July 31st, 2015

the bradstreet gate

About the book: Georgia, Charlie and Alice each arrive at Harvard with hopeful visions of what the future will hold. But when, just before graduation, a classmate is found murdered on campus, they find themselves facing a cruel and unanticipated new reality. Moreover, a charismatic professor who has loomed large in their lives is suspected of the crime. Though his guilt or innocence remains uncertain, the unsettling questions raised by the case force the three friends to take a deeper look at their tangled relationship. Their bond has been defined by the secrets they’ve kept from one another—Charlie’s love and Alice’s envy, Georgia’s mysterious affair—and over the course of the next decade, as they grapple with the challenges of adulthood and witness the unraveling of a teacher’s once-charmed life, they must reckon with their own deceits and shortcomings, each desperately in search of answers and the chance to be forgiven.

My comments: This book was just so-so to me. The story was engaging enough, the characters complex and interesting, and the writing was decent. Having said that — I didn’t care for the language and casual sexual scenes. This isn’t the kind of stuff I want to put into my brain. However, I was kept in suspense and I kept turning the pages. The four main characters were not like anybody I really know, but as I said they were very interesting and multi-layered. The mystery was well-developed. Not my most favorite, however.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

 

July 18th, 2015

the friends of jesus

About the book: America’s favorite inspirational novelist and #1 New York Times bestselling author offers a richly told tale about six of Jesus’ closest friends and companions, bringing biblical truths to life in this captivating continuation of her Life-Changing Bible Study series.

In our everyday lives, friends are the people whom we spend the most time with, go through struggles with at times, and who know us best. Each of Jesus’ friends—Peter, John, Matthew, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus—traveled with Jesus and were part of His daily ministry, and each has a compelling story to tell. There were some who would question or doubt Him…and one would even betray Him. Kingsbury brings these fascinating personalities to life in ways that will not only help bring you closer to the truths found in Scripture, but also to Christ.

By combining valuable, instructive Bible study with compelling, insightful character sketches of Jesus’ companions, Kingsbury provides you with a deeper understanding of the scriptural teachings featuring these fascinating people. Emotionally powerful, thought-provoking, and soulful, The Friends of Jesus will help you to appreciate the Bible and understand how it applies to your relationships with the most important people in your life.

My Thoughts: I love reading these Bible based books by Karen Kingsbury. She makes the characters come alive. I usually do not like these types of books, but I make an exception with this book and with her first book in this series, The Family of Jesus. Kingsbury has the ability to make these people real by giving them thoughts and situations I can relate to. I wanted to read this book because I totally enjoyed the Family of Jesus. This book did not disappoint. I felt as if I knew the characters and she adds just enough detail to help me imagine these characters and what life was like for them. I’ve read the stories in the Bible many times and this just adds new dimension and makes me think. I like to think, especially about the Bible. Thank you Karen Kingsbury for your great books and now taking your fiction writing to a whole new level!

I gave my honest opinion in exchange for a free e-copy of The Friends of Jesus from the publisher and NetGalley. Thank you!

July 18th, 2015

Love arrives in pieces

About the book: For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancée. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness.

My Comments: I heard a lot of good things about this book – good romance, great beach read, and I saw it on many TBR lists for the summer. Stella, who grew up in a pastor’s home, is not a typical pastor’s daughter. She won beauty contests, she’s been married and divorced, and now she was just about ready to move back to live with her parents until her mother finds her a job in her field of interior design. What neither she or her mom knows, however, is that she would be working closely with an old boyfriend, who just happens to have history with both Stella and her sister.

The book is good. It includes a nice southern flair. I like the exploration of complicated relationships which we see in several parts of this book. It IS a great summer, beach read.

I am giving my honest opinion in exchange for a free copy of the book from the publisher.

June 25th, 2015

sweet side of suffering

About the book: Suffering is often a reality you don’t choose. However, you do have a choice in how to respond to it. In The Sweet Side of Suffering, M. Esther Lovejoy explores the character of God to help you find a response that can sweeten the bitter waters of suffering.

In an engaging way, she shares biblical truths and practical insights from her own experiences. She says, “In the brightness of good times we often miss some of the most wonderful and intimate details of God, but against the blackness of suffering we see pinpoints of light that we never noticed before.”

Through her message of hope and encouragement, M. Esther Lovejoy helps you gain a better understanding of God’s love and provision and reveals how you can taste the sweetness of His peace. Discover how you can follow the light of His Word even in the darkness of life’s most painful circumstances.

My Comments: This book piqued my interest because the author, Esther Lovejoy, has a similar background to mine. She was a pastor’s wife and involved in ministry for many years. This is where our similarity ends. Her husband was involved in life and game changing sin and her life completely changed. Although I have not experienced this, I find it happens way too often and I’m interested in how these people cope and continue to trust, love, and serve God. Mrs. Lovejoy is definitely a role model and has a lot to say for women who have suffered in this way, as well as to women who have suffered serious financial loss.

Actually, very often I get tired of the idea that Christians don’t suffer and that ALL things always work out for good in THIS life, because I don’t find that true. Life is hard. Period. Many of us suffer – either physically, emotionally, mentally, or all of the above. I for one find comfort in a book like this. It helps me discover who the complete God is — and that He can and does meet my needs, maybe not in the way I would choose, but always in the way that is best for me and causes me to be more like Him.

This book is easy to read and packed full of useful information.

Thank you Ms. Lovejoy, Discovery House Publishers, and NetGalley for this book. I received it free in exchange for my honest review which I have given. Love the cover!!

June 18th, 2015

when grace sings

When trouble roars into quiet Arborville, Alexa and Anna-Grace find themselves the target for discord and exposed secrets. Can they continue to seek the God of all grace amidst the fog of confusion?

Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren’t what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she’s operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.

But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths.

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.

My comments: This was an interesting, engaging read – a mix of English, Amish, and Mennonite groups. It was written by multiple points of view but clearly labeled so it wasn’t confusing. The characters were extremely likable and open to change which served the story well. I love the idea of a Bed and Breakfast story line and setting and this one did not disappoint. The Englishers whose car broke down and subsequently visited for a few days added modern times to a story that was basically steeped in the past (Amish and Mennonite faiths seem to be like a step back in time). Briley, looking for dirt on these groups, was charming most of the time, but he was surprised at all he found out during his visit. The story moved along well with many surprised embedded along the way. I recommend this book to Amish fiction and romance book lovers!

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.

June 2nd, 2015

 

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An investigator who knows tragic loss firsthand,
and his new client, missing far too long…

Abducted at the age of sixteen and coerced into assisting the Jacoby crime family, Shannon Bliss has finally found a way out. She desperately wants to resume some semblance of normal life, but she also knows she has some unfinished business to attend to. She might have enough evidence to put her captors behind bars for a very long time.

When Shannon contacts private investigator Matthew Dane, a former cop, to help her navigate her reentry into society, he quickly discovers that gaining her freedom doesn’t mean her troubles are over. If the Jacoby family learns she is still alive, they’ll stop at nothing to silence her.

If justice is to be done, and if Shannon’s life is ever to get on track again, Matthew will need to discover exactly what happened to her–even if it means stirring up a hornet’s nest of secrets.

My Comments: I couldn’t finish this book. It is too involved and slow moving for me. I was getting bogged down. I read about half of it, then decided to move on. I normally love Dee Henderson’s book, and maybe in a different mood I could have finished this one–but for my mood – too many details and the story just wasn’t moving fast enough. Maybe this summer I’ll try again.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my free e-copy. This is my current opinion.

taken

May 23rd, 2015

prayer

About the book:

Linda is no stranger to hardship. Now she dares to hope for a chance at love and a new beginning.

As the sole survivor of a buggy accident that left her orphaned at age four, Linda Zook was reluctantly raised by her Uncle Reuben. She longs to be worthy of someone, but the lasting trauma of her injuries and embittered upbringing have destroyed her self-worth. When Hannah Peterson asks her to work at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast, she’s finally able to realize some confidence.

Aaron Ebersol left the Amish community seventeen years ago when he could no longer bear the restrictions or the constant tension with his father. Despite years of unanswered letters to his parents and the roots he’s put down in Missouri, Aaron rushes back to the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania, after receiving word of his mother’s stroke. Hesitant to get too close to the family he was once a part of, he decides to stay at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast. Talking with Linda allows him to explore his feelings about his family and his position in the Amish community.

As Linda and Aaron open up to each other, their feelings for one another turn into more than friendship, and Aaron must make a decision about his future as an Amish man.

Can Linda and Aaron forgive the family members who have deceived and forsaken them? And will Aaron be able to convince Linda that she is worthy of his love?

My Comments: I took a break from reading Amish fiction and came back to read this great one! To be Amish, or not to be Amish – that is the question! I could hardly put this book down. The ending (which wrapped up the whole series – Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel), kept me in tears. Needless to say, it was a cathartic read. Bitterness pays a high price as was played out in the characters of this story. Linda is an amazing character – someone I’d like to be like when I grow up :-) I wish real life could be like these books – sometimes it is, that is our hope.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review which I have given – great read – especially for fans of Amish fiction. Thank you Amy Clipston for another engaging story!

May 10th, 2015

the woods edge

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

My Comments: I was anxious to read this book ever since I read that it was predicted to be one of the best Christian fiction books written in 2015. I have read Lori Benton before and enjoyed her writing. I was not disappointed.

I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction anymore, but there are always a few exceptions and this is one. I enjoyed the story – very different from other books I’ve been reading. I enjoyed the depth of the writing including the rich and interesting characters. The research done by Benton was remarkable and the writing is very in tune to the time period including the language.

The story is about how two families become interwoven and connected to each other in a very unusual way. We go through deep regret and guilt with Reginald – there are always consequences to our actions.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great writing and historical fiction. You won’t be disappointed!

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review which I have given.

April 15th, 2015

chasing-sunsets-9781451687507_lg

Growing up in a comfortable home, Mary Catherine wanted for nothing. Though she loves her wealthy parents, their lifestyle never appealed to her. Instead, Mary Catherine pursues meaning through charity work, giving away a part of herself but never giving away her heart.

Mary Catherine lives in Los Angeles with her roommate, Sami, and volunteers at a local youth center with coach Tyler Ames and LA Dodger Marcus Dillinger. Despite Mary Catherine’s intention to stay single, she finds herself drawing close to Marcus, and their budding romance offers an exciting life she never dreamed of. That is, until she receives devastating news from her doctor. News that alters her future and forces her to make a rash decision.

My Comments:  I wish life was like a Karen Kingsbury novel. Seriously, there are usually one or more happy ever afters. Having said that, this book has the flavor of Frank Peretti books in that there is serious spiritual warfare. We’re talking angels and evil spirits. Thankfully, this book does not have the after-effect those books had on me. There is a lot more feel good about this story. It is easy to read and a quick read. The characters are somewhat multi-faceted and lack perfection. Most of them are trying to live for Jesus. They are Christians of various spiritual maturity levels. I think this book would appeal to young adults and young marrieds, although I usually read all of Kingsbury’s novels and I’m past that age group. In fact, I knew a 90 year old women who loved and read all of  them! I recommend this and all of Kingsbury’s books.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given.

April 11th, 2015

faith of her own
Can Anna Mae heed God’s call on her life, even if it means leaving behind everything she knows . . . and everyone she loves?

Ever since Anna Mae’s childhood friend Jeremiah left their Amish community, she’s questioned her own place in the Amish world. The Amish life feels as if it’s closing in on her, and with her mother trying to set her up with potential suitors, Anna Mae feels trapped in a life she’s not sure she wants anymore. But she’s never told anyone that she longs for a tiny taste of freedom—freedom that could be very costly.

When Jeremiah suddenly reappears in Middlefield to help his mentor, Yankee veterinarian Dr. Miller, new questions surface for Anna Mae, along with feelings she’d never fully acknowledged before.

As Anna Mae and Jeremiah rekindle their friendship, old feelings take on new meaning. Yet the question still lingers: What is God’s plan for her life? Should she stay, keeping loyal to her Amish family, or does God have a bigger plan—one that provides more freedom than she could imagine? The answers do not come easily, and the answer to God’s call may lie in different directions . . . for both of them.

Includes Reading Group Guide

My Comments: Amish Fiction at it’s best – Not everyone is cut out to be or stay Amish. Jeremiah and Anna Mae certainly were not. They had a deeper calling of service – Jeremiah’s to veterinarian service and Anna Mae’s to something she wasn’t quite sure of yet. Three love stories occur simultaneously as well – Bekah and Caleb, Anna Mae and Jeremiah, and Judith and David – all different scenarios yet all similar in many ways.  An interesting mix of Amish and English. God is definitely at work here. Great book, great writing – with so much going on. I recommend this book to Amish fiction lovers, romance lovers, and to anyone who loves a good story!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given. Thank you Thomas Nelson.