Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lisa Wingate's Wildwood Creek ~ Reviewed

Wildwood Creek
Lisa Wingate
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (February 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764208241


Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream. 

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results.


Wildwood Creek has moved Lisa Wingate to favorite authors status. 

This is only the 2nd novel of hers that I've read and now I feel compelled to read them all. 

Why? Story, characters, writing. 

First let's talk about story. Wildwood Creek is set in modern day and in 1861. Allie Kirkwood is eking out a dream she's had ever since her father tragically died, to pick up where he left off, making movies. Her mother and stepfather have no patience left for the nonsense of the life she is choosing. She discovers a big break, a chance to be behind the scenes on a historical reality show directed by one of the best and most powerful men in the business. Getting and keeping this job, helping recreate a mysterious 1861 Wildwood Texas, will give her what she needs to finally grasp her dreams. 

Bonnie Rose is running from the horror of her past. As a young girl she and her younger sister were captured by a vicious tribe and Bonnie loses nearly everything, including her parents. She has a chance to move far away from the talk, the arched glances, the knowledge of who she is and what she has become, and what was taken from her, to make a better life for Maggie May and her. She signs up to teach in Wildwood, Texas. 

The narrative ramps up tension as each woman discovers pieces of information, fragments of who she is, and adversity in their respective time frames. The adversity is tense. Disappearances occur in Wildwood in 1861 and the townspeople begin to wonder if Bonnie isn't a witch, the Queen of the River People. As the pounding panic hits a crescendo Bonnie's life is in danger. In the retelling of the story of Bonnie Rose, Allie finds herself falling deeper and deeper into the story of Wildwood, far deeper than she's comfortable with. And she breaks a cardinal rule that could get her removed from the set and ruin her dreams. 

The story is enough to recommend the book, but there's more.  The characters and writing go hand in hand. Each woman is different, with different ghosts that haunt, different fears that paralyze, but they are similar to each other in that they haven't fully lost the ability to hope. Wingate expertly handles backstory, much of the trauma they've each suffered is merely hinted at, but the characterization clearly shows how deep the trauma was and how it shaped the women. The writing is transcendent in that as soon as I began reading I became unaware of the words and was pulled completely into the story and the settings through my senses and through the deep characterization. 

My only complaint is that I wanted more. I wasn't ready for the story to end and to lose touch with the characters. 

If you are fascinated by history or reality television you should probably look into this one. If you want a good story that sucks you in and keeps you turning pages way past bedtime. If you love meaty writing and storytelling you really need to check into Wingate. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Julie Cannon's Scarlett Says ~ Reviewed

by Julie L Cannon
  • ISBN-13: 9781426753572
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 2/18/2014
  • Pages: 320

Scarlett O’Hara has an answer for everything . . . right?

Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara isn’t perfect, but as far as 30-year-old literature lover Joan Meeler is concerned, Scarlett’s outspoken passion, strength, and 17-inch waist make up for her other shortcomings. In fact, Joan has grown quite fond of writing her advice blog in Scarlett’s devil-may-care tone. It gives her a voice and confidence she otherwise couldn’t muster. Nevermind that her writing muse is a fictional character.

What would Scarlett say, for example, about Charles, one of Joan’s first and most devoted blog readers, who suddenly has Joan dreaming (and worrying) of a life—and love—outside of make-believe? Joan digs into her heroine’s mind, searching for something to calm her rising insecurities but discovers that Scarlett is surprisingly mute on the topic. Abandoned by her sole source of security, can Joan look elsewhere—even to God—to uncover the inner confidence she so desperately needs?


Heartwarming, heart wrenching, humorous, and thoroughly delightful, Scarlett says is the perfect beach read this summer. Julie Cannon was a master at pulling her readers inside her characters' heads and emotions. Scarlett says is more of an experience than a simple read. Novel Rocket and I give it a very high recommendation.  

Julie was the best-selling author of several titles. Her books have been names in Good Housekeeping's "20 Books to Tote on Vacation" and have become finalists for a variety of awards, including the Townsend Prize for Fiction as well as the SIBA Book Award. Julie passed away in 2012.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Friday, April 18, 2014

Priscilla Shirer's God is Able ~ Reviewed

God Is Able [Paperback]
By Priscilla Shirer (Author)
Pages 157
Release Date Jul 1, 2013
Publisher Broadman And Holman
ISBN 1433681919


Got an "IMPOSSIBLE "situation? The anxiety it brings can wake you in the middle of a needed night's sleep and then stalk you in the middle of broad daylight. It can sneak up on you and cast a cloak of fear and concern over your shoulders that you can't seem to shake no matter how hard you try. It can take you down. Squash all hope. Stop you in your tracks. 

