Monday, March 31, 2014

Creston Mapes's Poison Town ~ Reviewed

By Creston Mapes
Published by David C. Cook
400 Pages

Back Cover:

There's More Than One Kind of Poison in This Town People are sick and dying. Rumors are swirling. Some claim chemicals leaking from a manufacturing plant are causing the cancer that's crippling people on the poor side of Trenton City, Ohio. Yet nothing at the plant appears amiss. The problem remains a mystery until reporter Jack Crittendon's long-time mechanic falls ill and he investigates. Soon Jack becomes engulfed in a smokescreen of lies, setups, greed, and scandal. The deeper he digs, the more toxic the corruption he uncovers. As he faces off with the big-time players behind the scenes and tries to beat the clock before more people die, he realizes the chillingly unthinkable--he knows too much.


I’m thankful for the review copy that allowed me to read the sequel to Fear Has a Name. I was quickly pulled into this story through the believable, quirky and endearing cast of characters and their deadly situation!

One of my favorite characters is Travis Randall, he worked at his family owned and operated garage. Jack Critten, investigative reporter for the Trenton City Dispatch drops his car off at Travis’ shop for repairs.

Jack asks him about Demler-Vargus the company his mom and dad used to work for. Travis tells Jack his dad has documentation that shows everyone that has gotten sick at the plant. They make one product by day and another at night, something deadly is spewing out into the air and hurting people.

Travis Randall reminds me of the tow truck character named Mator in the Disney cartoon Cars. (Yes, I’m watching too many cartoons with my grandson. But hear me out!) I imagine Travis to have the accent and mannerisms of this Mator character. Both of them work in a garage. They are kind hearted, simple men that every now and then get a flicker of wisdom.

Crazy things happen as Travis’s Dad tries to prove Demler-Vargus is responsible for getting the town sick. Travis catches up with an old friend that is at a funeral in town. This is what he thinks about meeting a gal he knew in high school and one of the reason’s my heart went out to this character, “Travis could hardly keep his mind on his new muffler hanging over his head. Claire had lit up his life like a roman candle. She was funny and kind, sensitive and pretty – shoot, she had it all…all he wanted to do was be with her again.”

Travis, his Dad and brother crack me up too. Travis’s Dad says to the lawyer who stops by to see him in the hospital, “Galen. I’ve told you before. Call me Galen. I couldn’ve gone home today if it weren’t for the paranoid doctors round here. So afraid of a lawsuit they keep you till you git sick all over again.” Grin!

This story has it all Greed, black-mail, redemption, suspense and drama with a natural spiritual thread in the mix. Intricately interwoven into the story is a fun, sweet romance between Travis and Claire; alongside that is Jack Crittden chasing down leads to fight politics in a small town and a major giant corporation that doesn’t want to abide by the cities ordinances but make up their own rules! It doesn’t care how many people they take out! Who does he trust?

Creston’s novels thrill as well as challenge readers. You’ll be glued to the page as these flawed people wrestle with uncovering the truth, fighting for justice, having the faith to face their fears and the courage to do the right thing. Can one person make a difference? You’ll be up late to get the answer to that question in the climatic conclusion. I highly recommend this wild ride. Be sure to put this on your book club and summer reading list. There’s so much to talk about!

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith's Rainy Day Dreams ~ Reviewed

Rainy Day Dreams
Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith
Pages: 320
Release Date Apr 1, 2014
Publisher Harvest House Publishers
Series Seattle Brides
Series Number 2
ISBN 0736953493

Beloved Christian fiction authors Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith team up once more in the second volume of the Seattle Brides series.

When the Burgert family moves to Seattle in 1852, Kathryn is convinced her father has destroyed her life. The backwoods settlement offers none of the comforts and culture she loves in San Francisco. She cares nothing for the new sawmill the townsfolk are so excited about. That is, until she meets Jason, a lumberjack with dreams for a bright future. As she comes to know Jason, Kathryn can't help catching his vision.

But the future they hope for is anything but secure. There are some who see Seattle as a threat and will stop at nothing to make sure the sawmill fails. With the harsh and rugged weather, at times it seems even the land itself is determined to thwart Seattle's very existence. Kathryn and Jason's plans for a happy future become entwined with Seattle's struggle to survive in the midst of adversity, both manmade and natural.

A gripping story of love, tenderness, and survival in the rugged Pacific Northwest.


Rainy Day Dreams is Book 2 in the “Seattle Brides” series.  In this book, we follow Kathryn Bergert, whose father sends her to the newly named Seattle, in the hopes that she can find a husband among the highly populated male population, consisting mainly of lumberjacks.  Kathryn is less than pleased at the arrangement of being a maid in a distant cousin’s hotel.  All she wants to do is follow her dreams of being a painter.  In the meantime, Jason Gates is taking a position in the office at the lumber mill.  He is trying to move on after the loss of his wife.  Kathryn and Jason have an immediate dislike for each other, however, different situations cause them to keep crossing paths, and before they know, they begin to care for each other, but don’t know what to do about it.  In the meantime, the town is trying to prepare for a possible Indian attack.
This was a really good read.  It was exciting to see the characters from book one develop, and meet the new characters that joined them.  I liked seeing how Kathryn’s perception of Seattle changed throughout the story.  She went from doing whatever she could to try to leave, to putting off her departure.  This was a great sequel to the first book.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pamela Samuels Young's Anybody's Daughter ~ Reviewed

  • Anybody's Daughter
  • Pamela Samuels Young
  • ISBN-13: 9780989293501
  • Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/30/2013
  • Pages: 374

Back Cover:

Thirteen-year-old Brianna Walker is ecstatic. She's about to sneak off to meet her first real boyfriend—a boyfriend she met on Facebook. But Brianna is in for a horrifying surprise because her boyfriend doesn't exist. Instead, Brianna unwittingly becomes the captive of a ring of drug dealers- turned-human traffickers who prey on lonely girls from dysfunctional homes. But they’ve made a big mistake in targeting Brianna because she doesn’t meet either of those criteria. 

Brianna’s Uncle Dre, a man with his own criminal past, is determined to find the niece who is more like a daughter to him. Rather than sit back and rely on police to bring Brianna home, Dre scours the dark corners of Los Angeles looking for her. He is stunned to learn that the trafficking of children isn’t just happening in other countries. It’s occurring at epidemic levels right in his own backyard. 
Dre is not alone in his desperate search. Loretha Johnson knows this world well. A social worker who previously lived “the life,” Loretha now dedicates her time to saving as many young girls as she can find. She turns out to be an invaluable resource for Dre, who ultimately gets a lead on The Shepherd, a mastermind in the trafficking world whose every move is fueled by ego and greed. Dre vows to bring his reign of terror to an end. 

While Brianna makes a futile effort to thwart her captors, Dre is getting closer and closer to finding her. The woman he loves, attorney Angela Evans, knows the dangers faced by sexually exploited children because she represents them in juvenile court. Angela lends her moral support and, eventually, an important clue to Brianna’s whereabouts. 

As he races against the clock, Dre ultimately comes up with a daring plan—one that puts many lives in danger, including his own. But will he find Brianna before it's too late?


Starring a cast of flesh-and-blood characters, Pamela Samuels Young’s Anybody’s Daughter deals with the world of human trafficking and its affect on the people it touches. Each character responds uniquely, providing a realistic space that the reader can access. I personally identified most closely with Brianna, the kidnapped victim, and Loretha, the ex-prostitute. Both characters are fighters who refuse to give up on what appears to be a hopeless situation. However, the story is also told from the point of view of Dre, Brianna’s ex-con uncle, Angela, a defense attorney for exploited girls, and even the criminals kidnapping and pimping teenage girls.

I found this story to be refreshingly real and important. Young brings a vast social problem to light in a way that both educates the reader and gets them invested in finding a solution. Right off the bat, I liked and cared for Brianna. I wanted her to be rescued. However, as other victims were introduced, each of their stories saddened me. These girls come from broken homes and lives of abuse, only to be caught in a situation that they are tricked into believing is better. Through each character’s experience, Anybody’s Daughter shows just how vast the stream of victims is.

Young also shows how insignificant those working against this exploitation feel. Loretha only has fourteen beds to offer girls trying to escape the life. Angela puts away pimp after pimp, only to see them back on the streets in less than a year with a whole new crop of victims. Young does an amazing job of illustrating how enormous the problem is and what it will take to make a difference.

In the back of Anybody’s Daughter, readers will find a list of organizations that need both volunteers and financial support. With her novel, Young challenges readers to be a part of the solution; after all, Brianna, Carmen, Peaches, and each of the other human trafficking victims could be anybody’s daughter.

Reviewed by: Shea Nolan

Monday, March 24, 2014

Anita Higman's Winter in Full Bloom ~ Reviewed

By Anita Higman
Published River North
304 Pages

Back Cover: Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger
to her-a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades-Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies. 

Without looking back, Lily-with her fear of flying-boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Aussie, he might prove to be the
key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again.


I’m thankful for the review copy I received from The Book Club Network, that introduced me to Anita Higman’s writing.

This author explores the complexity of family dysfunction, built up anger, reconciliation, receiving forgiveness, learning to trust, waiting for the right time to love again. In the beginning Lily says, “…thinking of mother’s notorious secret and a life time of deception. The smarmy residue from being in her house stole over me like dark slithering fog. Soon that day – the one that changed my life – began to unfold in my mind so intensely that the remembering and the telling of my story became one and the same.”

All relationships take time and energy, nothing just happens. I like how this author showed families dealing with tough issues that don’t have quick fixes. She shows that God will make a way when there seems to be no way. She also explores the aspect that a person’s world view defiantly affects all their relationships in life.

I liked how this author took her time in letting the reader get to know her heart warming characters as they face their fears, and how they showed compassion to one another when deep dark secrets are revealed that changes how they have viewed life as a whole. One character says, “Faith is a choice…I would choose to trust the one who was love and who’d made me for love.”

Lily Winters is recently widowed, is an empty nester and has mustered up the courage to reconcile with her cold and callous mother. A secret is revealed that is a game changer for Lily. She starts on a quest for answers and sets off to Australia. Lily hates flying and has a comical plane ride that will make you laugh out loud. Then she meets a mysterious fun loving man named Marcus Averill. He sees she’s new in town and offers to help in any way he can. Lily is skeptical until Marcus takes her to Saint Paul’s Cathedral where he knows the Priest there. Marcus takes Lily to see some of the amazing sights like Yarra River and the Princess Bridge to name a few. In the note to readers Anita says she went on a business trip with her husband to Melbourne Australia and loved it. You can tell she did when you read the first part of the book that takes place there. It made it all the more fun to read. Anita made me dream of going there some day.

In the second half of the book the author has many of her characters face their fears and seek answers to some tough questions. This book has real and raw emotions that all seem to happen at once. Just like life. It doesn’t wait for you to get over one thing before another challenge happens. “Life went on, even when your heart was breaking,”

Marcus who knows a thing about heartbreak says, “True reconciliation includes discussion. Maybe even a heated debate or two other wise it’s anemic and worthless. It isn’t real and it won’t hold up. It’ll only be made of paper if we don’t get down to it.

The ending is one you hoped for; it was satisfying and the author left room for a possible sequel! Just saying! I would recommend this book for a book club pick. There is a lot to discuss inside and you’ll connect with the characters.

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Billy Coffey's the devil walks in mattingly ~ Reviewed

The Devil Walks in Mattingly
By Billy Coffey
Pages 336
Binding Softcover
Release Date Jan 1, 2014
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 1401688225


For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man's untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.

It has been twenty years since Philip McBride's body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since--Philip didn't kill himself that day. He was murdered.

Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly's sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.

Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake's dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.


the devil walks in mattingly is a fascinating blend of literary delicacies, page turning intensity, moments of horror, and a picture of grace and the human race's need for it. 

Jake and Kate have lived in small town Mattingly their entire lives. That comes with it's own baggage. Jake carries the burden of the blood that runs through his veins and the expectations of every member in town. Adding to the burden is Jake's status as sheriff. 

Jake and Kate bear another burden. One that ties them to a classmates death twenty years earlier. Unfortunately, those ties have haunted them both since the fateful day long ago. Each, in his or her way deals with the horror of choices they made, but very much alone and very much without hope of ever feeling set free from the past. 

Enter another member of that fateful day and his desire to cleanse and make right the wrongs. However, his mind has been touched by the Hollow where he has sequestered himself, the haunted hollow that is full of eyes. 

With more twists and turns in intensity the story unfolds and involves the entire town. Lives are lost, grace is found, peace is made, hope reignites. 

Who will love this book? If you think it sounds intriguing and you aren't bothered by spiritual elements that are extra biblical, blood, or high levels of suspense you should check it out. If you prefer your fiction to be light and inspirational or are bothered by speculation or a lack of clear steps to finding Jesus, it's best to avoid it. 

I will read more from Billy Coffey. If you'd like to read more ABOUT him, click here for his interview at Novel Rocket.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Murray Pura's An Amish Family Christmas ~ Reviewed

An Amish Family Christmas
Murray Pura
Pages   137 
Binding  Softcover 
Release Date   Jul 1, 2013 
Publisher   Harvest House Publishers 
ISBN  0736952373  


After tragedy strikes the family of young Naomi Miller, her friend Rebecca Bachman does all she can to help. But things get complicated when Rebecca's brother, Micah, returns from a combat tour in Afghanistan. For one thing, he chose to serve in the military even though he served as a medic and never picked up a gun. For another, he is under the Meidung--the shunning-- because of that and none of the Amish are permitted to speak to him or eat with him. And finally, he is not only Rebecca's brother, he is Naomi's husband But how can Naomi pick up where their marriage left off after he turned away from her and his people to enlist in the army? How can Naomi and Micah even begin the process of healing their relationship when he will not repent of what he has done and the Amish will not forgive him for what he has done? Naomi despairs of ever again having a happy married life with her husband.

But God has a way of working on the hearts of His people--especially at Christmas time. When an unexpected turn of events sets things right, miracles happen to the Amish community, to the Miller family, and to Naomi and Micah, miracles that transform everyone.

Here is warm and tender story of faithfulness, love, and reconciliation at the most wonderful time of the year.


An Amish Family Christmas starts with a young Amish woman, Naomi.  Her sister-in-law, Rebecca, is now living with her, as her husband went against the Amish faith and joined the military to serve as a medic in Afghanistan.  Not only that, but her parents and sister were just killed in a buggy accident, and her brother Luke was severely injured.  When she thinks things can’t get any worse, her husband, Micah, shows up, home from war.  However, because he went against the Amish faith, and refuses to repent as he feels the Lord called him to serve his country, they find themselves in an almost worse situation.  He is allowed to live with Naomi, but they can’t talk, touch or communicate unless he repents, or unless the bishops change their minds and lift the bann, which seem seems impossible.  However, through prayer and study of the Word, Naomi and Rebecca begin to see the Lord work through various situations.

This was a short but good book.  There were so many things that came at these young people, and though they thought there was no escape and no answers, they continued to bring their problems before the Lord and trust that He would work it out somehow.  One of my favorite quotes was, “It’s on God’s shoulders and His shoulders are broad.”  That’s a good reminder to all of us when we’re going through trials and situations.  We may not be able to handle it in our own strength, but the Lord can.

Reviewed by:Sarah Meyers

Monday, March 17, 2014

Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer's Everyday Confetti ~ Reviewed

By Karen Ehman &Glynnis Whitwer
Published by Revell
182 Pages


When a busy woman looks at her calendar and sees a birthday, holiday, or special occasion, she has the best intentions for bringing joy to her family and creating lasting memories. Then reality hits. Amidst demanding responsibilities and an overloaded schedule, when is she ever going to have time to plan the perfect celebration or find the creativity to make it special?

In this go-to guide, Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer give women the ideas and the motivation they need to make such occasions less daunting. They provide creative ideas and menu plans for
· Holidays
· Birthdays
· Special Events
· Everyday Occasions
Readers will even find suggestions for reaching out to others throughout the year through celebrations that are simple, doable, and stress-free. 

REVIEW: I was thrilled to receive a review copy from The Book Club Network. This book is filled with ideas to make everyday moments, even weekly dinners fun and engaging for the whole family. These authors give ways to help families make a commitment to participate in eating breakfast, lunch and/or dinners together daily. This book is filled with creative ideas family members can show respect as honor is given to special days for each member to shine, be encouraged, and motivate. The ideas range from celebrating Birthdays, Holidays and everything in-between. 

This is a year-round guide to celebrating life’s special moments, creating memories not only while your children are small but when they leave the nest too. These authors give ways to stay connected with family near or far. The ideas in the book are easy. There are ways shown in the book to pass on your faith too. 

The authors say this, “Life is filled with moments to treasure and celebrate. Together, let’s sprinkle confetti on those treasured moments,…...” 

I’m not an idea kind of person but I can follow a pattern and do my best cooking with a cookbook by my side. There are more than 200 ways to make memories with your family and friends which include “Easy recipes, fun activities and inexpensive decorating ideas – all simple and doable.” 

These two authors are part of the Proverbs 31 ministry. They have quotes in the book and side interviews with other women in this organization that give a peek about special things they do with their families. For example Lysa Terkerust says this about devotions, “If you talk about God in our everyday lives it creates a sense of celebration of His presence. And that’s the best kind of family devotion there is!”

Some of the other authors that stop in are Renee Swopee, Nicki Koziarz, Sharon Sloan, Whitney Cupps, Wendy Blight and many others. 

The recipes in the book have easy found ingredients and sound yummy. There are things for an Easter celebration I’m going to try this year, like “To-Die-For-Carrot Cake, Easter Cookies and directions for making an Easter Egg Tree, all of which help to bring out the meaning of Easter and other holidays. There are also ways to celebrate spiritual mile stones, ways to reach out to others in hard times and other special moments.

There’s one day I’m looking forward to celebrating on August 9th. What special day is that you ask? It’s Book Lovers Day of course! I didn’t know that day existed but with books being such a big part of my life I’m adding this celebration to my calendar. Can’t wait to try the recipe for Jane Austin Cream Scones they add to that day. 

Tim Hansel’s quote is, “Life becomes precious and more special to us when we look for the little everyday miracles and get excited about the privileges of simply being human.” 

I highly recommend this special book to help you and your family put fun back in life’s’ tender and special moments!

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

Friday, March 14, 2014

Harry Kraus's Lip Reading ~ Reviewed

By Harry Kraus
Published by David C Cook
432 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: She Could Save Millions, or Save Herself 
She just needs a little longer. She’s really close. Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a medical researcher, stands on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform medicine. But she soon discovers the reason behind the miraculous progress in her research, and it leaves her with a nearly impossible choice . . . and little time to decide. More than her research is at stake. And more threatens it than this latest revelation. Something she’s tried hard to cover up. There is a high cost to some things in medicine and it’s not always the patient who pays. Can Rebecca find the faith and wisdom she needs to make the right call? The clock is ticking and the pressure is on.

REVIEW: There are a handful of authors I’d make time to read their books no matter how hectic my schedule was. Harry Krause is one of those authors. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of a book that gives readers a glimpse into the world of scientific research. The thing that excites me about this author’s books is the fact that I know I’ll learn something new, cutting edge even in the world of medicine. Harry Krause is a surgeon who practices medicine in Africa.  Inside this book he gives readers a heart wrenching look at a situation in Africa and how efforts from a Pharmaceutical company to help them goes array. 

What’s involved in creating a medical break thru? I hadn’t a clue but this writer lifts the veil and shows us a little glimpse into the work and dedication it takes to create something new and safe for humans. Imitation blood would save millions of lives and change the medical community all around the world. I goggled this topic and researchers are really working on trying to create imitation blood as I’m typing this.

Medical researcher Dr. Rebecca Jackson is on the verge of making a discovery of a lifetime, creating imitation blood. Lately Becca had noticed a new ability she had. She could clearly see images in her mind in 3-D. It’s rocketed her research and moved things ahead of schedule.

The down side to Dr. Rebecca’s clarity of vision about her project was the frequent migraines. She’d have to get that checked but work needed to be done first. She was so close to finishing this project but needed help. Where could she turn?

Noah, Rebecca Jackson’s old boyfriend was working on an imitation blood project of his own.  He stares at the T.V. screen where he sees the face of Dr. Rebecca Jackson on the front cover of her new book called “Pusher: confessions of an American Pharmaceutical giant… the reporter goes on to say, Jackson made quite a stir earlier this year when her book, Pusher hit stands, revealing some of the cutthroat tactics that govern the development and marketing of the American Pharmaceutical industry.”

His boss had talked to him earlier that week and asked him to approach Dr. Jackson and ask her to work on the imitation blood project with him. He pointed out that Noah’s research complimented her work. They could work more efficiently and create this product sooner. His boss didn’t understand that they had a history that was complicated. That was in high school maybe they could push the past aside and work together for the common good.

What they were working on was a “Game changer – no one would have to get real blood and all the risks associated with it.”

“P-R-I-N-T stands for Particle Replication in Non-Wetting – Templates.”

“A worldwide impact begins with one life, “Noah said. “There are individual events in a person’s life that change everything in seconds. Happiness is stolen. Injury leads to death. And love finds a way to shine through in the midst of darkness…. God used the worst day in my life to set my feet on a path that will, I hope, result in a benefit for millions.”

With God’s help they could do this work with Rebecca. They soon discovered they were as driven as the other to reach the goal, neither didn’t mind the cost; each sensed they were on the verge of something amazing that would change lives of so many. Drama escalates when Noah and Rebecca unite their research. They are on a race against time, death threats and a fight for Rebecca’s life.  The stakes are high and the large corporations want a piece of the action. Rebecca had to make sure this technology got into the right hands. She trusted Noah would help her make her wishes happen.

As usual I learned about an amazing medical technology researchers are actually working on. I also realized how much I take for granted when I go to the pharmacy and pick up medicine the Dr. prescribed not even giving a thought at how long it took someone to create it. I’m focused on how fast it will make me feel better. I love this authors books because I learn something new every time. I like that it’s usually intertwined with a suspenseful element and usually he throws in a splash of romance. There is also a spiritual thread that’s real and not preachy. Love that.

I recommend this dynamic and intriguing story that will open your eyes to the beautiful and dark side of medical break troughs and give you a peek into a world we don’t often think about.  These characters and their story will be on your mind long after you close the book, there is so much in here. It’s something you’ll be talking about with your friends. Thanks Harry for another amazing adventure.

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Melody Carlson's Once Upon A Winter's Heart ~ Reviewed

Once Upon A Winter's Heart
By Melody Carlson
Pages 160
Release Date Nov 1, 2013
Publisher Warner/Faith Books
ISBN 1455528110

Emma Burcelli has given up on romance. Not just because she's suffered over a decade of dating disasters. Not because her parents' marriage ended on New Year's Eve. No, Emma concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi passes away, leaving the last true romantic's other half, Nona Burcelli, devastated.

Emma helps by working in the family's bookstore, which Nona insists must be completely decked out in sweetheart decor as Poppi would have done for Valentine's Day. Although Emma feels like a V-Day Scrooge, she quickly learns to enjoy the task with the aid of a handsome volunteer and friend of Poppi's, Lane Forester. As Emma spends time with Lane, sharing stories about Poppi, ice skating in the street, and hanging hearts to the tune of Dean Martin, she reconsiders the possibility that romance is alive.

But just as Emma's heart begins to lift she learns her sister has already staked a claim on Lane's affections. Emma's mother and sister insist Lane only sees her as a future sister-in-law, but Emma can't help wondering if it could be something more.


Emma's life is in transition and somewhere along the way she has lost all hope in the possibility of happy-ever-afters. 

Out of family obligation and after quitting her job she trudges to her grandmother's home to help grandma deal with the loss of the last true romantic man in the world. Emma discovers that her mother is going to be bunking with them as well. Her own parents are calling it quits. 

With heavy heart and a belly full of bitter thoughts Emma heads to the family bookstore to pick up the Valentine decorating gauntlet. A friend of her grandfather lives above the bookstore and stops in because the lights are on. Lane stays to help because Valentine's Day was Poppi's favorite holiday. Emma and Lane spend a romantic evening decorating. 

Emma wakes with a new spring in her step and a flicker of hope in her heart until she finds out Lane is her sister's love interest. 

Lovers of sweet romance should find much to like in this little novel. Emma struggles with feeling like the ugly duckling and carrying around the burden of not believing in love. By the book's end she had bloomed. Plenty of sister and mom drama fills the novel so those who appreciate a little sisterly sparring will appreciate this element.  Fans of wine and chocolate and Dean Martin will likely love this sweet little read. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:

Emma Burcelli has just quit her job in the big city to move in with her grandma, in a smaller town atmosphere.  Her grandfather just passed away, and Emma wants to be there for her grandma, not only to help her through her loss, but to help run the bookstore her grandfather left behind.  It’s nearing Valentine’s day, and not only is Emma depressed due to the loss of her Grandfather, but her parents and her sister and her husband have separated.  When you through in Emma’s disastrous love life, we find her ready to completely dismiss the holiday, until she meets young family friend, Lane Forester.  Much to her surprise, she finds herself attracted to him, only to find out her younger sister already has her sights on him.  Emma tries her best to stay in the background, not wanting to break up a relationship, yet she has a hard time denying her feelings.

This was a fun read.  The storyline kept moving well, and I loved the characters, except for Emma’s sister.  But that’s only because she was a spoiled brat!  I loved the idea of a small town, family bookstore, too. This was a great, lighthearted book and I think anyone would enjoy reading it!
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Bonus Review:

Melody Carlson packs more story into a book than Reese packs sweet into a Peanut Butter Cup. Once Upon a Winter's Heart will delight yours with this romantic Valentine novella. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a must read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Monday, March 10, 2014

Coble, Billerbeck, Hunt and Hunters' Smitten Book Club ~ Reviewed

By Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter
Published by Thomas Nelson
378 Pages

Back Cover: 

The century-old Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!

The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.
Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends’ romantic exploits.

When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.


I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that introduced me to the town of Smitten and it’s very special book club. Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter, team up to write the third book in the Smitten series. If you haven’t read the other books before this one fear not, you won’t feel lost. There are four parts to this novel that are written by each of the author focusing on a different lady from the book club, who all live in the town of Smitten.

Love by the Book by Colleen Coble, Shelved Under Romance by Kristin Billerbeck, A New Chapter by Diann Hunt, andHappily Ever After by Denise Hunter. Each one of these segments give the reader peeks at a few of the book club meetings where they discuss the book, the treasure hunt and let’s not leave out match making! Grin!

The book starts out with the community and the book club ladies helping Molly deal with the loss of her firefighter husband. The whole town has pitched in to help her pay for her husband’s funeral and navigate running her husband’s business.

Donations of books are dropped off at the library where one of the book club members works. Heather discovers a book in good condition and bursts our laughing when she shares the title with her book club friends. Check this one out, “The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship by Pearl Chambers…She claims the reader who understands these patterns and uses them will find true love.” The gales laugh at her statements and one of them tells the others Pearl Chambers was a local author who was pretty famous back in her day.

They all sit down to laugh about more of Mrs. Chambers’s ideas about courting and a letter drops out of the book. It’s a letter Pearl wrote to her daughter Beatrice Chambers. It states, “…your grandmother found a gold mine in the hills, and left the clues to its location in this book!...signed your loving mother.”

Could this be true? The group starts to look at this book in a whole new light. It was fun to see this group of ladies go on a treasure hunt that they hope will help Molly and her son, Noah in their situation.

Molly is a member of the book club that is not faithful to read the book every month. Her friend Gage asks Molly a question, “So let me ask…if you’re not much of a reader – why a book club?

“I like to read- sort of, when the genre’s right and the author’s good and the books’ not, you know too thick or boring.”

“And Venus aligns with Mercury under a crescent moon?”

“She made a face, “Fine. It’s not about the books. It’s about girl time. Friendships. Community. Happy?”

I’ll Amen that! Book club has meant this to me over the years too!

This book is a light hearted fun read. Each section of the book deals with one girl in the book club, a different relationship issue and how they go about trying to uncover clues to help them find the buried treasure! Would they find the pot of gold? Will each lady in the group lean from Mrs. Chambers about love and apply it to the situation they find themselves in? Would they uncover a true “…treasure, the real kind, the lasting kind…” that might just be in there own backyard in the town of Smitten?

Grab a copy of this sweet romance story with a few twists to find out the answers to the above questions. The authors do a great job of harmonizing their writing styles. It’s seamless.

My sympathy and prayers go out to Diann Hunt’s family as they mourn the loss of Diann . Praying her community is pulling together to love them through just like the town of Smitten did for Molly in this book.

I highly recommend this delightful read. It has good discussion questions and it also has a peek into the fourth book in t his series called Secretly Smitten.

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