Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Melody Carlson's Once Upon a Summertime ~ Reviewed

Once Upon a Summertime
Melody Carlson
Series: Follow Your Heart (Book 1)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Revell (June 2, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800723570

Managing the Value Lodge in her hometown was not what Anna Gordon had in mind when she set out in the hospitality industry. But it's a safe choice for a woman whose childhood was anything but stable. Out of the blue, she gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reinvent herself by moving to New York City, where she hopes for a management position at a stylish new boutique hotel. The big city is full of surprises--not the least of which is Sean O'Neil. Her childhood crush has applied for the very same position!

Sweet, romantic, and endlessly entertaining, this romp through the storied streets of New York City will enchant readers. Melody Carlson has created characters so charming that readers will long to meet them in the lobby of the stunning Rothsberg Hotel.


Melody Carlson has penned a sweetly innocent coming of age story in Once Upon A Summertime. Okay, Anna Gordon isn't a teen girl, but she's kind of still living that life. She's bunking with her Grandmother and holds a job that sucks the marrow from her bones and keeps her from becoming the adult she wants to be. When a high school friend comes back to visit, Anna gets a wake up call. Marley is living a life that even though doesn't quite fit Anna's dreams prods Anna's inner dreamer into consciousness. 

Leaving everything she knows behind, Anna strikes out for New York and her very own version of a dream job. As she really discovers who she is and what she wants and needs in life, Anna blossoms into her new position and into a new relationship. 

With fun glimpses of New York, and a look into the inner workings of a hotel, Carlson whooshes Anna into adulthood and will no doubt cause true romance fans plenty of swoons. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kim Vogel Sawyer's When Grace Sings ~ Reviewed

When Grace Sings: A Novel 
by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Series: The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (March 17, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307731332


When trouble roars into quiet Arborville, Alexa and Anna-Grace find themselves the target for discord and exposed secrets. Can they continue to seek the God of all grace amidst the fog of confusion?  
Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren’t what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she’s operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.

But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths. 

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.


When Grace Sings is about a young woman named Alexa Zimmerman. She recently met her Old Order Mennonite Family for the first time, and now resides with her Grandmother at her house. They have turned the house into a bed-and-breakfast, and Alexa is hoping her new family will accept her. In the meantime, her first longtime boarder, Briley Forrester, a reporter from Chicago, comes to stay at the inn. Little do they know that his purpose there is to learn more about the lives of the Mennonites, to prove that everything is not as “perfect” as what they portray to the world. While Briley worms his way into the hearts of the people of the community, Alexa is working hard to resist his charms. As things begin to settle into a groove, Alexa is asked to set a room aside for her cousin, Anna Grace. However, having Anna Grace in the house may force everyone to face secrets that have remained hidden since both girls were born.

I enjoyed this story, but found myself wishing I had read the first book in the series, as there were a lot of references made to things that happened in book one. I think I would have had a better understanding of this story. However, that being said, I really enjoyed this book, enough that I would like to find the first one so that I can find out the back story.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gerard Kelly's The Boy Who Loved Rain ~ Reviewed

The Boy Who Loved Rain
by Gerard Kelly
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lion Fiction; 1st New edition edition (January 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1782641297


They say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. They’re wrong.
Colom had the perfect childhood, the much-loved only child of a church pastor. Yet he wakes screaming from dreams in which his sister is drowning and he can’t save her.
Fiona turns to her husband, desperate to help their son. But David will not acknowledge that help is needed―and certainly not help from beyond the church.
Then they find the suicide pledge.
Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees… but when will she acknowledge that the unnamed demons Colom faces might be of her and David’s own creation?
This beautifully written and searching novel by poet Gerard Kelly explores the toxicity of secrets, the nature of healing, and the ever-present power of rain.


I like a story full of psychological twists and turns and puzzles. This novel has those abundantly in it, and it has more, sympathetic characters and evocative writing. 

A young teen, Colom, begins acting out and his religious father knows what he needs, more discipline. However, his mother despairs that there is something deeply wrong that discipline isn't going to help. 

A crisis flares and mom choses a radical plan to help her Colom. 

The layers of this young man's sorrows, confusion and past begin to be revealed. And with it the deceptions in the parents' lives. A water, sea, rain theme winds it's way through the landscape of this fascinating story of brokenness and ultimately, hope. 

A satisfying read even if told through the least intimate omniscient point of view. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lyn Cote's Blessing ~ Reviewed

Lyn Cote
Series: Quaker Brides (Book 2)
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 18, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414375611


An impetuous love swept Blessing Brightman away from the Quaker community, into the highest ranks of Cincinnati society. But behind the glitter of ballroom and parlor, her spirit slowly eroded in an increasingly dangerous marriage. Widowed young, determined never to lose her independence again, Blessing reclaimed her faith and vowed to use her influence to fight for women’s rights and abolition.

Gerard Ramsay, scion of a wealthy Boston family, arrives in Cincinnati hoping to escape his father’s clutches with a strategy that will gain him independence. His plan is soon complicated, however, by the enchanting widow. Never before has a woman spoken as if she’s his equal―or challenged him to consider the lives of others.

In a city nearly ablaze with racial tensions quickly dividing the country, can two people worlds apart possibly find common ground?


Blessing is a story set in Cincinnati at the height of women's suffrage and the Underground Railroad. Because Ohio borders Kentucky many a slave sought the chance at freedom through those generous enough to care about human beings regardless of gender or skin color. 

I've not spent a lot of time studying this piece of our history. And though I know it was scandalous to expect any rights if not a white, wealthy man, the struggle is foreign to me. I can vote just as easily as my husband after all. This is one of my favorite things about historical fiction, that a story can make a situation long past very real to me through characters I grow to care about. 

Lyn Cote does an excellent job making characters change and develop into people I was able to admire. And she brought to life that some of my freedoms did come at the very real cost to others. 

Anyone interested in a rich, deep story set in a volatile time in our history should look into reading this novel. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:

Blessing is about a young woman named Blessing Brightman. Having straying from her Quaker faith to marry a man not of the faith, she found herself in an unhappy marriage. After her husband's tragic death, Blessing returns to her roots, and becomes involved in Women's Rights and the Underground Railroad. Gerard Ramsay comes from a wealthy family, but is trying to get out of the control of his father, so he goes to Cincinnati in hopes of talking his cousin out of getting married, as he believes marriage only ties a person down. Through mutual contacts, Blessing and Gerard's paths keep crossing, though both casual and dangerous events. However, as much as neither believes in marriage for themselves, they can't help the pull that they feel towards each other.

The first chapter of this story started a tad slow for me, but not slow enough for me to put it down. The pace picked up quickly, and I hard a hard time keeping myself from “binge reading.” I really loved this story and admire Blessing's character. She was a strong woman that fought for the rights of people, yet she was still a Godly woman, looking out for people's best interests. This book was wonderful, and I hope to read more by her.

Reviews by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Lori Benton's The Wood's Edge ~ Reviewed

The Wood's Edge: A Novel
by Lori Benton
Series: The Pathfinders
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601427328


At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact? 
The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths. 
On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples. 
When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?


The Wood's Edge begins in 1757 in the new colonies before the Revolutionary War. The New York frontier is home both to the Oneida Indian tribe, and to the British colonists. On the same day that Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey has a dilemma on his hands. His infant son, born that day, has died, but his wife does not yet know. While she is sleeping, he takes the boy from her and grieves. In the midst of wandering, he comes across a young white woman dressed as an Indian in the camp hospital. She is sleeping, and holding newborn twin sons, one white and one brown. In moment of madness, fearing what the loss of the baby might do to his wife, he swaps his dead son for this woman's living white son. Shortly after, chaos ensues, and as the young woman, Good Voice, escapes with her babies, she doesn't realize until it's too late that the white son she is holding is not her own. While her and her husband, Stone Thrower, grieve their missing son, Reginald is now living with a heavy conscience, though no one suspects that William is not his son. As time goes on, Reginald's wife begins to lose her mind, and his young daughter, Anna, begins a friendship with a young Oneida boy, Two Hawks, not knowing that this is William's brother. As the children grow, the weight of the decision made that day grows heavier on Reginald and the truth begins to come out

I LOVED this story. I had a hard time putting it down. I kept getting inpatient for things to get fully resolved, only to get to the end of the book to find that I have to wait for the next one in the series to come out. I highly recommend this book. It was wonderful

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Chris Fabry's War Room ~ Reviewed

War Room: Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon
by Chris Fabry
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 4, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1496407288

Juggling motherhood and her job as a real-estate agent, Elizabeth Jordan wishes her husband could help more around the house. But Tony’s rising career as a pharmaceutical salesman demands more and more of his time. With a nice home in the suburbs and a lovely young daughter, they appear to have it all―yet they can’t seem to spend time together without fighting.

Hoping for a new listing, Elizabeth visits the home of Clara Williams, an elderly widow, and is both amused and uncomfortable when Clara starts asking pointed questions about her marriage and faith. But it’s Clara’s secret prayer room, with its walls covered in requests and answers, that has Elizabeth most intrigued . . . even if she’s not ready to take Clara’s suggestion that she create a prayer room of her own. As tensions at home escalate, though, Elizabeth begins to realize that her family is worth fighting for, and she can’t win this battle on her own. Stepping out in blind faith, putting her prayers for her family and their future in God’s hands, might be her only chance at regaining the life she was meant for.


I've seen most of the Kendrick brothers' films and am a big fan of their ability to deliver important messages through humor and charming characters.

In the War Room novelization adapted by Chris Fabry, I found the Kendricks' wit intact. The quick moving plot line is all about fighting. The fleshed out characters of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan are experts in war and the proof is in quick flare ups and scars left behind. But, on some level, the life they've created, where they are miles apart, is normal. Elizabeth takes on the selling of a home for a feisty little prayer warrior who won't let Elizabeth rest in her cold war of a marriage. Instead she helps fan the flame in Elizabeth to put the armor on and battle for her family

Heart warming and challenging reading, highly recommended to anyone who loves a good story.

When I closed the book for the last time on this story I came away remembering that all is not as it seems. Material success, fame, beauty, glory are often just smoke and mirrors that don’t fool others, more likely we are only fooling ourselves. And sometimes God's best work is to rip down what we've built. God is in the business of retooling, reframing, reimagining and repairing our lives when we get out of the way and stop fighting His every move.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer