Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review - "Summer of Promise"

"Summer of Promise" is book 1 in Amanda Cabot's latest series, Westward Winds. We begin the book by joining Abigail Harding on a stagecoach on her way to visit her sister in June 1885 at an Army fort in Wyoming. Abigail is on summer break from her teaching position at a school in Vermont and she is concerned about her older sister Charlotte as her last few letters have left her concerned. Abigail's trip is eventful as the stagecoach is held up and they are able to continue on unharmed thanks to Lieutenant Bowles who is traveling on the coach as well. When Abigail arrives at the fort, her concerns about Charlotte are confirmed as she has been experiencing morning sickness, but also her marriage to Jeffrey is not as good as she would like everyone to believe. What is supposed to be only a short-term visit is slowly turning into a longer visit as Abigial feels her sister needs her, but that is not all that is keeping her there. Abigail finds herself drawn to Lieutenant Bowles, Ethan, as he has become a part of her every day life and she has feelings about Ethan that she has never experienced towards Woodrow, the man she is soon to be promised to and who is waiting for her in Vermont. Mystery surrounds the stagecoach robberies that continue to occur, Jeffrey's absences from the home at night, Charlotte's health issues, and Abigail's desire to help those around her keep her in Wyoming and wishing for home in Vermont less and less.

This is an excellent book! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out as I felt as if the end was a little abrupt and while loose ends were tied up, there are still things left unanswered as well. There is so much to this story as Abigail and Ethan must deal with things in their lives and Jeffrey and Charlotte both have struggles within their marriage and personal as well. The minor characters add so much to the story and I hope that Oliver, Leah and Dietrich are a part of the next book as well. This is a great historical fiction book filled with details of the time period, romance and suspence.

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review - "Where Wildflowers Bloom"

Ann Shorey's new series, Sisters at Heart, has captured my attention with book 1, "Where Wildflowers Bloom." Faith lives with her grandfather and her memories of her family who has passed away as a result of illness and the Civil War. Wanting nothing else than to be free of these memories each and every day, Faith is determined to travel West. However, her grandfather does not share the same dream. Faith is running the family mercantile while still continuing to make plans for the trip.
Faith gave her heart away to Royal Baxter years ago as he was preparing to leave for the war. Believing that he was killed just as her father and brother, Faith is shocked when Royal rides back into town and even more shocked and embarrassed when he does not remember her as she does him. Royal begins to court Faith much to her delight and her grandfather's chagrin as he would like Faith to court Curt instead. Curt who works at the livery and seems to be always helping out Faith and her grandfather is also dealing with his own scars from the war and does not know if he is ready to be involved with a girl. Rosemary, Curt's sister, becomes a dear friend to Faith - just like a sister in fact. Faith begins to struggle with what to do as she does not want to hurt her grandfather, yet she believes the move would be the best for both of them. Faith is confused as to her feelings toward Royal and Curt, does she love Royal or is he her ticket to the West and if she loves Royal, then why does she desire to see Curt and spend time with him?

This is an excellent historical fiction novel! It is very well-written and was filled with so many details of the time period! I am looking forward to the rest of the series! I am assuming and hoping that the rest of the series with be Rosemary, Amy and Cassie's stories as these girls are all "Sisters at Heart."

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review - "Shadows on the Sand"

I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading Gayle Roper's "Shadows on the Sand" as she is a new author to me and this book is so much more than I expected!

Carrie and her younger sister Lindsay run away from home and begin a new life in New Jersey. Under the guidance of their "Godmother" they work at and now a diner. A teenage girl Andi working at the diner reminds Carrie much of herself at that age and seeks to gain her trust and help her. However, Andi is not willing to share her secret as she does not want anyone else to get hurt especially when Jase is found murdered. Although all fingers point at Andi's boyfriend Bill, Andi knows it was not him as Andi knows Jase from her life before living in New Jersey and working at the diner.
Greg goes to the diner every morning for breakfast and orders food he does not even like just to try and avoid memories of his deceased wife and children. Greg suddenly notices Carrie and believes it is time for him to move on, not just relationship wise, but in life overall as he used to be a cop, but since the deaths of his loved ones he has been managing properties. As Greg gets pulled into the mystery surrounding Jase's death and the disappearance of Andi, Greg learns that he can move on and he has more strength than he thought with God's help.

I really enjoyed this book! It has all of the elements for a great story - mystery, secrets, romance, healing. The characters all live out their lives strongly with hope and faith in God, but they are not pushy toward others who do not live the same way, instead they encourage them by their example. Mary P plays such an important role in this book, from taking in Carrie and Lindsay when they so desperately needed the help to being their for the girls when their mother and her husband show up suddenly at the diner. Clooney, Mr. Perkins and Cilla all play such great roles in the story as well and are such lovable characters! I cannot wait to read more of Gayle Roper's books!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book through WaterBrook Publishing in exchange for a honest review.*

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review - "The Exceptional Life"

Stephen Arterburn's latest book, "The Exceptional Life: 8 powerful steps to experiencing God's best for you" is an eye-opener and an encouraging read!
Each chapter discusses one of the eight steps that a person needs to take in order to experience God's best. Each step consists of giving up something, but when something is given up, something is gotten back. For example, the first chapter is "give up guilt and shame; get back hope." This book is excellent to read on your own; however it would also be a great book to do as a part of a small group as each chapter concludes with questions for further discussion that enhance what was just read. While reading this book, it feels as if the reader is in a conversation with the author, thus making the book an easy and enjoyable read.

This book touches on some "heavy" issues and areas that may bring up negative emotions or memories; however it will also fill you with hope for being a better person and really experiencing the best that God desires for each of us.

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

Book Review - "Small Space Organzing"

With the start of a new year, I have been trying to be better organized at home. Kathryn Bechen's "Small Space Organizing" is filled with ideas and tips for decorating and organizing rooms, closets and really every inch of your home!

Although this book is named and geared for small spaces it is really applicable to everyone no matter the size of their home! Each room and area of your home has a chapter devoted to it, including foyers/entry ways! The author shares personal antidotes, websites for additional tips and resources for each room and space for you to write in your own notes. The lighting, furniture placement, storage options and the "feel" of a room are all addressed making this a thorough resource to refer to while trying to redecorate and organize your home.

I find this book to be invaluable! It is jam-packed with information! I had read tips for how to make rooms look less cluttered or making it appear to be larger and more open. Bechen shares great ideas in regards to storage and different uses for things other than the usual, such as suitcases and ottomans. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to make changes in their home, update various rooms or areas without spending a ton of money or just to become more organized.

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review - "Beyond Molasses Creek"

A new author to me, Nicole Seitz, captured my attention in the very first chapter of her latest novel, "Beyond Molasses Creek," and held it until the very last page!

From the publishers:

Three lives are bound by a single book . . . and the cleansing waters of Molasses Creek.

Having traveled to the ends of the earth as a flight attendant, Ally Green has finally returned to the Lowcountry to bury her father as well as the past. But Vesey Washington is still living across the creek, and theirs is a complicated relationship--he was once her best friend . . . and also part of the reason she's stayed away so long. When Ally discovers a message her father left behind asking her to quit running, it seems her past isn't through with her yet.

As Ally's wandering spirit wrestles with a deep longing to flee again, a young woman on the other side of the world escapes her life of slavery in the rock quarries of Nepal. A mysterious sketchbook leads Sunila Kunari to believe there's more to her story than she's ever been told, and she's determined to follow the truth wherever it leads her.

A deep current intertwines the lives of these three souls, and a destiny of freedom, faith, and friendship awaits them all on the banks of Molasses Creek.

My review:
There is always a place that is "home" to each of us. Ally returned home to bury her father, a home where she fled years earlier to escape from her past. Meeting up with Vesey brings the past to the present and she must make decisions. I really enjoyed the author's style of writing as it transported me to Molasses Creek and Ally's life. Ally and Vesey's relationship is complicated, but it has elements that many of us can relate to within our own relationships with others, especially best friends. The language and writing are also very descriptive and add so much to the story. This will not be the last of Seitz's novels that I will read!

*I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a honest review.*

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review - "Chasing Mona Lisa"

The most prized possession of France, the Mona Lisa painting, has been hidden away during World War II as the Germans have been taking French paintings. Now on the verge of Paris being liberated, someone is out to get the Mona Lisa and many find their lives in danger. Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey take you on a breath-taking, high-energy journey in their novel, "Chasing Mona Lisa" as four individuals race against time to save this masterpiece.

Bernard has given so much of his time and life to the resistance effort in France. Much of his effort he has not shared with Colette his girlfriend. However, Bernard is not the only one holding back as Colette works as curator at the Louvre and she knows the exact location of the Mona Lisa, but she is being blackmailed by a high-power German gentleman. Eric and Gabi appear to the general public as working for the Red Cross, but are in fact Swiss OSS agents sent on missions and are caught in Paris on the day of liberation. Meeting up with Bernard and Colette saves their lives on this day, but soon they find that they are all fighting for lives and not just from the Germans.

This novel is filled with so much historical detail from the World War II period and the culture and pride for one's country is so rich. I was immersed in the story from the very beginning and enjoyed it all along the way throughout the various twists and turns. All of the characters were well-developed, even the minor characters. I loved the roles that the banker, Captain Palmer, the Countess and Kristina all played as well. This is a wonderful novel and I am going to read the authors' previous novel, "The Swiss Courier" and learn more of Gabi's story!

“Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review - "The Keeper"

Fans of Suzanne Woods Fisher must read her latest book, the first in her Stoney Ridge Season series, "The Keeper!" This book is an emotional read that will tug at your heart and keep you reading page after page.

Julia is trying to take care of her family as her mother passed away years ago and her father is struggling from heart failure. It's an overwhelming task as each person has their individual struggles and then on top of that her crazy uncle causes embarrassment and others to look down upon the family. Julia believes things are spinning out of control when her fiancee once again postpones the wedding, the Bee Man returns to town and a woman shows up to run the household and help out. Soon, Julia realizes that this may be the best thing for her and her family.

This book is filled with so much and so many various struggles and experiences. Just because the family is Amish, they are still dealing with struggles just as the "English." The family is struggling with money issues, Julia's younger sister Sadie deals with being overweight, Mennon is developmentally delayed, Julia believes she's in love with her fiancee Paul, but yet she has feelings for Roman, the traveling Bee Man, and her father is dying from heart failure. Sensitive subjects are discussed as a heart transplant is considered and when one is available from horrible situations, the family must look on the bright side although they are filled with grief.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Amish fiction!

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Book Review - "7 Money Rules for Life"

As the year 2012 starts, many people make resolutions or goals for the year. Several of these involve money - spending less, saving more, climbing out of debt. Mary Hunt's latest book, "7 Money Rules for Life" is released at the perfect time for those of us making resolutions involving money!
Mary Hunt shares her own personal experience with financial difficulties and climbing out of debt and inspires and teaches others from any and all income levels how to do the same. Money can be a daunting subject, yet Hunt used straight-forward language and simple steps so that anyone can try these steps and make changes. This book is not something to help save money just for the year, but it is essentially a life change to help you be more money savvy and in control for the future as well. The 7 rules will help each of us to spend less than we make, save some money for the future and manage credit.
This book is a great resource to help anyone get on track with managing their money. The layout of the book is user-friendly and easily understood. Being that Hunt shares so much of her personal struggles and journey toward being in control of her finances, it makes it more attainable for the reader and her story is inspiring! A great way to begin taking control of your money at the start of this new year!

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review - "Sisters of the Quilt: the complete trilogy"

Once I start reading a series I like to read it straight through beginning to end; therefore I was so excited to see the three novels of Cindy Woodsmall's "Sisters of the Quilt" series in a complete trilogy edition! Woodsmall's "Sisters of the Quilt" includes the three stories of the series that have previously been released as single novels. Hannah Lapp is struggling to know her place, her beliefs and what her heart feels in the first book of the trilogy, "When the Heart Cries." Hannah is in love with an older man who is more worldly than she and her family and she accepts his marriage proposal. Tragedy brings other issues to light and disruptions for not only Hannah, but her best friend and brother as well.
Hannah's story and journey continues in the second book "When the Morning Comes." Not being treated kindly by her Amish community, Hannah disappears into the English world to try and find solace there. Although she is still in love with Paul, Hannah meets someone new who is accepting of her; yet this adds to her struggles as well. This is a highly emotional book as the reader will feel for Hannah through her new experiences and struggles and also Hannah's family and community as they are dealing with her disappearance.
"When the Soul Mends" is the last book in this trilogy and it an engrossing ending to this series. Hannah hopes to help her sister and returns home to do so. Hannah is faced with choosing between her two worlds and questioning her decision to leave over two years earlier.
This is a well-written and captivating series! You are not going to want to put it down once you start! Hannah's struggles, heartache, love and decisions will have you hurting alongside her, cheering her on and being torn between her loves and worlds.

*I received a complimentary copy from Waterbrook Press in exchange for a honest review.*

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review - "What a Son Needs From His Dad"

Each son needs his father as a role model starting from day 1 of his life and continuing throughout his adult years. Michael A. O'Donnell, PhD has written a book, "What a Son Needs From His Dad: how a man prepares his sons for life," to encourage and guide fathers with raising sons. This book focuses on the roles that fathers play in their sons' lives. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect, for example, chapter 7 focuses on helping one's son choose the right friends and chapter 4 is about preparing your son to work. Children cannot just be thrown out into the world with no guidance and expected to be successful and O'Donnell has created a guide that will help fathers be that guiding force balancing giving love, guidance and being a teacher and role model.

This book is well-written as it is easy to follow and understand and organized into well-defined chapters. The book is also interactive as there are some spaces for questions to be reflected upon and answered. Each chapter ends with questions for thought and discussion. This would make an excellent resource for a small group. It is insightful for mothers to read as well as it will open their eyes as to the roles that the fathers play in their sons lives and they can be supporters and an encourager to their husbands in this area.

* I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a honest review.*

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review - "That's My Girl"

What better way for dads of girls start out the year than reading Rick Johnson's book, "That's My Girl." This is a honest, man to man book that I would recommend for any man who is the father of a daughter. This would also be a great resource to use in a men's small group as each chapter ends with questions for further thought and discussion.

Rick shares his own experiences with raising a daughter and his perspective on different issues along with research and stories from other individuals. Rick encourages dads to bond with their daughters even though this may not be as natural for them as bonding with their sons, however this is so important. Dads are role models for their daugthers as to the males that they will date and marry in the future. Rick addresses different aspects of role modeling including treating women, especially their wives/daughter's mother with respect, care and love as this is how the daughter is going to expect to be treated by her future husband. Daughters are only little for just so long and now is the time for dads to build on their relationship and be good example for their daughters. Not only is this an excellent read for dads, but it is for moms as well as it will open moms' eyes as to the role that the father plays and she can be an encourager to him to fulfill this role in the best way possible.

This book is straight-forward, yet it has a gentle approach as well so that it is not intimidating or "preachy." I would highly recommend Rick's other books as well that focus on sons and also being a better spouse.

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review - "Then Sings My Soul Book 3"

I have enjoyed the previous two books in this series and I was not disappointed with this newest edition! Robert J. Morgan has complied interesting facts about composers and hymns in his latest collection, "Then Sings My Soul Book 3."

There are many hymns that are shared in this book that I am not that familiar with and I loved this as I was to read new songs. Knowing the stories behind hymns are fascinating and interesting as to how they tie in with history and also give insight to the writers as to who they were and their lives. This is a great gift for anyone who is interested in music, history and knowing the origins of beloved hymns.

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