"IMPOSSIBLE. IMPENETRABLE. UNCHANGEABLE. "Maybe so . . . until God gets involved. No matter the details of your circumstance, His raw power potential and immeasurable ability refuse to cower in the face of any challenge. Nothing is impossible with God. "Nothing." Not even "that "thing. This is the uplifting, well-reasoned answer from "New York Times" best-selling author Priscilla Shirer--not a denial of life's adversities and troubles, but a biblical reminder that God is always up to great things, even when His great things are greater then instant remedies and visible change. He is a God who cares . . . and a God who CAN. Believe it. Experience it. "God Is Able."


I’ve not read Priscilla Shirer before this little study. This won’t be my last. Though God is Able is a short read ( about 150 pages) and though it essentially covers 2 verses it’s packed with truth and much to think about.

It would be lovely if we could grab hold of scripture and embrace it fully as truth and live our lives by the principles. However, in my experience, taking apart verses, considering them in light of the context and the entire counsel of the Word of God, and having pictures painted to show me what exactly the truth means for me and my life, is most often necessary. Shirer does just that. She presents the truth about God’s character through stories, examples and word pictures. She encourages active listening, wherein you hear, really hear what’s being said and act on it. She transparently shares her own insecurities and challenges, her own struggles in the process of embracing truth.

Overall, this is a good study that probably should be read every year or so. (Another thing I’ve learned…truth fades when I stop exposing myself fervently to it.) A small women's group discussion over each chapter (which generally takes on one portion of the verse) could easily be a group activity. Shirer’s voice is very poetic and sing-songy in delivery. She is often snappy and humorous, other times vulnerable, sometimes the delivery is a little overwhelming and I had to take it in small portions. If you are looking for a group study or to add some solid foundational truth to your life you might want to look further into this book. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dan Walsh's What Follows After ~ Reviewed

By Dan Walsh
Published by Revell
320 Pages


In October 1962, Colt Harrison and his little brother, Timmy, hatched a plan. They would run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt's house in Savannah, Georgia, and refuse to come home until their parents got back together. But things go terribly, terribly wrong. Colt's mother and father must come to grips with years of neglect and mistrust in order to recover their beloved sons, their love for one another, and their broken marriage.

In this emotional story, Dan Walsh takes readers on a journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life--love, truth, and family.


I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that dropped me into 1962. Life and society were different then. The author says, “Many things about the “Camelot Years” of Jackie and JFK were not what they seemed. Certainly, some things were better back then. Even statistics that measure certain aspects of society,… was simpler and it would seem safer (the world blowing up by nuclear annihilation notwithstanding)…serious problems were simmering beneath the surface.” 

Dan continued, “It was interesting to see how life was in 1962. You could sense the undercurrents of a different spirit rising above the one depicted in shows like Leave it to Beaver” or The Dick Van Dyke Show. Life wasn’t as rosy as they were in these shows.” 

The author goes on to state, “Part of the reason I decided to set this book in the early sixties was to explore how the timeless truths of the gospel could have applied on an average American family during this time period… I think a more honest assessment would suggest that many American’s church experiences in the 50’s and 60’s had more to do with the religion of Christianity than a clear understanding of the gospel.” 

“One particular week in 1962 the world almost ended and that’s not an exaggeration. Everyone who lived back then knew it was true. Historians would later say things were even worse than President Kennedy and the politicians had let on. In some ways, even worse than they realized. If God had looked the other way for a single moment, we’d all be dead. Every single one of us.” 

“Of course, the world didn’t end then. But for our family, one part sure did.” 

This novel starts out in the future with Colt Harrison, Timmy’s brother going to visit a house that had been given to him. He wasn’t sure if he could live in this house. His wife says it’s ok if he doesn’t want to retire there. They could sell the house and move somewhere else. 

Memories flood his mind of a horrible day as soon as he enters the front door.  Colt’s remembrances of a Day that changed their family forever invade his mind. Then the book takes readers to October 1962. Colt and his little brother, Timmy have concocted a plan to run away from home to get their parents back together. One small problem Colt hadn’t expected to happen was for Timmy to go missing. 

Colt frantically tries to find Timmy on his own but quickly realizes he needs grown-up help. It was funny to read about how police go about searching for a missing child. It’s not like it is today where the internet can have a Child Alert posted on the highway signs and an email sent nationwide looking for a missing child that would include pictures. There are other ways to get the word out quickly. 

Another thing that struck me was the lack of intimacy and friendship in the marriage and family relationships depicted. I was also surprised to see how employers taxed an employee’s time giving no thought to the man’s family life and/or situation. 

Given the sex trafficking trade and other horrible things that we hear about today this book would have read a lot differently if the setting would have been in current time. But given it was set in 1962 times and situations were very different. It’s an interesting read written with Dan’s style that make readers think about how much has changed for the good not just the bad. As he stated not everything was what it seemed back then.

Reviewed by: Nora :o)
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
Finding Hope Through Fiction Blog

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lynne Gentry's Healer of Carthage ~ Reviewed

Healer of Carthage [Paperback]
By Lynne Gentry (Author)
Release Date Mar 1, 2014
Publisher Simon & Schuster
ISBN 1476746338

A modern-day doctor gets trapped in third-century Carthage, Rome, where she uncovers buried secrets, confronts Christian persecution, and battles a deadly epidemic to save the man she loves. 

Dr. Lisbeth Hastings, a first-year resident, is summoned by her eccentric father to join him at his archaeological dig. She is hesitant to accept his invitation, but when a tragic mistake ends her medical career, Lisbeth decides the only way to redeem her failure is to care for her confused father. 

While exploring the haunting cave at her father's dig, Lisbeth falls through a hidden hole and awakens to find herself the object of a slave bidding war She tries to escape her captor, a wealthy Roman lawyer named Cyprian Thascius, and discovers that the city she remembers as ruins has somehow become brand-new. Who restored Carthage to a thriving metropolis? And if she is in the third century, how did this happen? 

Cyprian believes God called him to rescue the beautiful and strange woman being auctioned off as a slave. He doesn't understand why saving the church of his newfound faith requires him to love a mysterious woman who seems determined to get him killed by her stubbornness. But who is he to question God? 

Their colliding worlds spark an intense attraction as Lisbeth and Cyprian soon find themselves united in a battle against a deadly epidemic. Together they confront Christian persecution, uncover buried secrets, and witness the beginnings of a medical revolution, but they fear Roman wrath will separate them forever. Will Lisbeth save the man she loves and the family she longs for--or will their separate worlds pull them apart forever?


I’ve been a fan of time travel since reading Michelle Griep’s Gallimore. Lynne Gentry ably picks up that genre in a different time and different place – uh, well, kind of.

Present day overwhelmed medical resident/student Lisbeth plods through her residency while juggling concerns about her mad-archeologist father who resides half a world away.

After a lapse in judgment plunges Lisbeth into a tragic leave of absence she flies to Egypt to try to figure out what’s going on in her father’s semi-lucid  mind.

Through a series of events Lisbeth wakes up enslaved in ancient Carthage. As Lisbeth slowly realizes that she is literally in an ancient civilization events and surprises unfold all around her. She finds that her skill and know-how are a necessity to help others and survive the brutal reality, and her emotions a luxury she can’t wallow in. Life and death are all too real. 

Lisbeth’s life becomes intertwined with the people of the past. Once she finds the key to returning to the future/her present she must decide the price she’s willing to pay to go or to stay.

This novel is historically rich and the details paint a fascination picture of a very different civilization. Not all will appreciate some brutal or intense moments so consider it a PG-13 read.  History and fantasy buffs should find much to like. Often a book’s first chapter is the best – I found that the pace clips and the narration gets richer as the story grows in Healer of Carthage – no saggy middle here. This would be a great travel or beach read.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, April 11, 2014

Regina Jennings's Caught in the Middle ~ Reviewed

By Regina Jennings
Published by Bethany House
201 Pages


She Wants the Freedom of the Open Plains.
He Wants the Prestige of a Successful Career.
Neither is Ready for What Comes Instead.

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected--Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.

Anne's been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She's only in town to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees--leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in town, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.

But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society--and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others' expectations, can the pair find their way to love?


I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that drew me in though the book cover and the time period! The novel starts out in Sept 1883 Pushmataha Indian Territory and introduces readers to a thick skinned woman named Anne Tillerton. She’s a strong woman who dresses like a man and works as a buffalo hunter. 

While she’s on a mission to find their run away cook the train she’s riding is robbed. Anne’s angry.  She doesn’t sit idly and let these men take from innocent people. That’s when she runs into someone from her past. They have a chance to talk and catch up when their train gets to town. Anne blurts out to Mr. Lovelace, (the brother of a good friend) .…”Stop staring at me. I’m beginning to regret saving your hide.” 

“Too late for regrets. You’re in my town and I can’t have you going around unprotected.” Mr. Lovelace points out. 
“You’re going to protect me? You weren’t much help during the train hold up.” Anne reminds him. 
Now Mr. Lovelace was annoyed. His arms crossed, “But you certainly appreciated my company afterwards.” 
“Anne’s throat closed at the memory of her weakness. Shame on her for having one.” 

Anne catches up with their runaway female cook and her little son, Sammy. Anne tells the cook to get a grip and be the mother her young son needed her to be. Sammy deserved that and more. This cook takes Anne’s advice and leaves little Sammy in her care, along with a note telling Anne she was right she didn’t make a good mother but she felt Anne did. She trusted Anne to do the right thing. She ended the note “thanks for taking care of Sammy.” Anne’s world is turned up-side down and inside out. She didn’t know anything about babies. 

This emotionally charged story will pull at your heart strings as Anne is caught in the middle of a mess and with a delightful little boy named Sammy. She fights for what is right, learns to face her demons and challenge Mr. Lovelace’s faith. Anne has experienced a lot of life’s blows that would have killed others. But she’s managed to pick herself up and put one foot in front of the other, making it one day at a time with no help from God. Thank you very much.  Anne thought to herself, “Sometimes it wasn’t about winning or losing. Sometimes it was about living to fight another day.” That was her flight. No man would use her again. She would call the shots. That’s why she hid behind men’s clothes.

Anne says to Mr. Lovelace, “No wonder you find Christianity an easy stroll down a flower-lined path. You only obey if God asks you to do something you want! It does make sense now that you’ve explained it.” 
Nick felt sick, “Why did Anne’s questions seem to distort his beliefs into something incredibly shallow and self –serving?” 

Anne is starting to think and feel differently now that this little innocent man child, Sammy was in her life capturing her heart, cracking the hard shell she put round it. She was willing to fight for him and do whatever she had to be what he needed to make sure he had a proper childhood. 

You’ll adore Sammy and Anne Tillerton and feel for Mr. Nick Lovelace as Anne really gets him thinking about life, his faith and so much more! I recommend this as a fun read and a book club pick. There is so much to talk about. This is the first book I’ve read by this author it won’t be the last!

Reviewed by: Nora :o)

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
Finding Hope Through Fiction blog

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Cara Putnam's Shadowed By Grace ~ Reviewed

Shadowed By Grace (Ill Be Seeing You Novel) [Paperback]
By Cara C. Putman (Author)
Pages 352
Binding Softcover
Release Date Dec 1, 2013
Publisher Broadman And Holman
Series Ill Be Seeing You Novel
ISBN 1433681781


"Shadowed by Grace "is a dramatic story inspired by the Monuments Men of World War II by acclaimed author Cara C. Putman. Desperate to save her dying mother, Rachel accepts her newspaper's assignment to travel to Italy to capture images dangerously close to the front lines of WWII. Her real motive - to find the father she never knew -- an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive. It's an unlikely situation for love and faith to flourish, but soon Rachel not only finds herself, but also her long-lost earthly father, and ultimately, the man her Heavenly father created to cherish and provide for her.


Shadowed by Grace is a story inspired by the Monuments Men of World War II, who were dedicated to saving the art in Europe from destruction.  This story focuses on a young photographer named Rachel Justice, who goes to Italy to not only earn money to save her dying mother, but to find the father she never knew.  She is escorted by Scott Lindstrom, one of the men commissioned by the army to find and protect historic artwork.  Though they clash in the beginning, they learn to get along due to various circumstances that they are thrown into. 
This was an interesting story.  I had recently heard about the Monuments Men and was excited to read a book about it.  I really admired Rachel’s character.  Though she wanted to stay by her mother, she was willing to go halfway around the world to not only earn money to take care of her, but to also find the father she never met to see if he could help as well.  It would have been a scary to time to be in Italy, especially for a lone woman among so many men.  If you enjoy history and the Word War II era, you’ll find this book very enjoyable.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers