Thursday, May 21, 2015

Robin Lee Hatcher's Whenever You Come Around ~ Reviewed


Whenever You Come Around
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Series: A King's Meadow Romance (Book 2)
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 12, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401687695

Description:

Will writing a romance help this author find a real-life hero?

Charity Anderson turned her back on Kings Meadow years ago, with good reason, and has avoided visits to her hometown whenever possible. But with her house in Boise damaged by floodwaters and a book deadline bearing down, staying in her parents' empty home seems her only option. However, being in 

Kings Meadow dredges up a painful secret, and old fears threaten to overwhelm her.
Charity's former high school classmate Buck Malone never left town, instead sacrificing his dreams to take care of his family. Now he enjoys an uncomplicated life as a wilderness guide and confirmed bachelor. The last thing on his mind is settling down.

When Charity's dog causes an accident that leaves Buck with a broken ankle and wrist at the start of prime tourist season, Charity has little choice but to render aid while he recuperates.  Soon Buck becomes the inspiration for Charity's hero, both on the page and off. Can he also help her face and overcome her fears so they might find their own happily ever after?

Review: 

I was so captured by Robin Lee Hatcher’s newest novel, Whenever you Come Around, that I read it in two days. Another beautifully written story set in Kings Meadow, a fictitious place near Boise, Idaho. 

Charity Anderson returns to Kings Meadow after a long absence. She’s now a successful author but is paralyzed in her personal life because of a long-held secret. She returns to stay in her parent’s home while they are in Europe. 

Why does being in Kings Meadow bring back painful memories? Will she be forced to deal with her secret? And what about Buck Malone, the handsome bachelor and wilderness guide who lives next door? Charity used to have a crush on him when they were in high school but he is a confirmed bachelor. What happens when an accident forces them together? Will Buck rethink his decision not to consider marriage? 

Robin grabbed my attention right away as I wondered what painful memory Charity was trying to block from her mind. I also fell in love with her little dog Cocoa from the beginning. Cocoa plays a big part in the story. I enjoyed reading Robin’s beautiful descriptions of Idaho and found myself wanting to plan a trip there.  Robin writes so seamlessly that the story flows and carried me along. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it especially to anyone who enjoys contemporary Christian fiction.  If you’re like me, you’ll love Kings Meadow, the characters and sweet, little Cocoa. 

I agreed to review this book but was free to express my opinion good or bad.  

Reviewed by: Susan Aken 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chapman's, White's and Myra's Sync or Swim ~ Reviewed


Sync or Swim: A Fable About Workplace Communication and Coming Together in a Crisis
by Gary D Chapman, Paul E. White, Harold Myra
Hardcover – November 1, 2014
Hardcover: 112 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802412238

Description:

Sam, the new CEO, was ready to hit the ground running. But his team members-and Mother Nature-had other plans. An ambitious yet naïve sheepdog is called upon to lead Monarch Enterprises-a troubled organization on a beautiful isle. Confronted with broken systems and challenging personality types, Sam must learn how to marshal his team before the imminent storm washes everything away. Along the way, he gleans valuable lessons from an unlikely mentor-a wise, old puffin.
Sync or Swim is a small tale with enormous insight on ways you can empower, engage, and energize employees or volunteers facing discouragement or cynicism. It's a delightful, quick read that will:
  • teach you communication techniques that enhance teamwork and productivity;
  • bring to life the principles used by hundreds of successful organizations;
  • provide relevant, practical insights based on real-world experiences; and
  • stimulate lively and positive interaction (discussion guide included).
Based on the principles successfully used by major corporations, health organizations, over 250 colleges and universities, government agencies, churches and non-profits.

Review: 

Sync or Swim is business fable model of what the Five Love Languages/personality type awareness can do in a professional setting. The characters in this quick read are animals with personality types that are characteristic of the portrayed animal. In addition, each character has distinct triggers that can either be flipped by a shrewd, respectful manager to bring more energy and teamwork, or switched off by a clumsy or clueless one.

This clever, simple book offers effective information. However, even though the wisdom in the book is simply explained it's up to individuals within the company to care enough to utilize the methods suggested and unselfish enough to recognize that everyone is needed to pull off the big, ultimate goal. I don't see it being useful as a tool dispensed to all leaders in an organization unless the upper management does some of the work to prepare the ground for acceptance by the middle managers and employees.

The simplicity of the book could be a huge asset in companies or organizations where there is resistance to read heavier how-to-books. This fable could be a great small group tool for any organization that desires to work cohesively to pull off big or important projects.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Diann Mills's Firewall ~ Reviewed


FIREWALL
Diann Mills
Series: FBI: Houston (Book 1)
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
Language: English


Description: 

2015 Christy Award finalist!
2014 winner of a Genre Fiction award from Library Journal!
After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.



Review: 

Firewall centers around Taryn Young, a young woman who works for a software company. The day after her wedding while at the airport, getting ready to head out for their honeymoon, the terminal is bombed. Taryn is injured and her new husband has disappeared. Even worse, Taryn wakes up in the hospital, only to find out out the she and her new husband, Shep, are prime suspects in the attack. Agent Grayson Hall is assigned to the case, and while all of the evidence currently points at Taryn, he can't help but believe in her innocence. While many think it's a terrorist attack, Taryn is convinced it has something to do with the software she recently developed for her country.

When I started this book, I really didn't think it would be very interesting. However, once I started reading, I had a hard time putting it down. I'm not typically into suspense stories, but this one was awesome. It kept me guessing the whole time, with all of the twists and turns. I appreciated how the situation brought Taryn back to the Lord and a dependence on Him to get her through situations she had no control over. I highly recommend this book. You won't be able to put it down!

Reviewed: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chris Fabry's Every Waking Moment ~ Reviewed

Every Waking Moment
by Chris Fabry (Author)
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 16, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414348630
Description:

A 2014 Christianity Today Award of Merit winner!
Treha Langsam is a mysterious young woman who has fallen through the cracks, much like many of the elderly people she works with at Desert Gardens Retirement Home. But Miriam Howard, director of the facility, sees her extraordinary gift and untapped potential. Treha is a whisperer of sorts, calling those who have slipped into dementia back to a life of vibrant, if only temporary, clarity.

When Treha’s and Miriam’s stories intertwine with a documentary team looking for stories of the elderly, Treha’s gift is uncovered, and the search begins for answers to the mysteries of her past. As their paths converge, each person is forced to face the same difficult question: What if this is as good as my life gets?

An uplifting, human tale of an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift.

Review:

I love fiction centering around anti-heroes. By that I mean the heroes who don't really fit the mold created for us. No capes, no spandex brightly colored jumpsuits, just real, flawed people. 

Treha is one such hero. A girl with a drive to find someone to love her, a disability and a mind that somehow connects with others in an extremely unusual way. As she struggles to find her own story she inspires others to tell or refine their own. The setting for most of the story is a nursing home where life and death are all too real. 

A budding filmmaker finds that his story is in the story of others as well and that Treha holds a key to the one piece of information not available to him. The nursing home administrator discovers that she has less control over her life than she had realized and struggles to find hope in her bleak future. 

This is a heartbreaking but very hopeful story that left me with a satisfied sigh when I turned the last page. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Mindy Starns Clark's and Susan Meissner's The Amish Groom ~ Reviewed


The Amish Groom 
(The Men of Lancaster County)
by Mindy Starns Clark, Susan Meissner
Series: The Men of Lancaster County (Book 1)
Paperback: 352 pages
Harvest House Publishers (April 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736957340



Description:

New from bestselling authors Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner, The Amish Groom(Book 1 in The Men of Lancaster County series) explores the men of an Amish community in Lancaster County, how their Amish beliefs play out in their unique roles, and the women who change their lives. 
Born to an ex-Amish mother and an Englisch father, 23-year-old Tyler Anderson was raised as a military kid until the age of 6, when his mom passed away. His dad, shipping off to yet another overseas post, placed Tyler in the care of his Amish grandparents, an arrangement that was supposed to be temporary. It lasted a lifetime.
Rachel Hoeck is the young woman waiting for Tyler's proposal. She senses that though he loves her and wishes to make a commitment to her and his Amish beliefs, part of him still wonders whether an Amish lifestyle is truly for him.
When an opportunity to connect with his father unexpectedly arises, a visit to California causes Tyler to question everything, including a future with Rachel. Will the new girl in his life, Lark, cause him to remain in the Englisch world? Or will he choose to be an Amish groom after all?
A poignant novel of hoping for romance and searching for identity, set in a beloved Amish community.

Review: 

The Amish Groom tells us about twenty-three year old Tyler Anderson. He was born in an Englisch world to a military father and a former Amish mother. At age six, Tyler's mother died suddenly. His father was constantly traveling for the military, so he took Tyler to live with the Amish grandparents that he had never met. However, his father kept putting off coming to get him, until finally, a few years later, his father was married again with another baby on the way. When he asked Tyler if he wanted to live with him, Tyler declined, feeling he was unwanted. Now, however, he finds that he has a restlessness in him, much like his mother, and wonders which world he belongs in. When his father calls and asks him to stay with his younger half-brother for a few weeks while he and his wife are traveling, Tyler decides this might be God's way of giving him a chance to decide. While living in the Englisch he experiences many new things, and finds he has to deal with a lot of issues that have been pushed to the background for his whole life.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I appreciated that Tyler was trying so hard to find the Lord's will without compromising himself or his beliefs. And that he was patient in waiting for answers and letting the Lord guide and lead instead of trusting his own instincts. I really wasn't sure which way he was going to go for most of the story. 

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Hillary Manton Lodge's Reservations for Two ~ Reviewed


Reservations for Two: A Novel of Fresh Flavors and New Horizons (Two Blue Doors) 
by Hillary Manton Lodge 
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307731774
Description:

A culinary concoction of taking chances and finding love in the most delectable places
 
Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up. 
 
Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life? 
 
As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?

Review:

There are multiple reasons I liked this novel. The basic plot line involves a young woman, Juliette, who is firmly entrenched in Portland. Her very ill mother is there, and she and her brother are opening a restaurant together. However, her heart is entangled with a perfect man cross country. Neil is truly, truly so close to who she needs, and if he’d consider relocating to Portland he’d be the one.

Before the restaurant opens Juliette heads to shop for wares and suppliers in France and Italy. Both these food capitals of the world also are peppered with relatives of Juliettes. Neil surprises Juliette and joins her on her journey. While in France Juliette finds letters written by and to her grandmother and she takes them with her.

Once home Juliette must face the reality of life, her mother’s condition is worsening, absence from Neil is breaking her heart, and opening a new business adds stress upon stress. What kind of security or even hope does her future hold?

Juliette wasn’t my favorite female character. Her indecisiveness and anxiety levels were frustrating a time or two. However, the story that unfolded in the letters to and from Grandmother Mireille was fascinating. I also loved the foodie details and Lodge includes a Baker’s Dozen plus recipes in the book. Historical fiction is delightful and I'm a sucker for the romance of Europe, especially France and Italy so those snippets were fabulous as well. The family connectedness between Juliette and her siblings and parents was a great touch and brought them to life. I didn’t the first book in the series and didn’t feel lost or buried under catch-up details that might have been important from book one. The melancholic faith that colored the illness and the family’s response was a human, pensive undertone that really added depth to the fiction and more than made up for Juliette’s anxiety and indecisiveness. Finally, I appreciated Juliette’s growth in the novel. If any of those areas are hot buttons for you consider this novel for your summer reading (and cooking) enjoyment.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Amy Sorrells's Then Sings My Soul ~ Reviewed


Then Sings My Soul: A Novel
by Amy K. Sorrells
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (March 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434705455


Description:

When Nel Stewart returns home due to the sudden death of her mother, she realizes her beloved father, Jakob, is struggling with dementia.

With the reappearance of a high-school sweetheart, deliveries from Ukraine addressed to her, and the discovery of a mysterious, vintage aquamarine gemstone, Nel senses God is pulling her into the past to restore their faith and their futures. Told partially through Jakob's flashbacks of fleeing genocide-ridden eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel combines elements of mystery, history, faith and romance to reveal how God redeems the broken years ... and our future.

Review: 

Then Sings My Soul is about woman named Nel. She has moved away from her home to pursue a life as an artist, creating beautiful jewelry for high-end clients. Her world changes overnight when she gets a call from her 94 year old father, Jakob, telling her that her mother passed away, suddenly. As she returns home to help with funeral arrangements, she discovers that her father has been dealing with memory loss for some time. When he falls suddenly and ends up in rehab, his condition seems to worsen. In the meantime, Nel discovers a vintage aquamarine gemstone as well as information from the Ukraine, leading her to believe there is more to her father's past than she realizes, however, she is unsure how much she will learn with his mind deteriorating the way it is.

This book was well written. The story is told partially through Jakob
's flashbacks of growing up in Ukraine, and his escape to the US. I thought it went back and forth without any confusion. Seeing what this man and had gone through so long ago, and carried with him his whole life without telling anyone was just heartbreaking, especially knowing the things he went through really happened. I really enjoyed the story, and how it all came together at the end. 
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers