so appealing that I'd love to visit and eat one of Sophia's Red Velvet Crunchies.
There's also plenty of southern charm and humor to go around. Sophia's mom, Bitsy, is one of my favorite characters, for she embodies the warmth, charm, and traditions of a true southern lady. I'm pretty sure that, like my own mom, she would have put away her white shoes and handbag on Labor Day and dutifully brought them out again on Easter.
Friendships with ladies like Charlotte and Madison also play a big part in this story, as they lend a sense of bonding and community. Some good chemistry between Sophia and Sheriff Carter suggests that a relationship might be developing for them.
And then there's the murder mystery itself. Rarely do I pick up on hints the author might scatter here or there, but I did notice one little thing that caused me to wonder about halfway through. However, I was actually more interested in whether or not Charlotte's wedding took place than the whodunit part â but let me quickly say that this is a well-crafted mystery.
The only thing I didn't care for was the occasional use of profanity.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
The Lake Emily series by Traci DePree is a delightful find! I love the characters that inhabit this rural farm setting. A Can of Peas brings back a time when people knew and cared about each other, and didn't hesitate to help when needed. There are at least two more books in this series, and I will definitely read them.
With The Cantaloupe Thief, debut author Deb Richardson-Moore has penned a fantastic mystery novel compelling, entertaining, and memorable in every way. Deb's writing is top notch, not a single word wasted. The mystery itself is well plotted with the gradual peeling back of layers and an ending that left me in shock. Two other strengths are the rich character depth and an unusual focus on the homeless. This is one of my all-time favorite mysteries, making Deb Richardson-Moore a "must read" for me.
The Cantaloupe Thief is published by Lion Hudson, a British publisher that I count on for excellent stories, many of which are set in Great Britain. While The Cantaloupe Thief takes place in the southeast US, it has the same feel as other Christian fiction by this publisher a little more liberal than American standards, but nothing that I found offensive.
The story is set in the mid-size northeast Georgia town of Grambling, described in such vivid detail that it felt like a major character. As a resident of Georgia, I loved the incorporation of familiar places like Lake Hartwell and Edisto, South Carolina. But as picturesque as Grambling might be, there is another side to it that of the city's homeless population, who actually play a big part in the story. I loved the realism of this theme and the fact that Deb conveyed their stories and thoughts in ways that caused me to think. Deb actually pastors the homeless at a church in South Carolina, and her caring passion is evident on every page.
In investigating the cold-case murder of the wealthy Alberta Grambling Resnick ten years earlier, Branigan seeks the help of Malachi Ezekiel Martin, a homeless war veteran who is also a possible suspect. The story focuses on the concept that homeless people get overlooked, and hence see things that are concealed from the rest of the population. Malachi had "lived in Grambling's shadows long enough to know about its underside; to know how the rich and poor, the sophisticated and the raw, the proper and the dangerous, merged after dark." Also adding much interest to the story is that Branigan's twin brother is a homeless addict.
I'm intrigued by Malachi and also enjoyed Branigan's friend Liam, who runs a shelter for the homeless. Branigan, Malachi and Liam are a complex trio and I'm very eager to see these characters developed further. The Cantaloupe Thief begins a promising new series. "Best of the best" for me.
Thank you to Lion Hudson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
The Captive Heart is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging story that captures the emotions. It contains two of my favorite things Colonial America setting and marriage of convenience. My opinion of this book can be summed up in one word: more! I want more of the Colonial era, more of these characters, and more from Michelle Griep. The Captive Heart stands out in the areas that matter most to me ...
Setting The South Carolina backcountry of 1770 is so vividly portrayed and is such an important part of the story that it becomes a major character. The CBA doesn't publish many books set during my favorite period of history, the American Revolutionary era, so I was eager to read The Captive Heart. Michelle's writing is somewhat lyrical and the multi-faceted characters spring off the page. In a time where the loyalties of families and friends were split between the Crown and the Sons of Liberty, this is the first novel I've seen that focuses on the role played by the Cherokee nation. I've visited Cherokee, NC and seen the play, Unto These Hills, so this theme touched me.
Characterization Samuel and Eleanor are richly-drawn, appealing characters. And what an unlikely pair! Eleanor fled England for America with the promise of employment as a governess awaiting her, only to find herself forced into indentured servanthood and then marriage to a stranger. To me, she is the perfect blend of intelligence, femininity, strength and vulnerability. Samuel is a backwoodsman, half Cherokee, a man who "wore authority like a second skin." And he has the most precious daughter!
Romance I loved watching their relationship build over several months' time, growing from strangers uncomfortable with each other, to mutual respect, to undeniable attraction. The chemistry between them is so real and heartfelt. Michelle certainly knows how to write scenes that make you melt.
Spirituality Both Eleanor and Samuel had backgrounds that colored their present thoughts, behaviors and attitudes, and their relationship literally opened a floodgate in both of them. Samuel had come to Christ at the end of a sinful past before the story opens, and I loved seeing redemption played out in his life more through action than words. But although he had accepted God's forgiveness, he couldn't forgive himself, as many of us can relate to.
There's so much to enjoy in The Captive Heart, including Eleanor's two friends from the voyage, Biz and Molly. As I said at the beginning, I really want more of everything, so I hope this is the beginning of a series.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher.
After reading three of Jody Hedlund's novels, I can say without reservation that she ranks among my favorites when it comes to historical romance. In Captured by Love, Jody's expressive narrative, rich characterization, rugged setting, and spellbinding romance captured my emotions from the first page and didn't even let go after the last page was turned.
For lack of a better term, something that I'll call "the dynamics of three" stood out to me in this story. First of all, Captured by Love is set in British-held Michigan Territory/Mackinac Island during the year of 1814, a very interesting era of America's history and not that familiar to me. The situation was extremely rough for the island residents and Jody certainly made this period come alive! It was a time of conflict that involved Americans, British, and Indians - and it was fascinating to see how they played off each other. The rich historical detail that Jody brought in was never boring. And secondly, there was the three-way relationship between Pierre, Angelique, and Jean that gave new meaning to the theme of star-crossed romance.
Pierre and Angelique are such strong, vibrant characters that I couldn't help but be drawn to them immediately. Pierre is a voyageur of French-American descent and wild at heart, forever dreaming of adventure. And in following those dreams, he focused on doing exactly what he wanted without consideration of others. Angelique loves the island wilderness and is quite proficient at securing food for Jean and Pierre's mother, Miriam - but it is her caring nature and selflessness to which readers will be drawn.
Appealing secondary characters of Miriam and Jean contribute greatly to the story, and I especially loved the friendship between Red Fox and Pierre. Jody also excels at creating romantic tension, and the romance between Angelique and Pierre definitely sizzles. Romance fans will not be disappointed!
In his new life of commitment to God, Pierre discovers that God's will doesn't always fit with his desires. One of the predominant themes that spoke to me is that of honor, of trying to do the right thing - and that's not always comfortable, for how easily do we try to find ways to compromise in life? There's another spiritual message that Angelique learned, and it's one of which I constantly need to be reminded - that God is the only sure foundation in my life. The words to this beloved hymn easily sprang to mind: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."
The ending is very satisfying, but I would love to see Jean get his story sometime. Captured by Love is a beautifully entertaining story, one which I highly recommend to all readers.
Thank you to Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Carolina Gold by Dorothy Love is an interesting book from a historical perspective first of all. Dorothy drew inspiration from a collection of pieces that a female rice farmer named Elizabeth Allston Pringle wrote for the New York Sun in the years following the Civil War. This is the first book I've read that took place during the Reconstruction years, and Dorothy's extensive research is evident as she fleshes out this young woman's struggle to restore her ruined family plantation in the character of Charlotte Fraser.
Charlotte is a compelling character, easy to admire for her determination, courage, and ability to adapt to a difficult situation in spite of negativity from people like her cousin: "Anyone who tries to grow rice is a fool . . . wasting your beauty and youth on some vanished dream." I especially liked her compassion toward Daniel Graves, a young boy on his own and eager to learn. Nicholas Betancourt is an interesting character and good match for Charlotte, but he was absent for much of the book and therefore hard for me to connect with, much less feel the chemistry between them.
The outstanding part is Dorothy's depiction of people, places and events in South Carolina's Lowcountry, as well as the reality of a changed South where the old way of doing things is no more. "No one realized that the future under Yankee occupation would become a tragedy all its own." Reconstruction brought destruction of property, former slaves wrestled with the implications of freedom, and masters found themselves impoverished and facing an uncertain future. As a fan of southern fiction, I enjoyed hauntingly beautiful scenes like the Waccamaw River, cypress swamps, Pawley's Island, and once glorious plantations, all vividly drawn.
There's not a lot of action in this story, but its rich historical detail and glimpse into the South's struggles and a real woman's courage make it enjoyable. Carolina Gold is an eye-opener into a difficult period in southern history and a story that historical fans will enjoy. Recommended.
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Christmas novellas and Melody Carlson just seem to go together, and I always enjoy these uplifting, feel-good seasonal stories. The Christmas Angel Project is a welcome addition, and one of my favorites in the entire collection. I loved its women's fiction style, spiritual themes, and focus on doing things for others. The writing flows easily and I knew each character well by the time the last page was turned.
Four women who couldn't be more different â various ages and situations in life â are connected through their membership in a book club. But rather than developing deep friendships with each other, they each connected more with Abby, and her loss sets them adrift. Unexpected personal gifts that Abby had previously made for them leads to reflection, a spiritual journey, and fulfillment.
These four women felt real and I enjoyed watching them reach out to others with their God-given talents, helping each other in the process. Belinda was strong and determined, but lonely. Louisa had never regained her purpose in life after the death of her husband. Cassidy was a hard worker who had forgotten how to enjoy life. Grace was used to helping those who could do something for her in return. Through art therapy, making house calls on the pets of senior adults, putting together a teen fashion show, and decorating rooms in Habitat homes, these ladies learn important life lessons. Spiritual themes are beautifully woven throughout, such as selfless giving, serving others, and the need for community.
The Christmas Angel Project is full of Christmas cheer and will speak to everyone who reads it. Recommended.
I was provided a free copy of this book from Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.