Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ace Collins's A Date with Death ~ Reviewed

By Ace Collins
Published by Elk Lake Publishing
144 Pages

Back Cover: Helen Meeker is back and has less than thirty days to stop the execution of an innocent pastor who has unbelievably confessed to being a Nazi spy. While on a case that has dynamic implications to uncovering an espionage ring operating on American and British soil, Helen defuses a hostage crisis in a bank robbery gone wrong, unearths an explosive coffin, and is introduced to a dead English hero who seems very much alive. The fate of an innocent girl and the world’s two most dynamic leaders depend upon Helen’s connecting cases before Wilbur Shellmeyer faces a firing squad, and Churchill and Roosevelt meet for a secret conference in upstate New York.

Set against the backdrop of the early days of World War II, A Date with Death combines action, adventure, mystery, and romance in a tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until they, like Helen Meeker, answer the question, “Do I save the leader of the free world or an innocent man scheduled to die to protect someone he loves?” Which life is more important?

Though the answer to this question will be revealed at the end of A Date with Death, Helen’s action and adventure will continue at a break-neck pace throughout the “In the President’s Service Series,” as she takes on new challenges and dangers.
Purchase the eBooks each month here!

Review: This author drops readers into 1941 reminiscing about times past and how a nation survived the attack on Pearl Harbor intertwined with Helen Meekers’ Mission Impossible. I was first introduced to Helen Meeker in the novel Yellow Packard.  It was a great story that evolved around a car called the Yellow Packard and introduced Agent Helen Meeker FBI Agent. She’s a smart, determined woman that won’t quit until all clues are searched and she gets the person she’s seeking.

I was thrilled to receive a review copy from The Book Club Network of Ace Collins new series In the Presidents Service that continued the adventures of Helen Meeker now special assistant to the President! I like Helen Meeker because she’s a gutsy women working in a man’s field. They didn’t think she could make it. “Women don’t have the stomach for real law-enforcement work. Never have, never will.” Johnson groaned.

Agent Meeker was there to get the job done and prove these guys wrong. She wasn’t afraid to get what she needed and do whatever it took to track down information and save lives. She’d show them she was more than a pretty face. Helen enjoyed her varied assignments the president had for her except one, being an escort to visitors from other countries. The clock was ticking down to the execution of an innocent man, Wilbur Shellmeyer a Lutheran minister confessed, “Why would a man want to die for something he didn’t do?” she’d get to the bottom of this, but she’d need the help of her x-partner Henry Reece. Miss Meeker wasn’t a patient woman. She’d forget protocol and figure out a way to get Henry’s help NOW- she had on time to waste.

Helen liked working directly with FDR and she never got tired of meeting in the oval office. “It was like no other room in the world. It was the heart beat of the nation…. “Normal had stopped with Pearl Harbor. Everyday had different demands and goals; with an ever changing schedule.” That’s what made her job challenging.

Finding Hope book club spoke to Ace Collins on speaker phone at our meeting a few months back. We learned so much from talking to him. It made reading the Yellow Packard a richer reading experience. I recommend this book and the series for your book club

Men and women would enjoy this suspenseful story based in a time period that rocked the world. It includes a splash of romance, sprinkled with a dash of tongue and cheek humor! It’s a winning combination.

. Ace has a perfectly timed ending to this fast paced adventure story. I know the next novel will take me on another page-turning adventure with agent Helen Meeker as she fights for justice. Can’t wait!

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Julie Lessman's Dare to Love Again ~ Reviewed

The Heart of San Francisco Book #2
By Julie Lessman
January 2014
ISBN 0800721667

Spunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast, she quickly discovers she's no match for the unsavory characters that haunt the dark streets.

Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite self-defense, but it seems he has little choice. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But is he just a fraud like all the rest of the men Allison's cared for? Or is he the one who will let her dare to love again?

Looking for a sweet romance with a spunky heroine and a grumpy hero? This is the book for you. And don’t worry if you haven’t read Book #1 in the series yet, because I hadn’t either. Even so, I didn’t have a hard time getting into this story. I think this is written so that it could be a stand-alone if necessary.

My favorite character, surprisingly, was a secondary little superstar named Lottie. This young orphan is a scene stealer with her heart melting charm. Not only is she super cute, she’s integral to the story because she reveals information to the hero and heroine that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

As for main characters, Detective Nick Barone (long “e”) is particularly swoon worthy despite his gruff exterior. He takes out bad guys at the drop of hat.

The story takes place in early 1900 San Francisco. There’s a ton of history woven throughout, so if you weren’t paying attention in history class, you’ll find some redemption here.

DARE TO LOVE AGAIN is an easy read and a visit back to another time and place. . . which is exactly what I want to do this frigid winter. 

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep WriterOffTheLeash...Blogging Gone Wild

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nancy Zieman's Seams Unlikely ~ Reviewed

By Nancy Zieman and Marjorie L. Russell
Published by Glass Roads
301 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: Millions of women learned to sew while watching the inimitable Nancy Zieman on public television's, Sewing with Nancy. Many of them have Googled phrases like "stroke Nancy Zieman" in an effort to discover the reasons behind the partial paralysis of Nancy's beautiful face. Viewers purchased products Nancy used through Nancy's Notions, followed patterns she created for McCall's, and enjoyed meeting distinguished guests via the show.

Now, Nancy takes her viewers behind the scenes of her life. She shares about the Bell's palsy that not only affected her appearance, but also her esteem and physical abilities. Readers learn about the growth of Nancy professionally: from addressing catalogs at the kitchen table to growing a multi-million dollar notions business - and personally: marrying Rich, then growing a family through birth and adoption.

Through it all, the picture emerges of a hard-working woman who overcame various and varied obstacles to become what she is today: successful, skilled, gracious, and loved by millions of viewers. 

REVIEW: I’m so thankful for the review copy of a book that allowed me the opportunity to read about Nancy Zieman’s incredible life. I was hooked from the first paragraph. It starts out on Father’s day June 21, 1953. She states, “My mother, Barbara Larson Luedtke was ten months married, eight months pregnant, six months past her twenty first birthday and looking forward to a whole day away from the farm with my father – Ralph Luedtke.”

It is written in first person and the writing style had a Forest Gump sort of feel to it. I felt as if I were sitting down with Nancy Zieman and she was sharing a scrap book of her life with me.  It’s up-close, personal and inspirational. I loved that.

When my Aunt Rita and I decided we wanted to learn how to quilt we watched “Sewing with Nancy,” shows. We both liked how she taught. She was calm and patient and took things step by step. She made you feel like you could sew along with her and make the project she demonstrated. I’m glad Marjorie L. Russell; previous editor and freelance writer for the American Quilter magazine, was willing to work with Nancy and encouraged her to write a book about her experiences in sewing, life and her adventures in T.V. Believe me this is a book you won’t soon forget.

Nancy said this about her struggles, “My smile is crooked and I speak carefully in order to speak clearly. But beyond the physical effects, one of the major effects of Bell ’s Palsy is it’s assault on an individual’s confidence…my life is quite normal; I just happen to have a public job.”

It was interesting to read about her 4-H experience and how that group helped change her life. She found her passion and gifting there and it gave her training she’d use the rest of her life. “4-H members learned by doing she said. “My mom pushed me. Nancy, you need to do demonstrations. She knew I could put demonstrations together...I owe her a tremendous amount of gratitude.”

Nancy said, “I didn’t expect much of T.V. …my face was the main reason. Even though I had made huge strides in confidence since my teen years. I was still aware that my face was flawed… she said, "opportunities shouldn't be dismissed on the basis of fear....I kept reminding myself that I was a sewing teacher; appearing on T.V. would merely mean that I was teaching in front of several hundred people instead of thirty to sixty seminar attendees….there were also advantages of having a T. V. program I could promote Nancy’s Notions ....Even though I didn't have specific answers to my questions, I agreed to be on T.V.…Sewing with Nancy was born.”

I liked how this writing team brought in different people to make comments, say encouraging things or write about how they viewed a time period or situation they were talking about. For example, “Dean Luedtke Nancy’s brother said, “Growing up on a farm fosters a work ethic. If you don’t do something you’re responsible for doing it won’t get done;’ and if you do a lousy job, you’re the one who pays. You see the trials and tribulations, but you also get to see the glory of God in how plants grow and calves are born, and how things fit together in this world.” 

I was captivated by this inspiring, incredible journey though heartaches and triumphs, personal struggles with chronic pain, surgeries and life's surprises that didn't seem possible. It also was a walk through history of the sewing industry, a time before the World Wide Web came on the scene.

Nancy had a few more challenges to overcome than most. Her up-bringing on the farm and her time in the out-doors helped her have a fun and adventurous childhood. I like and respect Nancy Zieman even more since I’ve read her testimony. She’s captured a special place in my heart. I have a new found admiration for her and how she treats the people God puts in Nancy's life. I enjoyed reading about the tasks He laid before her, and how she took on challenges in prayer. I also liked learning about her family and her faith.

Nancy states, “I've said this before, “I was just the choir director – other people sang the music that got us recognition. Good employees are a company’s greatest asset. …There are things I feel strongly about, but I’m not a forceful in-your-face kind of person. I would much rather accomplish things quietly, diligently proving my point with kindness. Kindness goes a long way. “

Mike Schuster – Colleague says, “…..Nancy took risks to see what would happen and it was all done so humbly and with caring.”

I gleaned this all the way through my reading, about the challenges that came her way and how she didn't let fear stop her from facing them head on. She is a women of faith and walked out her passion humbly and with gratitude. God provided the people, tools and creativity for her to bloom and grow. It was encouraging to read.

I highly recommend this book to book clubs. There is so much to discuss. You can also bring in so many things to enhance your book club meetings with youtube videos to watch and places you could go on the web like Nancy’s Notions and/or a field trip to quilt stores etc. to create a great book club experience. Thanks Nancy for sharing your heart, your experiences and your passion. I’m forever grateful that you walked in a path that was uncomfortable but rewarding for so many.

Reviewed by: Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kathleen Bauer's Sweet September ~ Reviewed

Sweet September
Kathleen Bauer
Pages 246
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Ideals Publications
Series Home To Heather Creek
Series Number 2
ISBN 0824934253

OverviewAs tenuous family bonds threaten to break apart, a mystery on the farm might be the one thing that can restore the Stevensons' hope for the harvest. 

Harvest at Heather Creek Farm is an exciting time, but the children don't seem to be getting into the spirit. Emily is struggling with farm life, Christopher spends most of his time alone, and Sam is failing school. Charlotte is determined not to make the same mistakes she did with her own kids, but how can she get her grandchildren back on track? 

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is uprooted one night. Who could have done such a thing? Charlotte sets out to uncover the truth, and as the kids pull together to find answers, this cobbled-together family learns more about one another and the love that binds them together. 

About the Home to Heather Creek series: Sweet September is the second 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.


Sweet September is book two in the Home to Heather Creek Series.  It’s Harvest time at the farm during this story.  While the children have seemed to accept their “lot in life,” living at the farm, they still seem to be having trouble adjusting.  Emily is still having trouble getting used to farm life, Sam doesn’t care about school and is failing some of his classes and Christopher is finding things to do off by himself.  Throughout the book, different things begin to happen to bring the family closer together, from a thief in the vegetable garden to an unexpected new visitor.  As the story unfolds, the children seem to begin to find new things to appreciate about their new life.

I was glad that this storyline continued.  I really wanted to see the kids start adjusting to this new life, and realize how blessed they were to have grandparents that cared for them.  At the same time, it was also good to see them begin to take on responsibilities with better attitudes and appreciation for their surroundings.  I hope the story continues!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, February 14, 2014

Francine Rivers's Bridge to Haven ~ Reviewed

By Francine Rivers
Published by Tyndale
488 Pages

Back Cover: To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

Review: Francine Rivers is an author I make time to read no matter what I’m doing. I’m thankful for the review copy I received which says it’s a “re-imagined” prodigal son parable crafting this novel set in Iconio 1950’s Hollywood.”

I was quickly emotional invested in these characters from the start. Young Abra had more to overcome than most. My heart strings ached for her situation. “The circumstances surrounding her birth have etched scars deep in Abra’s heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking charmer who leads her to tinseltown.”

Friends try to speak into her life, “Guard your heart. It affects everything you do in this life.”

Abra replies, “I’ve been hurting my whole life. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t felt like I wasn’t enough.”

Her piano teacher pipes up to say, “I’ve never lied to you, and I never will. I know it’s your choice to believe me or not, but you’d better understand this: what you believe sets the course of your life.”

So, true. Abra was loved by imperfect people. She ran from everyone that loved her along with the only perfect lover of her soul. She’d show them she was somebody worth loving! (She tells herself) Abra finds out quickly nothing is free! Everything has a price. What price would she pay to seek fame and fortune? Would it be worth it in the long run?

I found hope and healing in Abra’s adventure. It drove home the aspect that we can’t save anyone, not even ourselves. That’s God’s job not ours. We can pray for them. Be an example and love them as Jesus would, but in the end they need to find their own way to a personal relationship with Him. This author shows how hard this is for both parties the prodigal and the family waiting for their return. Family and friends want to do more than pray. Instead they hold tight to listening to that still small voice that says for them to “wait on me; I will love them into my arms. Trust me. I created them.”

This story is a compelling drama that takes place in Hollywood when the movie moguls wanted to run their actors and actresses lives. They wanted total control of everything they said, wore and looked like.

It’s also a good one for your book club to read because a prodigal story has touched so many. There are great questions to get discussions rolling. There were parts of this book that were uncomfortable and hard to read but so worth pressing through. All were necessary to the plot just like in her book Redeeming Love.  I enjoyed the author notes where Francine shares why this book was hard for her to write. This is a book you won’t want to miss and won’t soon forget. It’s one that will make you think; give you courage and hope, for no matter what you face. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
Finding Hope Through Fiction blog

Bonus Review:

Francine Rivers is perhaps the best novelist of our time. In Bridge to Haven, she quickly captured me with her characters and pulled me into the story of this prodigal daughter. It's a story you can't forget. I predict it will become a blockbuster likeRedeeming Love. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a 5-star must read. Bridge to Haven has been added to my Top Ten for 2014 and My All Time Favorites List. 

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, President
Novel Rocket

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dorothy Love's Carolina Gold ~ Reviewed

Carolina Gold [Paperback]
By Dorothy Love (Author)
Pages 320
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 140168761X


"The war is over, but at Fairhaven Plantation, Charlotte's struggle has just begun."
Following her father's death, Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family's rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. With no one else to rely upon, smart, independent Charlotte is determined to resume cultivating the superior strain of rice called Carolina Gold. But the war has left the plantation in ruins, her father's former bondsmen are free, and workers and equipment are in short supply.
To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to tutor the two young daughters of her widowed neighbor and heir to Willowood Plantation, Nicholas Betancourt. Just as her friendship with Nick deepens, he embarks upon a quest to prove his claim to Willowood and sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that uncovers a long-held family secret, and threatens everything she holds dear.
Inspired by the life of a 19th-century woman rice farmer, "Carolina Gold" pays tribute to the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry and weaves together mystery, romance, and historical detail, bringing to life the story of one young woman's struggle to restore her ruined world.


Carolina Gold is about Charlotte Fraser, who, following her father’s death, returns to her family’s plantation in South Carolina.  Being the sole owner, she is determined to bring back the rice crop, also called Carolina Gold, following the aftermath of the Civil War.  However, with limited resources, money, and hired help, along with unpredictable weather, she is finding it might not be as easy as she first thought.  To help with finances, she agrees to tutor the daughters of her handsome neighbor, Nicholas Betancourt.  As she finds herself falling in love with him and his daughters, the startling realization comes up that Nicholas might be the true owner of Charlotte’s plantation, Fairhaven, as no one has been able to find the claim he staked. 

I love this time period in history, and really enjoyed Charlotte’s character.  She was so determined to do whatever it took to keep her home, and she wasn’t afraid to dive in there and do her part as well.  You find yourself cheering her on, hoping she can make a go of it, and wishing you could go help her! 

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Susan May Warren's It Had to be You ~ Reviewed

Susan May Warren
Studio: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 
Pages   480 
Binding  Softcover 
Release Date   Feb 1, 2014 
Publisher   Tyndale House Publishers 
ISBN  1414378424  

Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen's cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits--and starting to fear she doesn't have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior--on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he's getting from Eden Christiansen isn't making things any easier. But when Owen's carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.        


It Had To Be You is book two in the Christiansen Family Series.  In this book, we follow Eden Christiansen.  Her whole life, she has lived in the lime light of her family, most recently moving to the big city with her little brother, Owen, as he embarks on his NHL career.  While Owen is making a big name for himself in hockey, Eden has taken a job writing obituaries at the local newspaper.  She feels stuck in this job, but doesn’t have enough confidence to try for anything bigger, all at the same time while trying to be “mom” to her little brother who doesn’t realize how good he has it.  In the meantime, she meets Owen’s team captain, Jace.  He has a reputation as a bad boy and a ladies’ man, but circumstances through Eden and Jace together, and they develop an undeniable attraction to each other.

I was very excited that the Christiansen Family story was continuing.  I enjoyed seeing Eden’s character develop as she finally came out of her shell.  I guess I can say I liked the same thing about Jace, as he realized he wasn’t the guy everyone thought he was.  This was just a really enjoyable book.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Lee Strobel's Ambition ~ Reviewed

By Lee Strobel
Published by Zondervan
ISBN# 978-0-310-29267-8
286 Pages

Back Cover: A corrupt judge in a mob murder case. A disillusioned pastor, hungry for power. A cynical reporter, sniffing for a scandal. A gambling addict whose secret tape threatens the lives of everyone who hears it.

New York Times bestselling author, Lee Strobel, weaves these edgy characters into an intricate thriller set in a gleaming, suburban megachurch, a big-city newspaper struggling for survival, and the shadowy corridors of political intrigue. The unexpected climax is as gripping as the contract killing that punctuates the opening scene.

Review: I have a commute to work so I brought the audio book to listen to in my car. I was hooked from the start. Near the end of the book I stayed parked in my driveway to hear the dramatic and suspenseful conclusion! OHMYGOSH! It’s a riveting and nail biting ending.

I work at a book store and have watch Lee Strobel’s non-fiction books fly off the shelf. I listened to his testimony on a CD called The Invitation. It made me want to read his debut novel, Ambition.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy every minute of this suspenseful, gritty, true to life tale. It’s a fascinating novel that naturally deals with evangelical issues of prayer, miracles, healing, relationships etc. It’s also filled with intrigue ambition, power, deception, mystery, faith, mistakes and more.

It’s has surprising plot twits and characters that grate on your nerves. Although this is written from a faith based point of view this author. His evangelical voice is never too strong. He shows us characters we can identify with and some we might meet at church. He shows that Christians are human with faults. We are all a work in progress. God says he died for us when we “yet” sinners.

I liked the fact that this author didn’t try to force the reader to accept a particular worldview; instead he asks the reader to consider all the facts and issues for themselves. It’s what he did in his book Case for Christ. I liked that.

I also liked the fact that even though there were people murdered and some gritty situations they were not described on a gory or gross manner. There were no steamy romance scenes. I like how he tastefully dealt with love and relationships in this book too.

Lee Strobel is a great and gifted story teller. His novel is relevant in today’s world and reveals a frightening but yet hopeful view of political ambitions and mega churches in general.

This is a real slice of life in the fast lane. I highly recommend this intricate, suspenseful thriller with its riveting conclusion that will make your heart race, leave you satisfied and wanting more. You’ll be thinking about this book long after you’ve read the past page. Its a worthwhile read. There is so much in this book it would make a great book club pick. The discussion questions in the back of the book would make for an interesting discussion.

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