Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christa Allan's Test of Faith ~ Reviewed


TEST OF FAITH
Christa Allan
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (March 18, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426733267
Description:


Elle Butler has managed to hold on to her politically-driven husband and her secrets until the unexpected happens. When one phone call rips her world apart, Elle will have to decide if the truth is worth the consequences. Especially when it threatens to destroy the world she's so carefully built around her life and her marriage.

Review:


Test of Faith tells us about Elle and Logan Butler. Logan is a lawyer who is in the middle of a campaign to run for public office. Elle tries to be the good wife, attempting to measure up to all of the expectations that she feels are placed upon her. What she doesn't realize is that a secret that she's been keeping from him for sixteen years is about to re-surface, and it could potentially destroy his career, their marriage, and everything they've worked for.

I really enjoyed this story. It really drew me in. The suspense in each chapter of what was bothering her and the secret she was keeping kept building. Little pieces of the past would get revealed here and there, and it really kept my interest in the story. Logan's character was endearing, as he was an upstanding man of God, trying to do the right thing in the world of politics. And he loved his wife. Despite the fact that she might have felt beneath him, he loved her. I felt like I could relate to her character in many ways. And, I was happy with the outcome.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sigmund Brouwer's Thief of Glory ~ Reviewed


Thief of Glory: A Novel
by Sigmund Brouwer
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (August 19, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446492

Description:

A boy coming of age in a time of war…
the love that inspires him to survive.
 
For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother. 

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength. 

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

Review: 

Wow.

I have a confession. There are books I won't read. My list includes books I think will be sappy or cheesy, or one dimensional. I kind of avoid sci-fi/fantasy because I have enough trouble remembering the important details in the real world. Lastly, I avoid books set in times of war. Now. I also have this bizarre deep vein of melancholy that loves a book that indelibly etches itself on my soul through the characters and writing. That may be one of the reasons I avoid wartime novels. Sometimes those novels are just so painful to read, and without hope. 

Imagine my surprise when I opened the mail and discovered a copy of Sigmund Brouwer's latest novel and set it aside to read. I've read him before and I like his voice and the back cover description compelled me to hang onto it. I cracked the cover and was lost in a world that was brutal beyond understanding. A world that was as foreign to me as sci-fi is but a world that held a minute seed of hope and life in it's clutches. 

Brouwer's tale is inspired from the research he did into the lives of his parents and grandparents in the brutal setting of World War II. Jeremiah, 10 years old, already with an old soul, finds that he needs to grow into a man well before he should. A man who won't cry and will never give up. The conditions of his life are unbearable and horrific. I've always been shocked at how far evil will go. It seems that there should be a limit, some stopping point. But I guess that's the nature of evil and why the good news of Christ's sacrifice and offer of salvation is so very beautiful. 

The characterization in this novel is rich and vivid. Brouwer's writing is powerful. Jeremiah's story is hideously beautiful. War is hell, love is the antidote. Use caution if you are easily disturbed. There is brutality and horror of many kinds in this novel. But if you are on the lookout for a story where love triumphs and changes those it touches, pick up a copy.  

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Linda Clare's A Sky Without Stars ~ Reviewed



A SKY WITHOUT STARS
Linda S. Clare
Series: Quilts of Love (Book 15)
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (February 18, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426752792

Description: 

Frankie Chasing Bear is caught between cultures. She wants to raise her son Harold to revere his Lakota heritage, but she also thinks he will need to learn the white man’s ways to succeed. After the untimely death of her husband, Frankie joins the U.S. Government’s Relocation Program and moves to Arizona. There she begins sewing a Lakota Star pattern quilt for Harold with tribal wisdom sung, sewn, and prayed into it. 
A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars, but neither the quilt—nor her new life—comes easily to Frankie. Nick Vandergriff, for instance, is the last man Frankie wants to trust. He’s half-Lakota but Christian, and Frankie can see no good coming from that faith after her own parents were forced to convert at an Indian school. Can Nick convince Frankie that white men and Christians aren’t all bad? And will Frankie learn that love is the most important ingredient—for her son’s quilt and life itself?



Review:

A Sky Without Stars follows Frankie Chasing Bear, a young Lakota woman who lives in Arizona in the early 1950’s.  She is trying to figure out what to do with her life.  She struggles to hold on to her Native American heritage while being forced into a white man’s culture and world.  To make matter more difficult, she is a widow with a young son, Harold, who can’t seem to find his identity either.  When Frankie meets Nick Parker, who is not only half white and half Lakota, but a Christian as well, she finds herself in even more conflict.  She has a hard time trusting men due to things she’s experienced in her past, however, she begins to see things in Nick that she admires.  


I really had a hard time getting into this story.  I can’t put my finger on why, but it didn’t really hold my interest.  The story talked about some of the characters being Christians but never really got into the gospel.  I know not every book is going to have a gospel presentation, but I really felt it lacking in this one.  


Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cindy Woodsmall's A Love Undone ~ Reviewed






A Love Undone: An Amish Novel of Shattered Dreams and God's Unfailing Grace Paperback – September 9, 2014
by Cindy Woodsmall
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 9, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 030773000X

I really enjoyed A Love Undone by Cindy Woodsmall.  A Love Undone is an Amish romance novel. Although it is much more than a romance novel.  This book also deals with heartbreak from the loss of family members, the challenge of a child disabled from an injury, sacrifice, betrayal, the hope of new love, being misunderstood and I could go on. I don’t read lots of Amish fiction but I do read them occasionally. I think this is a very good one. I am not sure why readers are so fascinated with Amish fiction unless it is the attraction of examining a different culture. This book shows that even among the Amish there are those who rebel and make the same mistakes others do. This is a beautiful story about a young woman named Jolene who makes a tremendous sacrifice for the sake of those she cares about. Jolene is a woman who loves deeply and has the ability to do what needs to be done whatever the sacrifice. She also has some secrets that help keep her sane.  As I read this novel, I was especially struck by the legalism that the Amish group in this story lives by. It is a legalism that comes from the decisions of a few and not from living by the Bible. It also shows how people get hurt because of this. It is sad because that is not how God intended for us to live. If nothing else, reading this story just confirmed for me what freedom we have in Christ. Not freedom to sin, but freedom to be what He created us to be. This is some of what Jolene is learning.

This is a heart-warming, touching love story on many levels. Love between parents and children, between siblings, between friends, between husband and wife, love for God, the hope of new love between a man and a woman and even love between man and animals. It also addresses facing fears, growing up, abuse, forgiveness and healing. One quote from the book which I love (and it is actually a quote from the book Black Beauty), “There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham.” That quote might be the heart of this story. If you love Amish fiction, there is no doubt you will love this story. If you have never read a story about the Amish, this is a great one to start with since it is very well done and if you have no interest in things Amish then it might not be for you. In any case, Cindy Woodsmall is a gifted writer and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Susan Aken

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Robin Lee Hatcher's The Heart's Pursuit ~ Reviewed



THE HEART’S PURSUIT
Robin Lee Hatcher
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 13, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310259274
      
Description:

A jilted bride desperate to save her family from ruin.
A bounty hunter seeking vengeance for a ravaged past.
An arduous trek toward justice--or redemption.
Silver Matlock and Jared Newman know traveling together is a bad idea. Bad for Silver's already tarnished reputation in her small Colorado town. Bad for bounty hunter Jared's secret, single-minded mission for revenge. But Silver is determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father's fortune. And Jared's in a hurry to hunt down the murderer who destroyed his family--even if Silver is too distractingly beautiful for comfort.

The pair takes off over mountain and desert, past bleak homesteads and raw mining towns, hot on the trail of the two villains who took what wasn't theirs to take. Soon supplies dwindle, secrets emerge, and suspicion leave Silver and Jared at odds when they need each other most. To confront an enemy deadlier than desert rattlesnakes and rocky cliffs, Silver and Jared must learn to forgive and trust and face the question they haven't dared voice: What happens next?

Review:
          

The Heart’s Pursuit introduces us to Silver Matlock.  After being left at the alter by her fiancé, not only is she nursing a broken heart, but as it turns out, her father’s fortune is stolen the day of the wedding, no doubt by her fiancé, leaving the family in dire financial straits.  Silver feels it’s her responsibility to make things right, so she hires Jared Newman, a bounty hunter that was passing through town.  Reluctantly, he lets her travel with him.  What Silver doesn’t know is that Jared is also tracking the man that murdered his family.  She also doesn’t realize that his distraction with finding his families’ killer may keep him from helping her on her mission.  

I really enjoyed this book.  This is one of my favorite time periods to read about, the Old West.  My heart went out to poor Silver.  She didn’t think of herself as attractive, and when she finally found someone who she thought loved her, she was so happy.  And then he left her and stole her father’s money.  She was devastated.  Yet, she didn’t mope around about it.  She got up and did what she could to help her family.  It was also fun watching the relationship develop between Jared and Silver.  Excellent book!


Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Brandy Vallance's The Covered Deep ~ Reviewed




The Covered Deep 
by Brandy Vallance
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing (October 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161795375X


Description:

SOME DREAMS ARE WORTH SEARCHING FOR

Bianca Marshal is looking for a man who can quote both Jesus and Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, that man is hard to find in the small Appalachian town where she lives. Her mother insists that Bianca lower her standards. One the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, even Bianca wonders if her mother is right.
Still set on experiencing love, or at least a little adventure, Bianca wins an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for the perfect hero. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of Palestine, Bianca's true love will be revealed—but not without a price that might be too heavy to pay.

Review:

The Covered Deep is a very well written piece of fiction. A winner of Operation First Novel, author Brandy Vallance put a daunting amount of research into this one. Not only did she have to study late 1880’s Appalachia, she had to study London, ships, and the Middle East.

Her characters are well-read and studied and the knowledge they have is a fun way Ms. Vallance shares some of her historical tid bits.

Often, a book’s first chapter is the polished and best written section of the entire book, but I found that the further I traveled with Bianca Marshal, the more I enjoyed the smoothness of the prose.

As I said, this novel is historically rich including customs, apparel, social interactions and events. Several museums factor in and there is a wealth of great historical material covered. Spiritually, the novel is rich without being too preachy.

Even better than the history is the plotline and characters. This novel is full of some cat and mouse intrigue. One of the characters is a bit of a game player and the intensity of the simple story that could have been is ramped up with tension. My favorite character is the male lead and there were moments where I grew a little frustrated with Bianca as she struggled with him.

I’d love to see a sequel and I hope there is one in the works. There are situations I’d love to follow up on and think there is plenty of material to build on and come up with even a third book. I don’t want to drop any spoilers so I feel like I’m being vague. So here’s my bottom line. This is definitely a great read, a terrific Christmas present for a historical fiction fan, and I recommend it to those who love historicals.


Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Serena Miller's Fearless Hope ~ Reviewed


Fearless Hope: A Novel Paperback
by Serena B. Miller (Author)
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (April 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451660375

Description:

When an Amish woman falls for the New York crime writer who buys her family farm, she must decide whether to follow the longings of her heart or the rules of her faith.

When Hope Yoder loses her husband, she is left trying to support her two small children—and one on the way—however she can. She ends up taking a job as a part-time housekeeper for the Englisch man who has bought the farm that once belonged to her family. 

Logan Parker is a bestselling crime fiction writer from New York City who accompanies his fiancée on a trip to Holmes County, Ohio, but the trip takes a strange turn when he sees an Amish farmhouse for sale. Intrigued by a strong sense of familiarity, he enters the house and is overcome with a feeling of deep peace. He’s never been to Ohio before, but something in this house feels right, and he purchases the farm to use as a retreat. Something about the peacefulness of the house frees him from the crippling writer’s block that threatens to ruin his career, and something about the quiet Amish woman who comes to clean his home makes him less and less excited about returning to New York and the woman he is supposed to marry. 

Slowly, Logan and Hope are drawn together, and when they discover that they share a strange past, they must decide how that affects their future. Will Hope overcome her fear of embracing love again?

Review: 

Fearless Hope tells us about a young Amish woman named Hope Yoder. Her husband is tragically killed by a bull, leaving her with two young children and one on the way. Not wanting to take Alms from the community, she puts out an advertisement as a housekeeper. Meanwhile, Logan Parker, a bestselling fiction writer from New York, is going through a dry spell, and after a visit in Holmes County, buys a home that used to belong to Hope's family, hoping to find rest from the hustle and bustle of New York, and hopefully to overcome the writer's block he has been experiencing. After a chance meeting, he hires her as his housekeeper, and they settle into a routine. Obviously, they begin to develop feelings for each other. Even more strangely, Logan keeps having a sense of deja vu, on top of a strange sense of peace, like he's been to this community before. As they begin to grow closer, pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, revealing secrets that have been kept from Logan for most of his life.
I had a hard time putting this book down. I believe it was part of a series, and I had not read the previous books, however, that didn't make it difficult to get into this story. At times, I would get caught up in the everyday parts of the story and forget that there was an underlying mystery to be solved and that would pique my interest anew each time. I really enjoyed this book and how it ended, and the tone of forgiveness by the people in it.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers