Monday, December 30, 2013

Kathleen Bauer's Before the Dawn ~ Reviewed

Kathleen Bauer
Pages 280
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Ideals Publications
ISBN 0824934245

Overview:

It's the dawn of a new season in Charlotte Stevenson's life.

Charlotte Stevenson's world is turned upside-down by the death of her daughter, Denise, whose three children are now coming to Nebraska to live on Heather Creek Farm. Sam is fiercely protective of his younger siblings; Emily desperately misses her friends; and young Christopher, a sweet soul, just wants to fit in. While Charlotte helps the grandchildren she barely knows adjust to their new life, she also wrestles with her own grief. What if she makes the same mistakes she made with Denise? Is this her chance to make things right? The miracle of new life, along with God's healing touch, reminds all of them that it's always darkest just before the dawn.

About the Home to Heather Creek series: Before the Dawn is the first book in the Home to Heather Creek series. Charlotte Stevenson is raising her grandchildren on the family farm after a tragic accident changes all of their lives forever. With the help of her husband Bob and a close-knit circle of friends, she will do whatever it takes to keep this fragile family together. See how God, who makes the sun rise and the crops grow, watches over our lives too.

Review:

 Before the Dawn is book one in the Home to Heather Creek Series.  In this book, Bob and Charlotte Stevenson’s world is turned upside down.  Their daughter, Denise, had run away several years ago, very rarely keeping contact.  Suddenly, she is killed in a car accident, and Bob and Charlotte must go to California, not only for the funeral, but to get their three grandchildren.  Sam is the oldest, and very protective of his siblings.  Emily is a young teenager that dresses in a manner that seems inappropriate to her grandparents.  Christopher, the youngest, is just a sweet boy that wants everyone to be happy.  Not only do the children have to adjust to their mother being one, but they have to move from their home in California to their Grandparents’ farm in Nebraska.  Meanwhile, Charlotte is trying to adjust to having teenagers in the house again, while worrying about how to parent them properly so as not to push them away.

This was a very good story.  I really enjoyed Charlotte’s character.  She tried so hard to put on a happy face and didn’t want anyone to know that she was suffering over the loss of her daughter.  But by doing this, she didn’t realize she was pushing her grandchildren away.  Her character really developed throughout the course of the story, in a good way.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Veronica Roth's Divergent ~ Reviewed


By Veronica Roth
May 2011
Katherine Tegen Books
978-0062024022

Back Cover Copy:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My Review:

Want to know why I bought this book? It was on the end-cap at the bookstore. It wasn’t Hunger Games. The movie is coming out in March so I’d actually have a chance to finish reading it before seeing it…one of my life rules. Plus, the bright reddish-orange against a dark backdrop caught my eye.

So I thought, what the heck? Without even reading the back cover copy, I toodled home with Divergent and tossed it on my TBR pile, having no expectations whatsoever.

The first fourth is a bit tedious. Half-way through, it picks up speed. By the end, you’ll be like, “BRING IT!”

What’s the pull? Two things. The heroine, Beatrice, aka Tris, is a survivor.  She’s smart, adaptable, and just like the rest of the human race, struggles with a sometimes lack of confidence and fear. Occasionally she rides the rail and tips over onto the arrogant side of things, but overall, she’s a heroine you’ll root for.

Four is the other reason. No, I haven’t lost my ability to count, though my checkbook would say otherwise. Four is the hero’s name. I won’t tell you why he’s called that, or even what his real name is, because that would spoil the fun. You’ll have to trust me that it’s satisfying when you do find out. Four is a mixture of brute violence and compassion, innocence and intelligence. He’s a hero you’d want to have on your side when times get tough.

Divergent is labeled as young adult, but I honestly wouldn’t give it to a teenager…well, maybe an older one. They might come away with wanting to get a tattoo and/or give hopping on a moving train a try. Plus the violence is pretty off the charts. If you like Dystopians, go ahead and toss this one on the top of your TBR pile, just do it before March 2014. That’s when the movie comes out.

Will I read the next 2 in the series? Yep.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mark McClelland's Upload ~ Reviewed

  • Upload
  • Mark McClelland
  • Category: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
  • Published:Sep 28, 2012
  • Publisher: Lulu.com
  • Seller: Lulu Enterprises, Inc.
  • Print Length: 484 Pages

Back Cover:
His criminal past catching up with him, a troubled young man seeks escape into digital utopia by uploading his consciousness into a computer -- just as first love casts his life in a new light. In this thrilling near-future science-fiction novel, Mark McClelland explores the immense potential of computer-based consciousness and the philosophical perils of simulated society.

Review:
Mark McClelland’s Upload is a troubling, difficult novel. The protagonist is by no standards a hero, and the world he lives in is both probable and disturbing. Set in 2060, the story focuses on a lab working to successfully upload organic consciousness into the digital world. Raymond Quan, the novel’s focus, is a brilliant, self-contained man with a dark past and a self-serving outlook. Attempting to escape from a messy world into the digital paradise he has designed, Raymond wants to prematurely upload his own consciousness and has no problem manipulating and using others in the process.
The story is split into two parts, however. The first deals with Raymond’s meticulous planning and execution, up until the moment of his uploading. The reader gets to know the character in all his flaws: his pride, selfishness, and cruelty. They watch while he heartlessly chooses his own happiness over the needs and desires of others. However, the book’s second half deals with Raymond’s realization of his own evilness. Placed into a world he expected to be utopia, Raymond recognizes the darkness of the creator through his creation. Faced with his innate vileness, Raymond is forced to make a decision: continue pleasing himself and gratifying his own desires, or become a part of something greater?
While this novel posed some interesting ideas, it was a very uncomfortable read. Sort of like Lord of the Flies with nudity. Not that the language or sexual content was out of control in Upload; rather the world and characters themselves lacked the innocence of the children in William Golding’s novel. Reader should brace themselves for a story that is a little too realistic to be comfortable, and complicated questions that won’t be easily answered.

Reviewed by: Shea Nolan

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kathleen Y'Barbo's Millie's Treasure ~ Reviewed


Millie's Treasure (Secret Lives Of Will Tucker V2)
By Kathleen Y'Barbo
Pages 333
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jun 1, 2013
Publisher Harvest House Publishers
Series Secret Lives Of Will Tucker
ISBN 0736952136


Description

From bestselling author Kathleen Y'Barbo comes Millie's Treasure, the second book in The Secret Lives of Will Tucker series, a new set of novels involving romance, adventure, and hidden identity.
Memphis 1890--Bookish heiress Millie Jean Cope is as clever as she is beautiful. Unfortunately, though adept at solving puzzles and cryptograms, she doesn't realize her new fianc? isn't who he claims to be, but instead is a charming scoundrel. The infamous Will Tucker is presenting himself as a British gentleman, Sir William Trueck, though in reality he is a crafty criminal looking for a hidden map to a secret treasure.
Pinkerton agent Kyle Russell has been on Tucker's trail for years. At last Kyle believes he has Tucker cornered, but he is uncertain whether the lovely woman on the con man's arm is an unsuspecting victim or willing accomplice. Finding reasons to spend time with Millie is easy. Keeping himself from falling in love with her is another issue entirely.
A fun and entertaining story of how God can shine the light of truth on the most cryptic circumstances. 

Review:

Millie’s Treasure is book two in the series, “The Secret Lives of Will Tucker.”  Pinkerton agent Kyle Russell picks up where his former partner, Logan, left off in book one.  Will Tucker was put away but has escaped prison, and is still on the loose, stealing from innocent women.  In the midst of his search, he meets a young woman named Millie, who happens to be engaged to Will ‘Trueck,’, also known as Will Tucker.  However, she is only engaged for convenience, not for love.  Kyle and Millie happen to meet one evening before her wedding, and find that they are attracted to one another.   However, many complications arise that come between them and could possibly keep them apart for good.
      
    I was surprised when I started reading to find that the Will Tucker story continued.  Yet I was glad.  I think I loved this one better than book one.  It flowed nice and kept me interested.  Other twists and turns in the story made it really interesting.  If you liked book one, you’ll love book two!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lisa Wingate's The Prayer Box ~ Reviewed

The Prayer Box
Lisa Wingate
Pages 386
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN 1414386885




Description

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola's rambling Victorian house.Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola's walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola's youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper--the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

Review:

Over years of reviewing I've gotten a little more critical and a little less impressed with basic word weaving. I hate to admit this, it makes me feel jaded because writing is hard work and any person who puts the effort into creating the best book they can and seeing it through the difficult editing and publishing process should be celebrated. But not every tale resonates with me, not every author has a magic touch that pulls me into a story. And I know opinions are so subjective and my definition may not be yours. However, I'm talking about books that get me so let me share my thoughts further. Every once in a while I pick up a book, crack the cover and read the first paragraph, then eagerly read the next, and I find myself falling into a story that pulls at me and touches my soul. When this happens, I slow down and savor the journey I was blessed to travel between the title page and the end. A sigh of contentment comes as I close the cover for the final time.

I gravitate to authors who possess the magical ability to tell a good story with vibrant characters and poetic prose. Not everyone will agree with my definition of perfect. Some folks don't need or want depth, they want escapism and entertainment. But I crave beauty in my fiction, and characters I love to hate, hate to love, cheer for, almost even consider praying for because they become so real to me.

The Prayer Box was a pleasure to read. From the first paragraph I relished this novel. There is a poignant, underlying melancholy in Tandi's story. A wistful hope of something she could not define that was missing from her life, and in her brokenness she travels to childhood stomping grounds to find it. Tandi's life is a mess, and this is fiction that probably won't pass the standards of those who expect specific Christian conversion moments or inspirational cleanliness. The struggles in Tandi's world are too real and too challenging to be a pure read. However, those who want honesty tossed in with hope should find much to like in this novel. This novel might move a little slow for some, too, but I love a languid read and this style fit perfectly in a town crushed by a hurricane, and a woman crushed by loving the wrong people and finding solace in pills.

Many descriptions feel like works of art. The driving needs and emotions of the characters are often poignant and painful. The spiritual hungers and simple answers are realistic and the balm that comes from the hope Tandi finds in the creaky, ancient home of a dead woman is touching.

The Prayer Box would be a perfect book to tackle in January. January, when we all have fresh green tendrils of hope that we will make different choices and changes in our lives. That this will be the year we let go of something that holds on tight to our hearts or souls or bodies. Or this year will be when we stand up for ourselves or put our voice out there for the world to hear. Tandi has so much that has gone wrong in her life. And hope is very often a terrifying thing because it kind of demands that we step out in faith.

Fiction is a story. There is no real, brave Tandi outside of the character so well written. But, sometimes, a story can create a catalyst to do one thing differently and that one thing can open the door for another and that small flame of absolute truth about the human character and our very big and good God can ignite in a real life person. I believe that's why Jesus used story. And why the Bible contains so many stories. When God gets hold of the raw clay of a human life, watch out, people are changed and changed people change the world in wide reaching ripples.

I recommend this book, one of the best I've read in quite a while.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ginny Yttrup's Invisible ~ Reviewed


Invisible
By Ginny L. Yttrup
Pages 352
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jan 1, 2013
Publisher Broadman And Holman
ISBN 1433671689




Description:
Ellyn DeMoss -- chef, cafe owner, and lover of butter -- is hiding behind her extra weight. But what is she hiding? While Ellyn sees the good in others, she has only condemnation for herself. So when a handsome widower claims he's attracted to Ellyn, she's certain there's something wrong with him. Sabina Jackson -- tall, slender, and exotic -- left her husband, young adult daughters, and a thriving counseling practice to spend a year in Northern California where she says she's come to heal. But it seems to Ellyn that Sabina's doing more hiding than healing. What's she hiding from? Is it God? Twila Boaz has come out of hiding and is working to gain back the pounds she lost when her only goal was to disappear. When her eating disorder is triggered again, though she longs to hide, she instead follows God and fights for her own survival. But will she succeed? As these women's lives intertwine, their eyes open to the glory within each of them as they begin to recognize themselves as being created in God's image. 

Review:

Invisible by Ginny Yttrup, makes my Top Ten for 2013 list and my Top Ten of All Time. Yttrup employs a light hand and humor to impart heavy truths. Normally, I read to be entertained. With Invisible, when I least expected it, I was touched and changed. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. This is a book everyone needs to read. 

Reviewed: Ane Mulligan, President, Novel Rocket

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Sandra D. Bricker's Merry Humbug Christmas ~ Reviewed



Merry Humbug Christmas: Two Tales of Holiday Romance
By Sandra D. Bricker
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Broadman And Holman
ISBN 1433680750



Description:
"A Merry Humbug Christmas" features two holiday romance novellas from hilarious and heartwarming author Sandra D. Bricker. -- the perfect gift to yourself or someone else at this most wonderfully stressful time of year. 
In "Once Upon a Jingle Bell," A "Bah Humbug" cruise to the Mexican Riviera is Joss Snow's answer to this year's quest to avoid the holidays completely; at least until she's rebooked on a different kind of cruise altogether. Candy canes, holly wreaths, reindeer and ornaments seem to be stalking her on the "12 Days of Christmas "holiday cruise extravaganza. An escape back to land is her only goal . . . until she meets a kindred spirit in rugged Irishman Patrick Brenneman, and then the game is on Avoid Christmas festivities at all costs . . . except maybe for that one stop under the mistletoe. 

In "It Came Upon a Midnight Deer," Reese's guilt over abandoning best friend Joss on their holiday tradition of avoiding all things Christmas is trumped by the joy of her recent engagement. Meeting Damian's family for the first time on idyllic Sugarloaf Mountain is about as far from that "Bah Humbug" cruise as she can get, and Reese can hardly wait to get there. But from the moment they hit that deer in the road just two miles from the cabin, everything seems to go wrong. There are no drummers drumming or pipers piping this particular year And once she sets her future in-laws' family cabin ablaze, she's pretty sure there won't be even ONE golden ring in her future.

Review:

I will never sing the Twelve Days of Christmas again without thinking of Sandra D. Bricker! Merry Humbug Christmas has got to be the most endearing set of stories I’ve read in quite some time.  Yes, I said a set of stories – two to be exact.  The first story features Joss Snow’s adventures in the Mexican Riviera as she attempts to avoid the Christmas Holidays.  From Connie Rudolph and Caroline Denture to the Jenkins Von Trap family and Patrick Brenneman, Joss’ world receives an unexpected and total makeover when her Humbug Cruise is cancelled and she winds up on the 12 Days of Christmas Fun Cruise.  Only Sandra Bricker could place her readers squarely in the midst of such an exciting, life-transforming adventure!  Yes, it’s tons of fun, but real-life issues are presented and dealt with along the way, and they resolve realistically and with great satisfaction.
The second story centers around Dr. Reese Pendergrass as she breaks from tradition and spends the holiday with her fiancĂ©e instead of her best friend Joss Snow.  Life changes tend to disrupt traditions, and Reese’s introduction into Damion’s family brings about a few disruptions of its own!  Again, Bricker’s humor keeps the momentum building, and deposits her fans into a thoughtful, romantic and satisfying ending.  Truly, Sandra Bricker will make a romance fan out of the most Humbug of hearts! 

Reviewed by: Kim Ford

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Cynthia Ruchti's When the Morning Glory Blooms ~ Reviewed



When The Morning Glory Blooms 
By Cynthia Ruchti
Pages 351
Binding Softcover
Release Date Feb 1, 2013
Publisher Abingdon Press
ISBN 142673543X


Description:

Becky rocks a baby that rocked her world. Sixty years earlier, with her fiance Drew in the middle of the Korean Conflict, Ivy throws herself into her work at a nursing home to keep her sanity and provide for the child Drew doesn't know is coming. Ivy cares for Anna, an elderly patient who taxes Ivy's listening ear until the day she suspects Anna's tall tales are not the ramblings of dementia. They're fragments of Anna's disjointed memories of a remarkable life. Finding a faint thread of hope she can't resist tugging, Ivy records Anna's memoir, scribbling furiously after hours to keep up with the woman's emotion-packed, grace-hemmed stories. Is Ivy's answer buried in Anna's past? Becky, Ivy, Anna--three women fight a tangled vine of deception in search of the blossoming simplicity of truth.

Review:

When the Morning Glory Blooms revolves around the stories of three women from three different eras with a common bond.  Becky is struggling to keep her family together after her teenage daughter has a baby and isn’t taking the responsibility for it.  60 years earlier, we follow the story of Ivy, whose fiancĂ© leaves to fight in the Korean Conflict.  Ivy finds herself alone and pregnant, but finds a friend in Anna, an elderly patient at the nursing home Ivy works at.  We also follow the story of Anna, who tells stories of her life in the 1890’s, which give Ivy hope that her life will get better.
        I LOVED this book.  It jumped back and forth between the lives of all three women frequently, yet I was never confused or thrown off.  It was very well written, and each of the stories kept me on my toes, wondering what was going to happen next.  And I loved the way the author tied all of the stories together.  I would definitely recommend this book, and I would read it again.
Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Anita Higman's Marriage in Middlebury ~ Reviewed






Marriage In Middlebury 
By Anita Higman
Pages 304
Binding Softcover
Release Date Nov 5, 2013
Publisher Abingdon Press
ISBN 1426733879

Description:
Charlotte Rose Hill has been serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky but beloved customers for more than 10 years. But for her, marriage seems like an elusive butterfly, always out of reach. At 18, Charlotte fell in love with a young man, Sam Wilder, but his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. She did, and then became engaged to another man, who later died before they were married. Now, more than a decade later, Charlotte finds that she still has feelings for her first love. Initially thrilled to learn that Sam has come home to Middlebury, Texas, Charlotte is devastated to learn that he s brought someone with him: his fiancee. But all is not lost when the townsfolk decide to get involved. Will Charlotte and Sam find their way back to each other?

Review:

A Marriage in Middlebury tells the story of Charlotte Rose Hill.  She lives in a small town, and is loved by everyone.  She is the owner of Rose Hill Tea Room, and takes pride in knowing her customers enough to make them their own special blends of tea.  She is content, but when she hears that her high school sweetheart is returning to town after being gone for nearly 20 years, she’s not sure what to think.  In the meantime, Sam Wilder has come back to Middlebury due to the failing health of his father.  He seeks Charlotte out right away, but only to tell her of his engagement to a woman named Audrey, who ironically, ends up asking Charlotte to cater their wedding.  Though Sam and Charlotte try to fight it, it becomes obvious to everyone around them that they still have feelings for each other.


This was a very nice, light hearted book.  I sympathized with Charlotte’s character.  I got married later than most, and can remember feeling like I would never be married and would always be alone.  I was definitely rooting for her through the whole book.  And I really liked the ending, and how everything worked out for everyone!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Bonus Review: 

I’m thankful for the review copy that introduced me to a sweet quaint town called Middlebury where arrays of colorful and fun people live.  I also enjoyed reading about Charlotte Hill owner of The Rose Hill Cottage. It’s a tea house filled with teas of all kinds, a beautiful atmosphere and a restaurant filled with love. It’s a place I’d like to go in person and felt like I was virtually there by reading this novel. “Charlotte felt that this cottage was a sanctuary for her and for all of Middlebury.”

It’s a place where everyone knows your name and your business. Grin! It reminded me of the Andy Griffith show and their town of Mayberry. Alls well in Middlebury until Sam brings his bride to be Audrey, back to this hometown to live. Charlotte thought she had forgotten her first love and their plans to be married until she sees Audrey and Sam Wilder together.

“Charlotte reached for her apron to feel the river stone, something she’d kept…It was a reminder of smooth things in life that brought delight and in the hard times – those potentially sanctifying moments that tumbled off rough edges and turned humans into real people. Poor Edith was being tumbled and so was she.”

Middlebury was a town full of fun loving hard working people. The cast of characters were fun to hang out with and most frequented The Rose Hill Cottage. My heart went out to young Obdie. He has it rough and when things get scary he hides in a decorated outhouse in Charlottes’ garden in back of the tea house. He pretends it’s a time machine, fun!

Meredith an antique shop owner whose nickname was cricket says, “I’ve had the nickname all my life. As you know crickets are noisy and pesky, but in some parts of the world they’re considered the most delightful creatures.”

Meredith reminded me of Aunt Bea in Mulberry. She loved everyone, up in their business and loved match-making.  She made me smile, and laugh as she also had a conscious that got the better of her match making plans!

Then there’s Audrey who’s new in town. She’s from a big city and doesn’t get this small town thing. Audrey says, “Maybe I am jealous…of how treasured Charlotte is by everyone who meets her. I don’t get it. How does one person become so beloved by so many people? A champion to widows and orphans.  I’ll bet she even befriends every stray dog in town.”

Charlotte has been asked to cater Sam and Audrey’s wedding.  It’s hard on all of them. Audrey hadn’t a clue how serious Sam’s relationship with Charlotte was when she asked her services. It’s uncomfortable for them all. It makes for fun feel good reading.

“Everything we do, every tiny or big choice we make follows us into our future.”

That’s the theme of this book wrapped together with fun loving quirky characters that have clothed themselves in God’s love and naturally and honestly apply his principles for themselves. It’s not preachy but real.

This story has a predictable yet surprising ending that will definitely satisfy.  Millbury and the tea house are places I’d like to go and hang out with the people that go there. This story shows a fun humorous side to this authors writing I loved.  It’s a great book club pick because there is so much in there to talk about. The main focus is not just on Sam and Audrey. She lets each group shine and fits them neatly together for great fun. The characters and their situations will make you laugh out loud in parts. Every time you think of Millbury and The Rose Hill tea house it will bring a smile to your face I highly recommend this book for book club and for your enjoyment.

Reviewed: Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Katherine Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley ~ Reviewed



Dear Mr Knightley 
By Katherine Reay 
Pages 336
Binding Softcover
Release Date Nov 5, 2013
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 140168968X


Description:


Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others--namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story--by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam's dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it's straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay's debut novel follows one young woman's journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

Review:

Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly follow’s Samantha Moore’s struggle to create the life she wants for herself. After failing to make it on her own, Sam is forced to return to Grace House, the charity that took her in as a child, and ask for help once more – something she swore she would never do. Through Grace House, she is given the opportunity to go to grad school and achieve what she perceives to be a “normal life.” However, the grant comes with one string attached: Sam must write letters to the head of the foundation and keep him updated on her progress. For her comfort, he decides to keep it all anonymous, giving her a pseudonym and promising to never reply to her letters. Told through Sam’s correspondence, Dear Mr. Knightly chronicles Sam’s attempt to achieve her dreams.

I absolutely loved this book! It started slowly, but the hesitant way the narrative unfolded is totally natural to Sam’s guarded personality. As the plot progressed, I watched Sam struggle and fail, only to come to a place of total honesty that allowed her to start over again with fresh hope. Through defeat, disappointment, grace, and tough love, Sam shed her carefully constructed exterior and opened up to the people around her. As she learned how to be vulnerable with others, Sam found a way to be comfortable with her own voice and write with an honesty that had always eluded her. Though the story doesn’t end with a perfectly tied bow, Sam has grown enough to be secure in herself, even when facing a revelation that would previously have sent her burrowing deeper behind her protective walls. Watching Sam unfold throughout the novel was an absolute joy, and I can’t wait to give Dear Mr. Knightly a second read.

Reviewed by: Shea Nolan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lynette Sowell's Tempests Course ~ Reviewed


Tempests Course (Quilts Of Love)
By Lynette Sowell
Pages   240 
Release Date   Dec 1, 2013 
Publisher   Abingdon Press 
Series  Quilts Of Love   
ISBN  1426752768  


Description

Kelly Frost, a textiles conservator, is invited to the Massachusetts coastal town of Fairhaven to restore the centuries-old Mariner's Compass quilt. But there is one stipulation: she must live and work in Grey House, a former whaling captain's home, where the quilt is stored. There she meets Tom Pereira, the caretaker of Grey House, whose heart seems as hard as the rocky Massachusetts coastline. Over the long-lit months as Kelly works to restore the quilt, she is buoyed by occasional afternoon visits from Tom and other Fairhaven town members, and is drawn into their lives. And each night, as she reads stories in a daily journal penned by Mary Grey, she learns details about her newfound community members that help her see that their lives are as vivid and interwoven as the quilt pieces she is working to restore. But, when Kelly discovers a truth about Tom's heritage hidden in the journal, she must decide if keeping the past to herself is the only way to ensure the hope of a future with Tom.

Review: 


Tempest’s Course is another book in the Quilts of Love Series. This story revolves around Kelly Frost, a textiles conservator, who is invited to a small town in Massachusetts to restore a quilt that is over one hundred years old. In order to get the job, she has to agree to live in the Grey House, where the original maker of the quilt resided back in the 1800’s. In the meantime, she meets Tom Silva, who is the caretaker of the home’s yard. In the midst of working hard to restore a quilt that’s falling apart, as well as getting to know Tom better, she discovers the diary of the woman who made the quilt. As time goes on, more and more mysteries are revealed about the home and the quilt.

This was a great book. In fact, I read it in two days! It had just enough suspense to keep you reading to find out what was going to happen next. I found myself admiring Kelly’s character. I never thought about the work it goes in to restoring old quilts and tapestries.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Michael Landon Jr's and Cindy Kelley's Traces of Mercy~ Reviewed


Traces Of Mercy (Mercy Medallion Trilogy V1)
By Jr. Landon Michael (Author) & Cindy Kelley (Author)
Binding Softcover
Release Date Oct 1, 2013
Publisher David C. Cook
ISBN 0781408695
Description

From Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley, authors of "The Silent Gift" and creators of the hit television film "Love Comes Softly," comes an exciting historical romance set in post-Civil War, and filled with suspense and faith-building values. At the war's end, a young woman suffers an accident that leaves her unconscious and alone. Waking with amnesia, she takes the name Mercy and wants more than anything to find out the truth of her past. But then a handsome stranger arrives, who may hold the key to everything she has forgotten. What he knows could devastate her future, and even end her life. Written by two proven storytellers, "Traces of Mercy" is perfect for anyone who loves historical fiction, prairie-based tales, or just a good romance.

Review:

Traces of Mercy is takes place during the Civil War.  We are introduced to a young woman who has been in an accident and can’t remember who she is or where she came from.  She is nursed to health by kind doctor and taken in by an order of nuns.  With no name to speak of, the nuns call her Mercy.  In the meantime, she is introduced by the town’s eligible bachelor, Rand.  They begin to have feelings for each other, but Mercy is hesitant as she is afraid that one day she will remember that she is not free to marry him.  Eventually, they do become engaged, but before they can proceed with the wedding, someone from Mercy’s past shows up and tells her who she is.  When she decides to flee to spare Rand, things get more complicated than she expected.

This was a very good book, and as I came to the end, I was saddened to see that it ended with a cliffhanger, meaning I have to wait for another book to find out what happens next!  I really enjoyed it.  This is one of my favorite time periods to read about.  I’m looking forward to book two!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jessica Dotta's Born of Persuasion ~ Reviewed


By Jessica Dotta
Published by Tyndall
ISBN#978-1-4143-7555-7
427 Pages

Back Cover:  The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Review:

All right. I’ll admit it. I LOVE the villain in Born of Persuasion. Mr. Macy is the most suave and endearing creepy character I’ve ever met…hence my honorary title of President of the Macy Fan Club. No, really. When you’ve finished reading the book, check the acknowledgements.

Author Jessica Dotta has penned quite a memorable novel debut—not a light and fluffy read. The writing is exquisite, with danger and intrigue shadowing every scene. A strong undercurrent of who to believe and what to believe runs throughout. This is the kind of book to curl up with on a dark, windy evening with a cup of tea and candlelight.

Julia is the heroine. Sometimes you’ll ache for her, other times you’ll want to shake some sense into her. Either way, she will evoke emotion in you. Hers is a haunting story, sad and forlorn, yet glimpses of love and hope are sprinkled in at times.

Other characters step directly off the pages of an Austen novel or appear to be from Downton Abbey. Nancy, the say-it-like-it-is lady’s maid. Mrs. Windham, a Mrs. Bennett wannabe. Lady Foxmore, conniving and underhanded. All of them are an unforgettable cast. The settings are just as spectacular, think Bleak House mixed with Jane Eyre.

Do not expect all your questions to be satisfactorily answered by the end of this first book. In fact, you’ll likely have just as many questions as when you start—which will make it all the more exciting to devour books 2 and 3 when they come out. This is a series that has earned a permanent place on my bookshelves. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Bonus Review:  I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that plunged me into the middle of the Victorian Era and captivated my mind, and emotions. I agonized with main character Julia Elliston’s challenge. Her world turned upside down by the death of her mother. “She is orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands and/or guardians, Julia would soon discover she is at the mercy of an anonymous guardian, one who planed to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.”

 Julie goes to Am Meer to be with her Aunt and cousin. The only family she had. There she meets a woman who’s a match maker. She tells Julie she can find her a husband before she’s shipped off to Scotland for a nice price, decisions, decisions.

I hung on every word as the drama unfolded for the reader at the same time the main character learned her fate. Just when I thought I had things figured out the tale would morph into something I hadn’t expected. I was drawn into this authors’ world through her writing style, description, and emotion, I lost all track of time.

Julie thinks after she arrives at Am Meer, “Secrets I had kept. Lies I had told. All to protect two people who had ended up betraying me in every possible manner. My very flesh recoiled at the thought of being considered a frivolous youth, and it wrought a change in my countenance.

You gravely mistake me, then.” I said in a hard voice, ready to gather my shirts and leave.” Later on in the story Julie says,

“…I realized how much we’d lost over a simple misunderstanding. I have found that those who try to shield us from the truth, regardless of the reason, end up doing the greatest harm. Truth alone sets you free, not lies and omissions.”

I was hooked from the first page, you will be too. It says, “Later, when I allowed myself to confront the memories, to dwell on the particulars, I realized my arrival at Am Meer marked the beginning.

Not the mysterious letter that drained the life from Mama. Not her suicide….For those happenings were not my story. I was sinless there. They were the end result of events set in motion long before I arrived at the cottage. I could no more have stopped their unfolding than I could have prevented my own birth.”

This book is absolutely entertaining and brilliantly written, with lovable flawed characters. Full of witty dialogue that opened windows into a world of intriguing mystery as this author explores love, faith and honor. Jane Austen fans will love this instant classic that dropped me into all the richness of the Victorian Era. I highly recommend this book for a great read and it’s a definitely book club pick. You’ll have to leave extra time to talk about all the drama inside these pages. Jessica Dotta’s debut novel is a must read and this author is one to watch.

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

Yet Another: 

Jessica Dotta has clearly invested heart and soul into her debut novel. The historical richness shines through her skill as a storyteller giving me a peek into a very different time and place. A place when women were at the mercy of the men in their lives. A time when a young girl could find herself without resources, a future, kindness or hope. 

Julia finds herself exactly there. Her mother has died and Julia carries a horrible secret about her mother's death. A guardian has stepped in, but anonymously, and with plans for her to away to Scotland to serve as a hired hand. Julia had other plans for her future that included the handsome young Edward who's parents could not consider her as a worthy match. As Julia discovers she can possibly have one more chance to claim his heart she finds that he has betrayed her by becoming a clergyman. Her father had been anti-religion and anti-God. Julia can't marry a man of the cloth. And Edward, knowing full well that she won't embrace his God won't have her after all. 

A dashing wealthy man offers protection to Julia and a way for her to avoid Scotland. But at what cost?

As Julia agonizes over the choice she must make, and make quickly as her departure to Scotland looms, pieces of a very bizarre puzzle began to fall all about her. Each decision she ponders and ultimately makes ends up turning over more pieces until she has no hope of picking one that won't leave her in a difficult situation and might very harm the very few dear ones she has left in her life. 

Dotta's writing is an artist's brush and with it she paints murals. I think she works in oils because the work is pungent with realism and all sense awakening descriptions. A heavy melancholy hangs over the work like an anemic British sun that fights to bring light through the shroud of doom. Those who love the works of the greats of the time period such as Austen should find much to love in this novel. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jan Watson's Tattler's Branch ~ Reviewed



TATTLER’S BRANCH 
Jan Watson
Binding  Softcover 
Release Date   Sep 15, 2013 
Publisher   Tyndale House Publishers 
ISBN  1414339151

Description:

Lilly Corbett Still has grown to love her life as the small-town doctor of Skip Rock, a tiny coal community in the Kentucky mountains. Though her husband, Tern, is away for a few months at a mining job, Lilly has her hands full with her patients and her younger sister visiting for the summer.Lilly turns to her good friend and neighbor, Armina, to help keep things in order--until a mysterious chain of events leaves Armina bedridden and an abandoned baby on her doorstep. Lilly works to uncover the truth, unaware of what a mess she's found herself in until a break-in at her clinic puts her on high alert. As she struggles between what is right and what is safe, Lilly must discover the strength of her resilient country neighbors, her God, and herself.


Review:

Tatler’s Branch follows a young doctor, Lilly Corbett Still. She is the doctor for the small town of Skip Rock, a small coal mining community in Kentucky. Her husband, Tern, is a doctor as well, but travels frequently to different mining towns. She is keeping herself busy with her patients and friends, as well as her sister, who is visiting her for the summer. Everything seems to be running smoothly until her good friend, Armina, is discovered ill and unable to move in her home, with no memory of what happened. To make matters more complicated, she is found with a baby that is not hers. As the story unfolds, we learn more about the turn of events that led to her memory loss and the baby.

This was a nice story. I believe it is the second book in a series, so I wish I had read the first one to get some of the back story, but I didn’t have a difficult time following this one. It was an enjoyable storyline and as always, I loved the time period. I would very much like to read the first book in the series to see how Lilly got to where she was in this book.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tessa Afshar's Harvest of Gold ~ Reviewed


Harvest of Gold: (Book 2)
By Tessa Afshar
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Moody Publishing
Edition New
ISBN 0802405592 
 
Description: 
The scribe Sarah married Darius, and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage-Sarah has grown to love her husband. Sarah has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband’s love still seems unattainable.
Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother’s people. Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life-and even in his marriage?
A hidden message, treachery, opposition, and a God-given success, will lead to an unlikely bounty.
Review:
Tessa Afshar has taken my breath away with the beauty and depth of her latest novel, Harvest of Gold. Continuing the story of Sarah and Darius, whose marriage got off to such a rocky beginning in Harvest of Rubies, Tessa parallels their marriage journey with the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the direction of Sarah’s cousin, Nehemiah.  Tessa peels back the layers of Biblical history to provide a fascinating account of the fate of Jerusalem and her people as they struggle to take back what they lost following the destruction of their city. As fear and strife interfere with Nehemiah’s progress, Darius and Sarah experience the same damaging effects in their own marriage. While Darius has come to value his Jewish wife he cannot return her deep love and devotion, which wears on Sarah and leads to unspeakable heartache for them both. Tessa exposes the frailty of Darius’ heart, an otherwise courageous, honourable, and compassionate man, penning some tender and evocative scenes between husband and wife. This is a gripping story of loss, love, and forgiveness with many an arresting moment that caused me to think deeply about my own marriage as well as my devotion to God. Despite the serious subject matter, Tessa infuses the tale with tender romance and light-hearted humour. Minor characters, Lysander and Roxanna, stole many of their scenes and would suit a story of their own! Harvest of Gold is simply captivating and I recommend it not only for the beautiful storytelling but also for the incisive lessons to be learned. Tessa has cemented her place as one of my most favourite authors.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet