Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls ~ Reviewed

By Anne Lyle
Angry Robot Books

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers wake, brining Native American goods--and a skrayling ambassador--to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I's capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is appointed to the ambassador's bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally--and Mal his soul.

This is my very first alternate historical piece of fiction...and probably not my last. What does that mean exactly? According to Wikipedia: Alternate history or alternative history[1] is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world. 

In this case, that means the addition of a different species called skraylings. They are kind of a super power with unique abilities that humans don't have. There were some interesting twists in the plot, a smattering of supernatural activity, and lots and lots of intrigue. Plus, I loved the scenes in the Tower, and who doesn't love a good romp through Elizabeth I's capital city?

Be aware that this is an ABA offering, so yes, there is the requisite sex scene (and in this case, same gender, which took me by surprise and dare I say creeped me out?). So if you're easily offended, you might want to skip this book. The writing, however, was well done. 

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jerry and Tina Eicher's The Amish Family Cook Book ~ Reviewed

By Jerry and Tina Eicher
Published by Harvest House
Pages 272

About Authors: Jerry Eicher's bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah's Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he's been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia. Tina Eicher was born and married in the Amish faith, surrounded by a mother and sisters who were great Amish cooks. At fellowship meals and family gatherings, Tina's dishes receive high praise and usually return empty. She and her husband, Jerry Eicher, author of several bestselling Amish fiction titles, are the parents of four children and live in Virginia.

Review: There are several things I really enjoyed about this cookbook even thought there were no color pictures of the recipes. The pages were sturdy and could easily lay flat so you can keep referring to it as you go down the instructions for the recipe.

First of all I think this would make a great book club companion. Why? There are several recipes that come directly from this couples fiction Amish book. Included in the book are the title and quote from the book that mentions a food item the character was making or loved. For example:

In the book Rebecca's Return she mentions Rebecca's Vanilla can rolls, In the book Ella's Wish - they mention Ella's Broccoli Soup, In A Hope for Hanna, Aunt Betty's Country Fried Venison, Missing Your Smile they talk about Susan's Christmas Buckeyes, in Rebecca's Promise there is Rebecca's Oatmeal, and in A Wedding Quilt for Ella there is Ella's Beef Casserole. There are a few more. This makes for great book club fun.

I made several of the recipes in this book. I found the recipes easy to follow and all were yummy. The only thing that I missed in this cook book was the fact that she didn't mention how many servings each recipe made. I didn't know how much I depended on that especially when I was making muffins, cookies or bread.

Scattered throughout the book were Amish words of wisdom that I really enjoyed for example: "Lying in bed dreaming never got the work done."

" We don't realize how wonderful today is until tomorrow"

"Great leaders take joy in the success of those under them"

"If you walk with God you will be out of step with the world"

"The cost of a thing is the amount of life which must be exchanged for it."

This book is broken down in to several categories. Appetizers and Beverages, Breakfast, Cakes, Candies, Cookies and Bars, Desserts, Grilling, Main Dishes, Pies, Quick Breads, Salads and Gelatin Salads, Soups and Sandwiches, Vegetables and Side Dishes and finally Yeast Breads.

This book is fun in more ways than one. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jason Wright's The 13th Day of Christmas ~ Reviewed

Jason Wright
 Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (October 9, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609071778
ISBN-13: 978-1609071776


Marva Ferguson has a very personal Christmas tradition that happens every December 26. As an aging widow, the tradition means more to her now than it ever has. Her newest neighbor, nine-year-old Charlee, loves Christmas too. But her family has fallen on hard times and things get worse when Charlee becomes critically ill. Then, on December 12, Charlee makes a wonderful discovery. A mysterious note is delivered that promises twelve days of gifts and stories that will reveal the truth behind the beloved Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. As the days go by, the gifts hint at a possible lost lyric. Was there once a 13th day of Christmas? And if so, could its magic change or save a life? If Marva knows something about the letters from the Elves, she s not telling. However, you don t live as long as Marva Ferguson and not have a secret or two including a whole lot of faith in your apron pocket. Filled with laughter, tenderness, and hope, The 13th Day of Christmas invites us to see how an old Christmas favorite can turn into a true Christmas miracle.


The 13th Day of Christmas is one of those perfect Christmas reads. Short and simple for those busy days leading up to the big holiday. Well-written and with characters who are ably drawn. Familiar themes of loss and struggles blending into all that is good about Christmas make for a heart-warming, heart-rending story that ends with hope. Wright also wends the narrative with humor and clever dialogue. This isn't a light, whimsical read because it does deal with illness, poverty and sorrow. It might be too sad for some who might be freshly dealing with loss or illness. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review: 

The 13th Day of Christmas revolves around the friendship of 80 something Marva Ferguson, and her new neighbor, nine-year-old Charlee.  Marva is a widow who collects aprons and loves Christmas.  Charlee has just gone through a tremendous change, as her father lost his job and the family had to sell everything and move to a small trailer in a new town.  Marva and Charlee become fast friends, as Marva is young at heart and Charlee is an old soul.  Everyone’s world is torn apart when Charlee becomes quite ill.  However, there are surprises in store for Charlee, as on December 12th, a mysterious note is delivered to her that tell the “truth” behind “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

This book started out a tad slow for me, but as it got going, I found myself really enjoying it and having a hard time putting it down.  There were a couple of different plot twists that were completely unexpected to me, so it kept me on my toes.  I loved the story of Marva and Charlee’s friendship.  And all of Marva’s aprons!  I believe the author said she had hundreds of them, and would change them several times a day, depending on her mood.  That just sounds like so much fun!  This was a very heartwarming story.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, November 16, 2012

Liz Curtis Higgs's A Wreath of Snow ~ Reviewed

By Liz Curtis Higgs
Published by Waterbrook
ISBN# 978-1400072170
224 Pages

Back Cover: Wrapped in a cloud of steam, the engine rolled to a stop, the screech of metal against metal filling the frosty air. Snow blew across the railway platform and around Meg’s calfskin walking boots. The weather definitely was not improving.

She ordered tea with milk and sugar, eying the currant buns and sweet mincemeat tarts displayed beneath a bell jar. Later, perhaps, when her appetite returned. At the moment her stomach was twisted into a knot.

“Anything else for you?” the cashier asked as she handed over the tea, steaming and fragrant.

Meg was surprised to find her fingers trembling when she lifted the cup. “All I want is a safe journey home.”

“On a day like this?” the round-faced woman exclaimed. “None but the Almighty can promise you that, lass.”

Review:  Liz Curtis Higgs pens moving story that driving home the real meaning of Christmas in her new novella I was thrilled to receive a review copy of. This novella is a Victorian Christmas, in Scotland, 1894.

The two main characters captured my heart as they interact with each other one snowy night on a train. They are both headed in different destinations but troubles with the train derailing have them on the same path seeking shelter for the night from the cold.

This story was easy to read and will help you get into the Christmas spirit as you experience these characters struggle in returning home to a place that didn’t have fond memories for either of them. It was a place to be avoided because of the pain and fear it conjured up.

On the train Gordon realizes who Meg is.  A surprising excitement rises up in him as he sees an opportunity to seek forgiveness for a horrible accident that happened in their childhood. He tried to ask for their forgiveness then but no one would listen, they didn’t see it as an accident. The event changed Meg’s family forever. Was he selfish to seek their forgiveness and bring up the past with its memories? Meg was sweet to him now because she didn’t know who he was, how would she treat him when she found out?

This author writes about a period time gone by when the value of family was strong and home and honesty were gifts to be treasured.  Her main characters are complex and carry the weight of unforgiveness like a heavy load on their backs. Unforgiveness holds them hostage to the horrible childhood event.  It makes the pain fresh and they live the experience over and over again. Liz shows through her characters.  forgiveness is a gift from God to set us free from the pain of the past. God gives us many chances to be set free from the chains that hold us back from really receiving all he has for us. It’s the greatest Christmas gift of all. It’s one to be passed on for sure!

Meg finally realizes who Gordon is and considers his request. Could she put herself and her family through the pain of the past?

Gordon Shaw is not the person she remembered as a child. He was a man who was humbled, changed and seeking to do the right thing. Would Meg give him that chance?

This is a story that will warm your heart and get you focused on the reason for the season. It includes a yummy recipe and questions good for family and book club discussions.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Linda Windsor's Rebel ~ Reviewed

The Brides of Alba (book 3)
By Linda Windsor
David C. Cook Publisher
June 2012
ISBN 978-1-4347-6476-8

With Merlin dead, the succession undecided, and the Celtic church on the defensive from Rome, intrigue sweeps the court of the High King Arthur. But it's all battlefield news that consumes Queen Gwenhyfar's young scribe, Kella O'Toole: her fiance is dead and her father gone missing. Determined to find him at all costs, Kella defies the queen's orders and sets out for Pictish territory. Her foster brother Alyn, a disillusioned priest who questions his calling, agrees to help her. The journey itself is perilous. But it's their secrets that land Kella and Alyn in a viper's nest of treachery that threatens both their lives and the future of Albion. 

Like a big slab of chocolate cake tops off a great meal, REBEL is a satisfying end to this fast-paced historical trilogy. Author Linda Windsor  weaves her facts seamlessly into a story that will stick with you long after you've closed the cover. 

Kella is a feisty heroine, which is quite the combination with hero Alyn's somewhat laid-back personality. He's no pushover, however, even though he's a former priest. Their relationship is as tumultuous as the bickering warlords around them.

I really enjoyed this series. I was hoping for a bit more of a reunion with the heroes/heroines of the previous 2 books (HEALER and THIEF), but that didn't happen. Guess I'll just have to re-read those, eh? Which won't be a problem, because the Brides of Alba trilogy has earned a spot on my bookshelf.
Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Friday, November 09, 2012

Courtney Walsh's A Sweethaven Christmas ~ Reviewed

A Sweethaven Christmas, Sweethaven Summer Series #3   -     
        By: Courtney Walsh

A Sweethaven Christmas, Sweethaven Summer Series #3
By: Courtney Walsh

Release Date Oct 1, 2012
ISBN 0824931823
EAN 9780824931827

* It's holiday time in Sweethaven, but things aren't going as planned! Surprised to learn that she has a sister, Lila is even more shocked by other family secrets she unearths. When a scrapbook reminds Adele of her first love, she arranges a reunion with the man. And are wedding bells in Campbell's future? 320 pages, softcover from Guideposts.


This book follows up where A Sweet Haven Homecoming left off.  We are reunited with all of the girls again, as they each go through different struggles.  Adele is reunited with her first love unexpectedly, and is unsure what to do next.  Campbell is struggling with whether or not she’s ready for a commitment to Luke.  Lila is confronted things about her family she never would have dreamed, especially when a woman shows up claiming to be her half sister.  Meghan is trying to jump start her career again by filming a Christmas special in Sweet Haven.  And finally, Jane confronts her struggle with her health and is not sure how to take the next step.

I was so excited that there was another book in this series.  I really enjoyed getting to know all of the ladies in the last book, and this book just tied everything together and gave the story an appropriate ending.  I really liked getting to know each of the characters more.  I kind of hope the author continues the series, as I wouldn’t mind seeing what happens next!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sarah Sundin's With Every Letter ~ Reviewed

By Sarah Sundin
Published by Revell
ISBN# 978-0800720810
425 Pages

Back Cover:  

Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them?


Sarah Sundin has the gift of bringing history to life through characters I instantly care about. I was so thankful to receive a review copy of this novel with just the right mix of history that highlighted pioneering inspiring women who served as flight nurses in WWII, romance, suspense, humor and faith. Sarah brings the reader to the front lines of war in a memorable and personal way.

I loved the use of the personal letters in this book as characters wrote back and forth to each other. Mellies Lieutenant Neman’s letter writing campaign inspired by the movie Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart is on it’s way.  She was seeking women who would volunteer to write anonymous letters to a unit based in England – Engineer Aviation Battalion – where her husband was stationed. The letters would not include names, pictures, just a message of encouragement to our men over seas.

Mellie was an American, born in Philippines, her father was American and mother was half American and half Filipino. Her father would call her his exotic Orchid, but American men seemed to prefer roses. She was shy and was raised in the jungle as her father did his research. She was not raised knowing the customs in America. She didn’t fit in no matter where she lived. She thought, “What if a letter could ease a man’s fears or worries or loneliness? What if her prayers could strengthen him? What if he wrote back?

On paper it wouldn’t matter if she were a rose or an orchid. Perhaps a friendship could develop, still a paper friendship, but it was more than she’d ever had before. She prayed, Lord give me the right words.”

Sergeant Larry Fong was in HMS Derbyshire, Liverpool, England, it’s 1942. “Fong’s a Chinese name not Japanese. The Chinese are our Allies, remember? I’m an American.”

Sergeant replies as the platoon leader explains the letter campaign. “You each get one letter, anonymous. You can reply or not, your choice. If you do, play by the rules. No names, personal details – hometown, people’s names, etc. Anonymity!”

Mellie starts to write her first letter, “An Anonymous correspondence appeals to me. In the real world shyness bars me from friendship, but a letter removes that barrier. I must warn you, I have little experience with friendship, but I can offer you encouragement, prayer and a listening ear…”

Larry Fong writes back to Mellie, “Dear Annie the Anonymous Nurse, Pardon the nickname but I couldn’t address a letter to “blank” You’re probably surprised to get a reply. As you thought, most of the men are looking for romance. I’m not, but I am looking for a friend.

If we met, you’d think me sociable, cheerful, and surrounded by a crowd. But in the crowd I have no true friend.

You say anonymity appeals to you. Well, it sets me free. For reasons too numerous to mention – and forbidden by anonymity – I can’t be in public. I always have to be sunny. But in anonymity, perhaps I can be myself.

You offer encouragement, prayer and a listening ear. If that offer still stands by the time you get to the end of this letter, I’ll take it. I offer the same to you.”

Larry Fong has an inner turmoil – living in his fathers shadow and being himself, not what others expect him to be.

This is a fascinating story with endearing characters that captured my heart and I could connect with. Sarah does an amazing job of capturing this slice of American history and its people for others to experience and understand.  I highly recommend it and look forward to the other books in this series.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Monday, November 05, 2012

Are You Writing the Next Great American Novel???

Michelle G will not approve of the Viking helmet as seen above. But she is a NaNoWriMo fan. Join her and countless others as they crack out the next "Great American Novel." Writer's Digest has a handy page for NaNoWriMoers so visit for encouragement, ideas or maybe even threats. No, wait, threats are better found with Michelle.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Carole Towriss's In the Shadow of Sinai ~ Reviewed

In the Shadow of Sinai
By Carole Towriss
Publisher: DeWard Publishing Company
289 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936341-48-1


Bezalel is a Hebrew slave to Ramses II. An artisan of the highest order,
Ramses has kept him in the palace even when all other Israelites have been
banned. Bezalel blames El Shaddai for isolating him from his people.  

When Moses and Aaron appear one summer, and El Shaddai shakes Egypt to its core, Bezalel must reexamine his anger. Over the course of the next year, Bezalel’s life becomes intertwined with those of an Egyptian child-slave, the captain of the guard, and especially a beautiful, young concubine.  

When spring arrives, all of them escape with the young nation of Israel.

But that’s only the beginning… 


When I think of the biblical Exodus, I envision the beaten down slave working in the brutal sun, struggling to survive. I’d never paused to consider those with high-ranking or prestigious positions … like Bezalel. With his artistic skill, Bezalel rises in prestige among the Egyptians, gaining the respect of Pharaoh himself, and yet, his gifting deprives him of what he longs for most—connection with his family and his people. Forced to work in the heat, the common slaves view Bezalel as a traitor. Trapped by his own gifting, Bezalel wonders if perhaps God isn’t as loving as some claim him to be. His emotions are complicated further when the plagues brought about by God—those designed to bring liberation—hurts someone Bezalel cares for. Through Bezalel, we experience the plagues—the questions, the fears, the doubts—not only through an Israelite, but through the Egyptians, as well.

The road to faith is never easy, and sometimes we must hit what feels like an impenetrable road block, but in this beautifully crafted novel of hope brought from despair, we realize it is in our times of greatest trials that God triumphs.

This novel grabbed me from page one, and I truly loved each character presented. Carole Trowiss’ writing is fresh and engaging, and stirred my thinking long after I finished the novel. You don’t need to love biblical fiction to enjoy this gripping story of redemption. Anyone who’s ever shook their fists at God, anyone who’s ever wondered how good could possibly come from their tragedy, anyone who longs to see God’s love prevail, will thoroughly enjoy in the Shadow of SinaiIn the Shadow of Sinai is a beautiful novel of hope amidst despair, trust in the face of terror, and a love that binds. Debut author Carole Towriss turned a familiar story of liberation into an unexpected love story that resonates deep in the hearts.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery

Thursday, November 01, 2012

If You are a Writing Reader...It's NaNoWriMo....

Planning on participating in NaNoWriMo???? Or thinking strongly about it? 

Visit Writer's Digest Daily helps for NaNoWriMo participants or wannabes

Day One. A Calendar of activities and organizational ideas!