Thursday, March 26, 2015

Melody Carlson's Love Gently Falling ~ Reviewed

Melody Carlson
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Center Street (January 6, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1455528102


Rita Jansen is living her dream as a hairstylist in Hollywood when her father calls with news that her mother has suffered a stroke. When she gets home to Chicago, Rita finds her mother is healing but facing a long recovery. Worse, without being able to run their family-owned salon, her mother could lose the business. Rita decides to help, but she only has until Valentine's Day to come up with a plan. 
As Rita takes her mother's place at work, the nearby skating rink she loved as a child brings back fond memories. Rita also finds herself renewing friendships with her childhood best friend, Marley, as well as her classmate Johnny. Although they now lead such seemingly different lives, Rita is surprised by how well she and Johnny connect and how far he will go to help her. Though Rita believes Johnny is only being kind, with romance kindling in the air and on the ice, their friendship may just fall into something more. 


Love Gently Falling is about Rita Jansen, a young woman who is currently living in Beverly Hills, working in an upscale salon as a successful hairdresser. When her mother, who owns her own beauty shop in Chicago, suddenly suffers from a stroke, Rita is forced to take time off to come home to see her. After her mother's condition stabilizes, Rita decides to go to her mother's salon, Hair and Now, to see how things are going, and is surprised to see how run down and shabby it's looking. When she finds some of the original décor and furniture in the storage room, she decides to take it upon herself, with her mother's permission, to “make over” the salon. With the help of longtime friend Marley, as well as a former classmate, Johnny, she is able to make the transformation happen in less than three weeks. But when it comes time for Rita to leave, she's having a hard time, not only leaving her family and the salon, but the possibility of a relationship with Johnny.

This was a really cute story. Just nice and sweet. I really enjoyed how Rita took up the task of saving her mother's salon, using her own savings to do so. Not a lot of children would do that now-a-days. It was an enjoyable story.

Review by: Sarah Meyers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Marissa Shrock's The First Principle ~ Reviewed

By Marissa Shrock
Published by Kregel Publications
Release Date: January, 2015
Pages: 237
ISBN: 978-0-8254-4357-2

About the book:

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same--until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.
When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she's sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn't long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion--or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother's chances at becoming president.
A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn't ready to face.
Marissa Shrock's debut novel crafts a chilling story of what may be to come if we allow the economic and moral crises currently facing our country to change the foundations on which we built our independence--and of the difference one person can make when they choose to trust God's lead.


I should read young adult novels more often. YA authors tend to be crazy-talented. They have to be, because most youth won’t waste their time reading otherwise. In The First Principle, Marissa Shrock gave credence to my point. Consider her first sentence:

The biggest rebellions begin with the smallest steps, and I took my first small step one December morning during study hall.

If I were a teen, that statement alone would capture my attention as I suspect every adolescent has a rebel lurking within. As they should, to some extent, or society would never change. We’d still be listening to Gregorian Chants and wearing corsets. Because sometimes to do what’s right, one must stand up against what’s wrong, and often our youth are the few with the courage to do so.

In that vein, Marissa Shrock is a talented author who challenged me to think outside the box while simultaneously encouraging me to evaluate my culture on a deeper level.

Though completely different than the Hunger Games in almost every way, this novel reminded me of the underlying thread presented in that best-selling series: Children, well, in this case, teens, controlled by adults. Adults the teens weren’t entirely sure they could trust. In that regard, I felt Marissa captured the struggle many of today’s teens face—that of wanting independence; of seeing societal rules, laws and customs as confining yet wanting to conform.

I empathized with and admired Vivica, the usually obedient and political correct heroine. As the daughter of a politician, she’s been raised to believe many of the rules of her time—the banning of unapproved Bibles, mandatory pregnancy tests and vaccines, and forced abortions, are for the good of all. Until a personal problem causes her to reevaluate everything she knows. For much of the novel, she wrestles with this uncertainty and the emotional angst that comes with it, because for her, changing beliefs means much more than pushing back against societal expectations. It could destroy her relationship with her mother. And maybe cost her her life.

This was a great book, authentically told, and literally kept me up well past my bedtime on numerous nights. I found the conversations between the teens in novel very true to life, and I loved how Marissa resolved the issues presented and the story. I will definitely be looking out for more Shrock novels, and I plan to tell the teens I know about her as well.  

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Suzanne Woods Fisher's Anna's Crossing ~ Reviewed

Suzanne Woods Fisher
Series: Amish Beginnings
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800723198


Some endings are really beginnings . . . 

On a hot day in 1737 in Rotterdam, Anna König reluctantly sets foot on the Charming Nancy, a merchant ship that will carry her and her fellow Amish believers across the Atlantic to start a new life. As the only one in her community who can speak English, she feels compelled to go. But Anna is determined to complete this journey and return home--assuming she survives. She's heard horrific tales of ocean crossings and worse ones of what lay ahead in the New World. But fearfulness is something Anna has never known. 

Ship's carpenter Bairn resents the somber people--dubbed Peculiars by the deckhands--who fill the lower deck of the Charming Nancy. All Bairn wants to do is to put his lonely past behind him, but that irksome and lovely lass Anna and her people keep intruding on him.

Delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions test the mettle and patience of everyone on board. When Anna is caught in a life-threatening situation, Bairn makes a discovery that shakes his entire foundation. But has the revelation come too late?

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing--and the lives of two intrepid people who braved it.

Anna's Crossing
 tells us about a young Amish woman named Anna. She is among the first wave of Amish to come to America in 1737. Anna unwillingly leaves behind her Grandparent's to sail to the New World. While aboard the ship, she meets the ship's carpenter, Bairn, and they form a friendship. While he finds the way of her “People” odd, as well as their belief in God, he can't help but find himself drawn to her and them. And while Anna knows she could never be with him because he's not one of her people, she finds she can't help falling in love with him.

This book started out a bit slow at first, but once the characters were aboard the ship, it started to get really interesting. I enjoyed Anna's character, and how she stuck by her faith, and wasn't afraid to share about her beliefs with Bairn, even though she knew he had no faith.

Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tom Pawlik's Beckon ~ Reviewed

Beckon [Kindle Edition]
Tom Pawlik (Author)
File Size: 572 KB
Print Length: 413 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1414338732
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 16, 2012)


Some things weren’t meant to be discovered. Three people are each drawn to the small town of Beckon, Wyoming. A young anthropologist researches a Native American legend and makes a terrifying discovery. An ex-cop investigating her cousin’s disappearance finds herself in grave peril. And an aging businessman is lured by the promise of a miracle. One by one they discover the town’s ghastly secret. The only question is . . . will any of them make it out alive?


This book released a few years ago. And I loath to admit I am just now read it for review. There are so many books that I want to read and just not enough time to read them. This one was a have to and I finally squeezed it in.

Okay. Mutant Cave Creatures, Batman! This is an intense and mind boggling novel. A very well written one I must add, that didn't sacrifice character development or attention to detail for the plot factor. This one has it all. I can see why Pawlik is a Christy Award winner. The man can write and he can weave a story. If you have a trip coming up and need a travel or beach read/listen, or just want to be thoroughly juiced on intensity give this one a chance. Creepalicious.

The publisher sent me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stephanie Reed's The Bachelor ~ Reviewed

The Bachelor: A Novel (Plain City Peace)
by Stephanie Reed
Series: Plain City Peace (Book 2)
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (October 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825442168

In this sequel to The Bargain, Betsie Troyer is back home in her Amish community where she knows she belongs, free from the confusing Englisher way of life. She and Charley Yoder have made promises to each other, and her life is back on track--until Gerald Sullivan shows up with his young daughter, asking for Betsie's help. He’s on his way to find his estranged wife, and begs Betsie to take young Sheila in.
When she agrees, Betsie's carefully planned life is shaken up again. Sheila's newfound faith is troubling to Charley--and his attraction to another girl is beginning to be a problem. But how can Betsie confront him when she is still trying to confront her own feelings about Sheila's brother, Michael? Keeping the peace between the Amish man she's always loved, a twelve-year-old Englisher girl, and a draft-dodging hippie is more than she ever thought she’d have to deal with in her simple, orderly life. Still, Betsie is convinced she can keep things from falling apart completely.
Then during her best friend's wedding, tragedy strikes and her world is upended. She has to make a decision: does she love Charley or Michael . . . or is she craving a deeper love that only God can give?
The compelling second novel of the Plain City Peace series, The Bachelor deftly weaves together the strands of a solid, simpler time with the turmoil of an era of change, revealing the strengths of both in its powerful narrative.


The Bachelor is book two in the Plain City Peace Series. Betsie Troyer's new friend, Michael, left at the end of the previous book to avoid being drafted to go to Vietnam. Betsie has gone back to her home to wait and pray for her parent's to come home. They left the Amish life after finding salvation in Jesus Christ. Betsie and her siblings just don't understand and are afraid for their eternal fate for leaving the church. Charley, Betsie's intended, continues to pursue her, though there are little things that he is doing that are beginning to irritate her. In the meant time, Sheila, the Michael's younger sister and the daughter of the English family she was working for, comes to stay with her for an indefinite period of time while her parent's try to to save their marriage. Sheila is unafraid to share her faith in Jesus with Betsie and her family. While this causes problems with some people, you can begin to see Betsie's heart turning, though you can't be sure she's convinced.
I was so excited to get this book. The last book really left the reader hanging, and it was exciting to pick back up with the characters. There were some twists and turns in it that were completely unexpected, yet it was exciting to see the outcome due to these events. I really enjoyed the story and am excited for book three.
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Terri Blackstock's Twisted Innocence ~ Reviewed

Twisted Innocence
Terri Blackstock
Series: Moonlighters Series
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310332362


Holly Cramer’s past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.
Though Holly’s stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily’s father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family—she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he’s a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.
Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller—the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he’s innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can’t trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.
Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.


I haven't read Terri Blackstock in a bit. When a publicist sent a copy of Twisted Innocence winging my way I had to crack the cover. And there went a good portion of my next week. 

Blackstock writes a complex tale that ends up cleaning up a trilogy in Twisted Innocence. I missed the others in the series but didn't have any trouble figuring out what happened in previous books.

With tremendous plotting and characterization skill Blackstock weaves a tense drama that is full of investigative and legal intrigue.

Holly, a recent new mama has changed since she ended up pregnant after a night she regrets. Her shame is intensified because her sisters have been through so much in the past couple of years. When Holly discovers the secret father of her baby is in legal trouble she secretly uses her PI skills to make sure he's not looking for her and her sweet little Lily. Instead she ends up being kidnapped. When he tells her the story of why he's in hiding she doesn't want to believe him, but he seems so overwhelmed at what he thinks his future holds and so tender toward their baby. In the meantime paths are crossing, and details are unfolding within her family and justice needs to be served.

If you like crime fiction or just page turners check this one out. I might have to go back to read the rest of the series.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, March 06, 2015

Rachel Hauck's Princess Ever After ~ Reviewed

Princess Ever After
Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding Series
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310315506


Regina Beswick was born to be a princess. 
But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales.
Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future—and his own.
Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. 
Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together—with a little divine intervention—Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.
Tasty as a cool glass of Southern Iced Tea on a steamy day, is this fun, fictional concoction. Reggie Beswick is all tough as nails and hangs with the boys and is embracing her new life with gusto. She just closed up her short but-lasted-forever CPA career and jumped into her dream. Restoring classic and rare cars is going to be everything she ever wanted and the first car, the first success, proved it. But she didn't know that there was truth to the fairy tale her very elderly grandmother had written and illustrated for her on her 6th birthday. 
When handsome and troubled Tanner Burkhardt jumps a Royal Air Force One plane over the pond to fetch Hessenberg's princess Reggie's life is forever changed. The tale unfolds with plenty of drama and soul-searching, unfolding love and renewed faith. A very satisfying romantic read.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Melissa Jagears's A Bride in Store ~ Reviewed

By Melissa Jagears
Published by Bethany House
Date: September, 2014
356 pages
ISBN: 978-0764211690


Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.

Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.

The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.


I’ve often heard other Christian fiction addicts talk about how they long to read about authentic, flawed characters. We want to know they struggle, that they have weaknesses and faults, and even sin on occasion. Yet, I’ve begun to wonder if there’s an unspoken line regarding what flaws are acceptable. More than that, I wonder if we—or perhaps I should say, I—truly do want to read about characters that struggle with the same things that we do. Fear, insecurities, perhaps the occasional stubbornness--those are appropriate flaws, it seems. But what happens when a character displays a great deal of selfishness? 

Like gold digging selfishness? 

These were the questions I found myself pondering as I read Melissa Jagears A Bride in Store. To be honest, at first I didn’t like the heroine or the story. Though Eliza had many character traits I admire, such as determination, intelligence, perseverance, and inner strength, her continual desire to look out for herself really bothered me. She ultimately parceled herself off as a mail order bride in order to help run a store. Perhaps this was common in her era. I know mail-order brides were, but I’d prefer to read about one who chose such a situation out of desperate need or perhaps to help her orphaned sister. 

And yet, I kept reading. Because Melissa Jagears writes well, and she crafted a plot that, for the most part, intrigued me. Enough that I finished the novel, which says a lot considering the large number of books I have on my shelves. About 100 pages into A Bride in Store, I was glad I persevered. And I began to rethink my initial judgments of Eliza, not because her initial acts were any less selfish but rather, my own acts of selfishness sprang to mind, reminding me of all of our need for grace. 

So, although at first sweet and spunky Eliza caused me to grit my teeth on more than one occasion, the story—a mail order bride, a train robbery, a major unexpected plot twist, and an intriguing small town community—drew me in. In the end, I found Eliza’s journey satisfying. 

I also liked how Melissa Jagears surprised me. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will say, the hero in this novel turned things upside down, adding a bit of intrigue and mystery. I also really liked William Stanton, the doctor with a tender, perhaps too tender, heart for others. He and Eliza were thought-provoking contrasts, for sure! And they both had realistic flaws, resulting in authentic and dynamic characters. 

All in all, though Eliza irritated me on numerous occasions, I must applaud Ms. Jagears for her courage in presenting a character—Eliza—who is probably more like each of us than we’d care to admit. 

If you enjoy characters who, perhaps, are more like our neighbors than our church buddies and historical romance, you should give a Bride in Store a try. If you do pick it up, I encourage you to stick with it—stick with Eliza. She just might pleasantly surprise you.  
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery