Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jennifer AlLee's Last Family Standing ~ Reviewed



Last Family Standing
By Jennifer AlLee (Author)
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sep 16, 2014
Publisher Abingdon Press
ISBN 1426768095

Overview

Twenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, the thing Monica didn't dare hope for has happened: Jessica has reentered her life . . . and brought a little drama and competition with her. Jessica is willing to meet her birth mother, but she wants the reunion to air on a reality TV show. Monica would rather chew glass than appear on TV. But she'll swallow her pride-and a few other unsavory items-if that's what it takes to reconnect. As if getting to know her grown daughter while competing on a remote island isn't hard enough, Monica is further confused when Jessica's long-lost birth father shows up, complicating both her relationship with her daughter and the attraction Monica has to the hunky reality show host. The fruit-basket upset of emotions, accusations, and regrets might make for good TV, but will it destroy the family in the process?


Review:

With all the competition and obstacles of a reality TV show, Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee will have you turning page after page to see who wins. AlLee does an excellent portrayal of emotions in this book. They snap with electricity and are anything but stereotypical. Novel Rocket and I give it a high recommendation. It's a perfect Spring or Summer read.


Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, president
Novel Rocket

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ane Mulligan's Chapel Springs Revival ~ Reviewed

Chapel Springs Revival
  • Ane Mulligan
    Paperback: 274 pages
    Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (September 8, 2014)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10:1941103413



Description:

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

Review: 

I am always a little apprehensive when someone I know offers me a book for a review. 

I've known Ane Mulligan for years and she has been a staple and mentor in my writing and blogging journey. 

Ane's new book Chapel Springs Revival is a long time coming. Mulligan has worked the craft and networks involved in writing. If anyone deserves to be published just because she has given so much to other writers it would be Ane. 

But Mulligan isn't just a good writing citizen, she's a good writer with stories to tell that only she can. 

Ane introduces us to Claire and Patsy and their lives in a sleepy little village. But even sleepy villages often have underlying currents and pleasant, tranquil settings sometimes need a little  shot of passion and life. Chapel Springs is exactly there, and Patsy and Claire are treading in marital currents. 

Both women discover that their long marriages have begun to look a lot like the formerly charming town square. Used-to-be, lackluster, dull and barely functional. The ladies, along with some friends and frenemies, set out to refurbish pretty much everything. 

Claire, unfortunately, has a special knack for getting into hot water, so as the clean-up and self-improvement campaigns begin, Claire finds herself getting a little too immersed into the projects. My visual of Claire while reading about her antics is a mental merge of Lucille Ball in a panic, Tomb Raider's Lora Croft on a mission, and Mrs. Doubtfire with Mr. Mom on their learning curves. Let's just say that if something could go wrong and Claire is there it will go wrong in the worst way. My favorite scene in the book is at the end when she innocently has a mishap that lands her in an all dressed-up-and-no-way-out pickle. 

This story is sweet escapism but there are teaching elements that I appreciated as well. After all, I'm at a certain age and been married for a long while and have struggled with some of the same concerns discussed by Patsy and Claire. I mean, reality isn't a romance novel, it's a whole lot more like working late, worrying about family members and different interests most of the time. So while I loved the escapism and the fact that the book is very well written, I also appreciated the depth and realistic issues faced by the characters. 

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Susan May Warren's Evergreen ~ Reviewed





EVERGREEN
Susan May Warren
Pages 192
Binding Hardcover
Release Date Jul 1, 2014
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Christiansen Family
ISBN 1414394012


Description

An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn't be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He's sure she'll love it. What's more romantic than Christmas in Paris?Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then--because disasters strike in threes--an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid's marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.
               


Evergreen is a Christiansen Winter Novella.  It’s much shorter than the others in the series, but just as good.  This book focuses on the parents, Ingrid and John.  With all of their children out of the house and Christmas approaching, Ingrid is feeling down and out.  John decides to surprise her with a trip to Europe, only to find she volunteered them to head up the committee for the live Nativity seen that Christmas.  On top of that, an emergency surgery for the dog takes up most of their savings, and a surprise visitor shows up at their doorstep, for who knows how long.  While John is finding himself frustrated that he can’t have the perfect get-away and enjoy life as empty nesters, Ingrid is harboring a lot of anger and bitterness towards John over past issues. 
                
This book was great, though I was sad not to see much of the kids in it.  It was nice to see a focus on the parent’s, though, and the struggles they were going through.  The characters were very real.  The only thing that bothered me was that there was a point in the book where one of the unsaved characters was very curious about Jesus and John’s character didn’t really spell out the gospel for him.  The touched on trusting in God and such, but didn’t really dig in and explain to him that we are sinners that need a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus.  I wish the author would have taken the time to explain it more thoroughly.


Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Light in the Wilderness ~ Jane Kirkpatrick ~ Reviewed




A Light in the Wilderness
Jane Kirkpatrick
Pages 308
Binding Softcover
Release Date Sept. 2014
Publisher Revell
ISBN 1401687652

Description:

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.

Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.

As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

Review:

Though Letitia’s been freed, she can’t truly leave the cruel reality of slavery behind her. She cringes at the harsh life many others, still enslaved, face each day. But more than that, she carries with her the crippling fear that her newfound freedom will be ripped from her. All she has to prove her status, after all, are papers she can’t even read. Papers that can be taken from her, destoryed, or lost, sending her back into bondage. Besides, even those don’t guarantee her freedom, not when hateful patrollers are about, looking for someone to beat down. But if she could get to Oregon, then she could truly be free.

Couldn’t she?

This was one of the most gripping, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking novels I’ve read in some time. Ms. Kirkpatrick did a masterful job with each of her characters, but the one I loved most was Letitia. Oh, sweet, strong, frightened, weak Letitia! There were so many times I wished someone would help you! Shield you from the hatred swirling all around you.

When we first encounter this sweet woman of faith, she’s beaten down, muted by her fear. But holding tight to her papers, she fights for the confidence deserving of a freed woman. Regardless if others accept her or her status. But so long as her confidence rests on those papers—which she can’t even read!—she will never truly be freed from her terror.

In Letitiia we see an authentic mix of fear and courage, of conviction and insecurity, coupled with a determination that propels her forward. And with each step forward, she fights to leave her bitterness behind, dropping it down before it even has a chance to take root. For hatred is a type of slavery she refuses to embrace.

Then there’s Davey, the man who shows her kindness and maybe even something more. When we first met Davey, I wasn’t sure what to think of him. He was quite kind and gentle, considering his times. But even so, he held a fair amount of male chauvinism, at least early on. But then again, characters without flaws, even those that infuriate us on occasion, fall flat. And yet, even with his flaws, for the most part Davey was an honorable man who strived to do what was right. Not that he always knew what the right thing to do was!

Though he did lie and hide the truth on more than one occasion, internally justifying his behavior when he did so. This angered me on more than one occasion, and yet, in many ways, it was his irksome behavior that made him most authentic.

If you enjoy deep, authentic, and historically rich novels, you’ll love A Light in the Wilderness. But keep a box of tissues handy, for this one’s a tear-jerker!

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eva Gibson's A Stitch and A Prayer ~ Reviewed


Stitch And A Prayer (Quilts Of Love)
By Eva J. Gibson
Binding Softcover
Release Date Feb 1, 2014
Publisher Abingdon Press
Age 1-17
Series Quilts Of Love
ISBN 1426772521


Description:

After her fiance returns from the Klondike gold rush in 1897, Florence Harms sets about building a new life in her new marriage even though the lingering effects of illness have left her weak and vulnerable. She and her young husband, Will, work tirelessly to clear the land around their Northwest cabin, content with their modest life.

But then a stranger comes knocking and Florence suddenly senses a restlessness in Will s spirit that she had never seen before. When he leaves her with only a note that tells her he will return before their baby s birth, she is devastated, and the illness that stiffened her joints returns. Counting the days until Will walks back through her door, Florence busies herself with a Tree of Life quilt displaying a map of the farm they call home. Doubts claw at her heart as Florence struggles to believe Will s promise to return to her. Will her labor of love and faith in God sustain her as she waits to see her beloved once again?"


Review:

A stitch and a Prayer is about a newly married woman named Florence Harms, and takes place shortly after the Klondike gold rush in 1897. Her and her husband, Will, are trying to set up a new life for themselves. Florence has been battling terrible bouts of arthritis for some time, which makes it hard for her to be the wife she wants to be for Will. When she finds out she is pregnant, despite her joy, there is some nervousness, and too, wondering how she will cope with the other illness she is dealing with. In the meantime, a strange visitor shows up at their door, and shortly after, Will leaves without an explanation, promising to return in time for the birth of the baby.

This book ok, but it took a while to get in to. I couldn’t tell if it was a sequel to another story or not. It seemed to talk about things like I should have already known about them, which was very confusing to me. I did enjoy how the story unfolded, though, and the other supporting characters in the story made it fun as well.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Laura Frantz's Love's Fortune ~ Reviewed

By Laura Frantz
2014
Revell
9780800720438

BACK COVER COPY:

Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena "Wren" Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas's vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Wren makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world--family members she's never met, dances she's never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew.

As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes' shipping line. Even with his help, Wren feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

MY REVIEW:

From the wilds of Kentucky to the grand mansions of Pittsburgh, Love's Fortune takes the reader on a grand adventure of intrigue and romance. Join the dashing James Sackett and the sweet yet independent Wren Ballantyne in a sweet and educational story.

One of the things I love most about author Laura Frantz's writing is her attention to historical detail. I always learn tidbits I didn't know, and while reading, actually feel like I've been taken back in time. I had no idea that steamboats were so horrifically dangerous or that there's such a thing as an ice cream fork.

What most surprised me was the elegance of Pittsburgh. Admittedly, it's described as a dirty town, but high society lived and acted as though they were proper British folk.

Though Love's Legacy is the third installment in the Ballantyne Legacy, it can be read as a stand-alone. I'm living proof of it since (dare I admit?) I haven't read the first two in the series. After devouring this one, however, I'll be sure to pick up the first titles. Do yourself a favor and buy all three. You won't be sorry.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Monday, September 08, 2014

Angela Breidenbach's A Healing Heart ~ Reviewed


A Healing Heart: Quilts of Love Series [Paperback]
By Angela Breidenbach (Author),
Studio: Abingdon Press
Pages 236
Binding Softcover
Release Date Apr 1, 2013
Publisher Abingdon Press
Series Quilts Of Love
ISBN 1426752695




DescriptionMara Keegan is an uber-successful mother and a widow of three years. She's been chasing success and all the "good things in life" for her family to make up for the cruel whim God played on them by taking her husband. In an effort to be the perfect mom, she decides to make a photo memory quilt, a graduation present for her daughter, Cadence.
She s not yet finished when she experiences a heart attack. While Mara recuperates, she revisits the choices she's made that led to this physically and spiritually broken heart. The memory quilt must be finished in time for Cadence's big day, but Mara struggles with her burgeoning feelings for the man who must keep Mara's business going during her recovery, Joel Ryan. Can Joel find his way into Mara's heart and onto Cadence's quilt?"

Review: 

A Healing Heart is about Mara Keegan.  Being a widowed mother of three children, along with running the business her husband left behind, leaves Mara with little free time for her family or her own hobbies and interests. After a heart attack and a broken ankle force her to slow down, she also comes face to face with having to trust someone else with her business.  Joel Ryan, her new business coach, wastes no time stepping to help out in any way he can, until he finally works his way into the hearts of Mara’s children, and herself.  However, she’s not sure she can let herself trust this man with everything, especially when he has such a strong faith in the Lord and her faith is so broken at the moment.
                
I did enjoy this book.  I liked Joel’s character.  Initially, when Mara had met him a few years before, he was not a Christian and tried to pull some unfair business dealings.  He has since become a believer and has to work really hard to earn Mara’s trust, but he doesn’t balk from the job.  His actions and love towards her and the family show the work that the Lord has done in changing him.  I think he was my favorite character.
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers