Thursday, February 26, 2015

Melody Carlson's The Dating Games #3

The Dating Games #3: Double Date
by Melody Carlson
Series: The Dating Games (Book 3)
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Revell (January 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800721292


The girls of the DG have found that through the club, both their friendships and their dating savvy have grown. But all that is about to be put to the test. Despite their promises of secrecy, word has somehow gotten out, and new girls want to join the club. The reaction in the DG is mixed, but with the Christmas Ball coming up, they need to pull together to organize their double dates. The trouble is, how can they get guys interested in a dance that's become increasingly unpopular?

Cassidy, Devon, Abby, Bryn, and Emma are quickly becoming teen favorites as they navigate the crazy world of dating. As always, Melody Carlson subtly delivers great advice wrapped up tight in a package of fun and friendship.


I've read quite a few of Melody Carlson's novels. They never fail to be entertaining and most of the time I take away something tho think about. 

Even though my teen years are a bit behind me I'm confident most teen or preteen girls can find plenty of pertinent drama in this novel. Warning to the parental units who want fully inspirational and Amish innocent reading material in their girls' libraries, this novel travels a little more along the worldly road. 

The drama is plentiful. Carlson has covered issues that are problematic in the Christian young lady's world. One teen crosses common sense lines, another is hungry for attention and makes a couple choices that set her up for some serious pain. Mean girls cause some angst and more than one of the members of the DG face an identity crisis. Areas such as judging and appropriate behavior and clothing are covered. Relationships between the girls and the boys they like adds even more drama as the girls try to find their way in high school. 

Well written and thought provoking and any girl who is intrigued by the idea of dating might pick up a life lesson or two.  

Of note, I've not read any of the other books in the series and felt like I was able to figure out the girls and their relationships pretty easily. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Allison Pittman's All for A Sister ~ Reviewed

Allison Pittman
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414366825

In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance? 

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.


All For A Sister takes place during the roaring 20's and follows the journey of two young women. Celeste DuFrane is a young, beautiful, upcoming actress who's father has paved the way for her in Hollywood. After both of her parents pass away, she receives news that she is to share the estate with Dana Lundgren, a woman who has been imprisoned for 20 years for supposedly killing Celeste's baby sister, before Celeste was born. The two are thrown together due to the terms of the will, and develop an affection for each other. The book jumps back and forth between the current time, Celeste's childhood, Dana's childhood, and Mary DuFrane's (mother of Celeste) confession of what really happened and why Dana was imprisoned for most of her life.

I LOVED this story. The fact that it kept jumping back and forth between time periods didn't confuse me at all, as each chapter was clear about what it was speaking about. I had a hard time putting it down, because as I read each chapter, it kept me wanting to read more to find out what was going to happen next. I've read all three stories in Ms. Pittman's Roaring 20's series, and this one was by far my favorite. I really did have a hard time putting it down, and highly recommend it!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, February 20, 2015

Myra Johnson's Whisper Goodbye ~ Reviewed

Whisper Goodbye: Till We Meet Again - Book 2
Myra Johnson
File Size: 8345 KB
Print Length: 338 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1426753667
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 15, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Crippled both physically and emotionally by his war injuries, First Lt. Gilbert Ballard struggles to find himself again in civilian life. After breaking his engagement to Annemarie Kendall, he has found solace in the arms of Mary McClarney, a spunky Irish immigrant nurse he met at the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Yet Mary's love for Gilbert goes unreturned.

If it's not Gilbert's insane jealousy over his former fiancée's new marriage, it's his addiction to pain killers and gambling that thwarts Gil's own happiness. Worse, Gilbert's mother, Evelyn, continually reminds him of what he lost when he pushed Annemarie away. Under Evelyn's critical eye, Mary fights to believe in her worth, wondering if she will ever be enough.

As Mary longs for the day when Gilbert will finally let go of the past and learn to love her as she loves him, she realizes that the only way to open Gilbert's heart is to whisper her goodbyes . . . and pray God will bring them back together.


Whisper Goodbye tells us about Mary McClarney, a young Irish nurse who works at an Army and Navy hospital in Ho Springs, Arkansas during World War II and First Lt. Gilbert Ballard, who has been crippled, both physically and emotionally by his war injuries. The two meet in the hospital, where Gilbert is Mary's patient, and, not surprisingly, they end up developing feelings for each other. However, due to Gilbert's past, Mary has a difficult time trusting him, while Gilbert has a hard time telling Mary his true feelings.

I did enjoy this story. I enjoy reading about the 1940's. That whole era is fascinating to me. I really sympathized with Gilbert. Having come back from the war and losing a leg, among the other things he was dealing with, would have been hard. He was fortunate to have Mary there for him, through some very difficult times, but had a hard time letting himself fully care for her. It was nice to see both Mary and Gilbert open up and deal with their past in order to move forward with their future.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jennifer Slattery's When Dawn Breaks ~ Reviewed

When Dawn Breaks
Jennifer Slattery
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: New Hope Publishers (December 17, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1596694238

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?


This story hit fairly close to home. I am a foster grandma to three little ones. One of the main story lines in When Dawn Breaks involves Gavin, a too young boy who is forced to take care of siblings and his unstable mom. Slattery captured some serious authentic depth in his situation and responses.  

Since it's been just a few short months since I finished Beyond I Do, Slattery's first novel, I couldn't help comparing the two. Though Beyond I Do has great elements and tells a good story, I noticed that When Dawn Breaks felt like an organic story. Not flawlessly told because that's nearly impossible, but with more author confidence and less author intrusion. 

Slattery's books pack a lot of plot. She deftly walks through mine fields with characters who grow and change and become better people all the while keeping details straight. The subject matter tackled includes parent child relationships, dysfunctional relationships, overcoming or choosing to remain a victim, substance abuse, shame, adultery, death, making difficult choices, grieving and starting over. 

This novel has a broad readership pool. Since it's fiction that adds quite a bit of godly truth and wisdom it goes beyond an escapist read. However, the spiritual elements aren't heavy handed. Anyone dealing with any of those difficult situations or struggles could benefit from feeling a little less alone in this big world, or find a little ray of hope within it's pages.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lynette Sowell's A Season of Change ~ Reviewed

Lynette Sowell
Series: Seasons in Pinecraft (Book 1)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426753551

Can a past filled with loss lead to a new season of life? Stranded at a Sarasota hospital at the bedside of his ailing daughter, Amish widower Jacob Miller is wary of his unfamiliar surroundings—including the strange curiosity of Englischer Natalie Bennett. Natalie, an aerial silks artist whose career in the circus ended before it began, has just uncovered a secret her mother kept hidden for years. Her mom—or rather, mamm—was once Amish. A hundred questions suddenly surface. Why did Natalie’s mother keep this secret for so long? Does Natalie still have Amish relatives? How can she learn more about her heritage? Can Jacob trust Natalie’s piqued interest in his family and their simple ways, or will their clashing cultures thwart their hopes for finding the love of a family?


A Season of Change tells us about Jacob Miller, an Amish widower with two young children, and Natalie Bennett, a former circus performer how now teaches acrobatics to young children. Jacob, who is from Ohio, is visiting his grandparents with his two children in Sarasota, Florida. While there, an accident occurs in which his daughter, Rebecca, is hit by a car and ends up in the hospital with a broken leg. While in the hospital, Natalie, who visits children dressed as Bubbles the clown, visits the family. Through a series of events, they keeps seeing each other, and not surprisingly, an attachment begins to form, not only with Natalie and the children, but with Natalie and Jacob. Though their feelings for each other grow, they are faced with the challenge of how a relationship might work. Even though Natalie is a Christian, she has no desire to become Amish, while Jacob could never leave his faith for love.
This was a really good story. I liked that the Amish folk in Sarasota weren't as legalistic as some. And I really liked how the author blended the Amish and English cultures. The story really kept me interested, as I was anxious to see how Natalie and Jacob's relationship would progress. I really didn't know how it was going to happen until the end, because I couldn't see either of the compromising. I was really happy with the ending. 

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Courtney Walsh’s Paper Hearts ~ Reviewed

Courtney Walsh
Series: Paper Hearts
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 18, 2014)
Language: English


Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?


Walsh has written a satisfying romantic tale that contains elements of several romantic comedy movies that I've enjoyed. The basic plot includes a newcomer who enters a small Colorado community with the intention of opening a medical practice. Great idea. He's got a few challenges and needs a fresh start. And Loves Park could use a good doctor. So far win, win.

Unfortunately, the location he chooses was right next door to Abigail's Book Nook. And Abigail had plans for that space, big plans that would secure her future, honor her family and feed her soul. As the story unfolds, Jacob not only buys the building, but there is immediate discussion on the future demise of the Book Nook. Jacob needs the space for his practice and he owns the building and his business manager is not about to back down, especially to someone like Abigail.

Abigail is further thrown into a panic when she's targeted by the town's Valentine Volunteers as their next member, and possible unwilling poster woman for their sideline of fixing up the single lonely hearts in town. Can Abigail save her father's book store? What will become of her if she can't? And does real love even exist anyway? With more questions than answers, Abigail begins to look for the truth and assess her heart’s desires.

Jacob is fighting his own battles. And they are challenging ones. Can he get over his broken heart and rebuild a life for him and his little girl? When a secret that involves him comes to light, and a woman he cares about is not who she seemed will he run back to the big city or stay and try to build a different life?

Well written and charming. A great cozy escapist read for the cold winter months.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Kelly Irvin's Love Still Stands ~ Reviewed

Kelly Irvin
Series: The New Hope Amish (Book 1)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736954937

Readers of Kelly Irvin's Bliss Creek Amish novels will be overjoyed to discover her new series for lovers of Amish fiction: The New Hope Amish. In the first installment, Love Still Stands, a group of dedicated families leaves Bliss Creek to establish a new community in Missouri. Among them is Bethel Graber, a beautiful young woman with a passion for teaching. But after being disabled in a terrible accident, overseeing a classroom is out of the question...and romance seems a long-lost dream.
Bethel begins physical therapy, determined to make a fresh start. But that won't be easy in the town of New Hope, where the locals seem anything but eager to welcome their new Amish neighbors. Amid growing intimidation from the community, Bethel must find the strength to face her many challenges and the faith to believe that God still has a plan--and a love--for her life. 


Love Still Stands is part of the New Hope Amish Series and follows a young Amish woman named Bethel. She had been a teacher until a tornado destroyed her school and damaged her legs, keeping her from being able to do even the simplest of every day tasks. She moves with her family to another state for a new start. It's not easy, starting a-fresh in a community that doesn't like strangers, especially people that are different than they are. Bethel begins to do therapy in a local rehabilitation center, and finds herself attracted to a young man who is in the same boat as she is. The only problem is that he is Englisch. She is also interested in an Amish man named Elijah, who is very much smitten with her. The problem is that Bethel sees herself as an invalid that no one would ever want to marry. She has a hard time believing she is of any worth since she has so many limitations.

I had forgotten that I read the other books in this series. It has been some time, so it took me a little while to acclimate myself to the characters again, but once I did, I was able to pick up where I left off. I enjoyed Bethel's journey, but I also enjoyed the sub-story of her sister Leah, and her husband, Luke. In previous stories, Leah has been a difficult and sometimes harsh person to get along with. This book delves deeper into her issues, and she is finally able to find some peace and help. I really liked seeing that, as her character was annoying to me in the previous books. But I found myself drawn to her in this one. This was a great follow-up to the other books.
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

James Patterson's Hope to Die ~ Reviewed

By James Patterson
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Release date: Nov. 2014
400 pages
ISBN: 978-0316210966

Back cover:

How hard is it to imagine a noble detective brought low by the horrors of his job? How hard to imagine a detective so beaten down that he finds life meaningless… and becomes a perfect killer himself? That’s not hard to imagine at all, now is it?

Alex Cross is legendary as Washington, DC’s top detective, a man who has devoted his life to protecting others. With unwavering strength and courage, Cross handles the city’s most complex and shocking cases. But none of the atrocities he’s seen has prepared him for the sight of a homicide detective at his own front door. 

Alex Cross’s family has been abducted—and a madman named Theirry Mulch is threatening to kill them one by one. Blinded by rage and gripped with fear, Cross would do anything to have Bree, Nana Mama, and his beautiful children back home. But Mulch doesn’t care about money or mercy. He is obsessed with studying the psychology behind the perfect criminal. As Cross races to save his family, he realizes a deep and terrifying truth: Theirry Mulch doesn’t want to become the perfect killer—he wants to create one. 

And he’s picked Detective Alex Cross to be the guinea pig in his ruthless experiment of good versus evil. 

I love reading novels written by today’s greatest authors. Regardless of how I feel about Born to Die, James Patterson can write. (Although some say this novel was co-written. I couldn’t see any evidence of this, however.) 

There are two skills Patterson does well and consistently, and these skills were executed with enough skill that I continued reading the novel long into the night, even when I found certain aspects of the plot completely unbelievable. In other words, my experience of the story was so positive, I offered grace on areas I found less appealing. Those two skills were: In absolutely every scene, in fact, I believe every page, Patterson created a sense of urgency and incredibly high stakes. Life or death stakes. 

He starts the novel at the book signing of a crime writer, introducing us to an atrocious homicide case that occurred in Omaha, NE. Through this, we get a creepy sense, an almost indiscernible hint, of impeding danger. This foreshadowing gripped me immediately, giving my imagination free-range to work itself—and Patterson’s characters—into quite a mess. Not that they needed my help in that regard. This was one tense novel, with dead bodies popping up all over the place! The writing was tight, the various subplots converged together necessarily, and the various threads were all neatly tied by the end. 

All in all a great book… sort of.

Minus the improbability of much of it. Without giving too much a way, there were a few times when I put the book down, scratched my head (figuratively), and said, “Um… no. That couldn’t happen.” And yet, I continued reading and still greatly enjoyed the story. And perhaps that’s when great writing really shows itself—when the reader, like me, is willing to not only suspend belief but disregard moments of disbelief, in order to remain immersed in the novel. 

If you like mysteries and suspense and don’t mind a bit of improbability, you’ll enjoy Born to Die. As for me, I’ll likely read more Patterson books in the future… eventually. 

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery