Thursday, October 30, 2014

Serena Miller's Fearless Hope ~ Reviewed


Fearless Hope: A Novel Paperback
by Serena B. Miller (Author)
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (April 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451660375

Description:

When an Amish woman falls for the New York crime writer who buys her family farm, she must decide whether to follow the longings of her heart or the rules of her faith.

When Hope Yoder loses her husband, she is left trying to support her two small children—and one on the way—however she can. She ends up taking a job as a part-time housekeeper for the Englisch man who has bought the farm that once belonged to her family. 

Logan Parker is a bestselling crime fiction writer from New York City who accompanies his fiancĂ©e on a trip to Holmes County, Ohio, but the trip takes a strange turn when he sees an Amish farmhouse for sale. Intrigued by a strong sense of familiarity, he enters the house and is overcome with a feeling of deep peace. He’s never been to Ohio before, but something in this house feels right, and he purchases the farm to use as a retreat. Something about the peacefulness of the house frees him from the crippling writer’s block that threatens to ruin his career, and something about the quiet Amish woman who comes to clean his home makes him less and less excited about returning to New York and the woman he is supposed to marry. 

Slowly, Logan and Hope are drawn together, and when they discover that they share a strange past, they must decide how that affects their future. Will Hope overcome her fear of embracing love again?

Review: 

Fearless Hope tells us about a young Amish woman named Hope Yoder. Her husband is tragically killed by a bull, leaving her with two young children and one on the way. Not wanting to take Alms from the community, she puts out an advertisement as a housekeeper. Meanwhile, Logan Parker, a bestselling fiction writer from New York, is going through a dry spell, and after a visit in Holmes County, buys a home that used to belong to Hope's family, hoping to find rest from the hustle and bustle of New York, and hopefully to overcome the writer's block he has been experiencing. After a chance meeting, he hires her as his housekeeper, and they settle into a routine. Obviously, they begin to develop feelings for each other. Even more strangely, Logan keeps having a sense of deja vu, on top of a strange sense of peace, like he's been to this community before. As they begin to grow closer, pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, revealing secrets that have been kept from Logan for most of his life.
I had a hard time putting this book down. I believe it was part of a series, and I had not read the previous books, however, that didn't make it difficult to get into this story. At times, I would get caught up in the everyday parts of the story and forget that there was an underlying mystery to be solved and that would pique my interest anew each time. I really enjoyed this book and how it ended, and the tone of forgiveness by the people in it.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Julie Klassen"s The Secret of Pembrooke Park ~ Reviewed

Bethany 2014
ISBN 0764210718


BACK COVER:

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 

When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . . 

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure. 

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

MY REVIEW:

Warning: stock your freezer with frozen pizzas because you won’t be feeding your family until you’ve finished this book.

THE SECRET OF PEMBROOKE PARK is by far the finest to date of author Julie Klassen’s novels. Danger. Love. Intrigue. A mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. You’ll find all the ingredients of a historical romance with a gothic flair in this latest release.

Heroine Abigail Foster struggles with feelings of self-worth, magnified by her younger sister’s beauty. When an opportunity presents itself for her to depart from family for awhile and prepare a country home for their residence, she jumps on it. In the process, she discovers a house full of mystery. . . and a very handsome curate to help the solve the puzzle.

William Chapman is everything a hero should be. Compassionate. Trustworthy. Big biceps. More than that, though, he truly cares about the souls of his parish, Abigail’s included. 

Which makes it even harder for Abigail to choose when the former love of her life shows up. Don’t worry. I won’t give anything away. You’ll have to wonder like I did until nearly the end of the story.

PEMBROOKE PARK is a fantastic tale, sure to make you drop all your responsibilities and hole up on the couch for a few days. Plan ahead and have plenty of tea and scones available, because seriously, you will NOT put this one down.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rachel Mullel's Letters from Grace ~ Reviewed


Letters from Grace (Love and War Book 1)
Rachel Mullel
Print Length: 348 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1500847089

Back Cover:

Is loving a man in uniform worth the risk? 

Scarred from the death of her fiancé in World War II, Grace Campbell must learn to love again. Lieutenant Luke Brady could make falling in love easy...except he's going to war. There's one thing that can keep a thread tied between them--letters. But the suave Dr. William Keller enchants Grace with his charm and proposes marriage. She must choose between them. Will she settle for comfort and safety or risk losing everything on the Normandy beaches?

Review:

As World War Two comes to its climax, two people discover the meaning of loving and letting go during a time when far too many hearts were broken by the ravages of war.

World War Two continues to fascinate historians and readers alike for a plethora of reasons. People love hearing about the triumphs of those who were a part of the Greatest Generation. The drama, romance, and bravery of those who fought for freedom across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are compelling on their own…bring in a talented author whose sincere love of the time period shines through the pages and the stories just come to life.

Debut author Rachel Muller has been obsessed with World War Two since she was a teenager. Her love for this period is obvious in the multiple stories that make up Letters from Grace; her exquisite writing and attention to detail accentuate the gift she has for combing her passion with her talent. Letters from Grace is a novel that all readers will enjoy—World War Two aficionado or otherwise—because Muller knows how to pen a tale with exciting storylines and believable characters that bring the Greatest Generation to life.

Luke and Grace are in their twenties when World War Two begins—young enough to feel the excitement of love but old enough to know the heartbreak of war and death. Both of Muller’s protagonists fear the pain of opening up their hearts to love after they experience devastating losses in the early 1940s. Grace struggles to move past her loss and never loses her faith in God, despite a rapidly changing future with no concrete answers. Luke, meanwhile, falls prey to the pull of darkness and gives up all hope that his loving God has a plan for him. Grace and Luke’s friendship develops over the series of letters that helps keep him sane as he prepares for the crucial battle in the war—a battle that could bring freedom to many people but also the risk of death, injury, and more broken hearts. Months and many letters later, Grace and Luke have to decide if they will put their potential relationship in the hands of God or leave fate—and one disastrous war—to decide the future for them.

Readers of World War Two fiction have numerous extraordinary authors to choose from for their chosen genre of books. Sarah Sundin, Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam, and Kristina McMorris all have penned tales of love, loss, and war during the 1940s. Some potential authors could be intimidated by the success rate of these authors—how could a new author begin to compete with these ladies’ novels? Not Rachel Muller! She’s written a story just as beautiful and compelling as any other author of World War Two fiction has come out and, if the early posted five-star reviews are any indication, she will rapidly join the ranks of her contemporaries.

Letters from Grace is told from third-person point-of-view that alternates primarily between Grace and Luke but occasionally brings in their two best friends, Maggie and Danny. These alterations allow readers to experience the war and home-front from many angles. Each character is lively and fully developed in ways that challenge readers to understand the perspectives of the various people who fought at home and across the seas. Grace, devoted to her work at the Ladies and Liberty and grieving for love; Maggie, cheerful and driven to bring God to sick and wounded soldiers on the front lines; Luke, lost over his absent family and finding solace in the Army; and Danny, love-stricken and determined to come home from the war a hero. Each storyline brings to life different struggles that were unique to the Greatest Generation; however, the emotions that Muller shows from her characters are so well written that the happiness, sadness, and desperation are easily felt when reading Letters from Grace. I found the friendship between Luke and Danny and Maggie and Grace honest and open. The love these characters had for each other and showed to those around them exquisitely exemplifies why those who lived during World War Two are known as the Greatest Generation.

An avid reader of World War Two historicals, I jumped at the chance to review Letters from Grace because I never pass an opportunity to read another story set in my favorite time period. As a bonus to my already excited disposition at finding this new novel, I knew that if authors Sarah Sundin and Cara Putnam were assisting Muller with her book that Letters from Grace was bound to be an excellent story. My assumption was correct—a five-star novel from a debut author, readers of World War Two fiction will have a new favorite author to add to the already stellar collection of those who tell stories of the Greatest Generation. From the gorgeous cover, to the thick binding and paper, to the historical details and symbolism front and back, Letters from Grace is just as beautiful on the outside and its story comprises the inside. This novel is one to keep on your shelves for re-reading and display purposes. It is in all truth that I say I looked immediately to the back of the back for information on future novels from Muller. Without even reading the story, I smiled widely upon finding the release date for Maggie’s Mission. January 2015 can’t come soon enough!   

Reviewed by: Marisa Deshaies

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kristine McGuire's An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare ~ Reviewed

Description: 
Having spent years as a medium, witch and ghost hunter before reclaiming her identity in Christ, Kristine McGuire has been on both sides of the battle lines. In her new book, An Insider’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, she offers unique insight, revealing Satan’s 7 favorite battlefields (such as fear and gossip) as well as the most effective tactics he employs in the battles we face every day. 
McGuire also shares 30 battle-tested strategies for victory based on her firsthand experience with the occult and the paranormal. Some of the topics she covers include: 
• how to walk in God’s authority
• using spiritual armor
• how to recognize and avoid the influence of the occult in our culture 
• whether the Bible supports the existence of ghosts


Review:

I have made a whole lot of mistakes in my life. I really don't like learning things the hard way. So, it's always refreshing to be able to learn from someone else's journey.

Enter Kristine McGuire. McGuire spent years immersed in the Occult and even transitioned herself into a unique blend of Christianity and witchcraft. God actually opened her eyes to the choice she needed to make between Him and evil while she was knee deep in ghost hunting.

McGuire even has toxic legalism in her background as well so she has spent time in the religious realm, darkness and now has a deep understanding of grace.

An Insider's Guide to Spiritual Warfare includes a grace-filled approach to spiritual warfare. There is a lack of fear, terror and looking for a demon in every bush and an abundance of truth. The biggest element of truth running throughout the handbook is the reality that living in Christ is the answer. However, there are so many details that McGuire gleaned from her journey that paints a picture of what that might look like in various situations. From things that permeate our culture that are open doors into evil, to our provided spiritual armor, to the destructive attitudes that are open doors for self and demonic deception.

With questions for self-assessment and consideration at the end of each chapter and plenty of help on handling different scenarios, I think this would be a terrific book for independent or group study. Overall, even though McGuire shares some detail of her dabbling the overall glorification is of God and His power and character. A curious teen should probably have a parent or another trusted adult go over the study and details of the book with them.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gina Holmes's Driftwood Tides ~ Reviewed


Driftwood Tides
by Gina Holmes
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (August 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414366426

Description:

He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.
When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew.

Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.

Review:

Gina Holmes has produced her best novel yet. I love escaping into fiction where the author's voice enhances the story but doesn't intrude. Holmes has done this with Driftwood Tides. I didn't think about her previous books and compare. I was pulled into the story of a young woman who discovers a shocking secret and who's life gets turned upside down. 

Holmes tackles heavy subjects and produces deep characters. Her debut was a woman coming home to die and to find a family for her daughter. Her second novel was about the destruction and tentative rebuilding of a marriage, her third domestic violence. So, those who prefer inspirational escapism aren't likely to find Gina Holmes an easy author to read. But for those who want reality, even ugly, and to see the ever hopeful evidence of God's character find so much to love in Holmes's novels. 

Driftwood Tides dives deeply into human dysfunction and deception. The characters have chosen so many unhealthy different ways of coping with life's disappointments. But hope wins. If you have loved any of Gina Holmes previous work you should love Driftwood Tides.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stephanie Fowers's Jane and Austen ~ Reviewed


Jane and Austen
By Stephanie Fowers 
2014 
Triad Media and Entertainment
1500233110

BACK COVER:

Meet Jane and Austen. First there's Jane - an impractical, starry-eyed wedding planner; if love can't match what she's read in a book, she doesn't want it. And then there's Austen - a pragmatic, logical-to-a-fault financial consultant; even if he were interested in someone, he wouldn't know.

The two have one thing in common: they can't leave each other alone. Jane believes that if Austen could just experience a fairy tale romance, he would secretly love it. And Austen's pretty sure thats  if one of Jane's beloved heroes escaped from the pages of her dog-eared novels, she'd run and hide.

Both are about to be proven right.

When the rivals are called on to help a friend plan the biggest wedding of the year, an entire resort full of colorful wedding guests descends upon them -- many sharing uncanny similarities to characters in a Jane Austen novel. It doesn't take long before Jane gets everything she thinks she wants. After all, too much of a good thing can't be all that bad, right?

But when Jane's life turns upside down, the only one she can turn to is Austen; though he's got his own troubles of the heart . . . and she's afraid he's enjoying them more than he should.

MY REVIEW:

Light-hearted. Somewhat cheesy. Super fun. Any of these descriptions make your heart beat faster? If so, check out Jane and Austen. 

The story centers around Jane, an event coordinator at North Abbey (yeah, a total play on Northanger Abbey). Her boss is getting married to a Brit and it's quite the huge event, with guests bearing names and attributes to most of Jane Austen's beloved characters. 

Jane is easy to love, though sometimes I did want to slap her. Mostly, though, I wanted to slap Austen, who spends most of the first half of the book being an idiot. Don't worry. He comes to his senses later on.

Jane and Austen is a quirky play on Jane Austen's works. If you're a purist, it will probably annoy you, but if not, you're going to love this fun little love story.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cindy Thomson's Annie's Stories ~ Reviewed


Annie's Stories (Ellis Island Novel V2)
By Cindy Thomson (Author)
Pages 402
Binding Softcover
Release Date May 1, 2014
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Ellis, Island

Description


The year is 1901, the literary sensation "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment--they're a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie--and in her father's unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.Though the postman's intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father's stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she's always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

Review:

Annie’s Stories tells us about Annie Gallagher in the time when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was beginning to take the nation by storm.  She is a recent immigrant from Ireland.  She was raised by her father, but when he died suddenly, she found herself forced into a woman’s asylum by her uncle, who did not want her.  She is rescued by a priest, who sends her to America to live with his sister in a boarding house, where Annie earns her keep working for her board.  Her belief God has long since passed due to the trials she’s endured, but she finds comfort in The Wizard of Oz, as it reminds her of her storytelling father.  She has some of her father’s stories that he used to tell her written down, and as she begins to share them, people begin to get interested.  When the stories disappear, she fears they have fallen in the wrong hands.  
          
Annie has such a hard time trusting people, and most of all, God, due to what she’s been through.  So much so that she can’t see the caring people that are right in front of her face.  She has an ideal in her head of what love and home are and can’t seem to get past that.  But it’s fun to see her start to open up.  She’s such a lovely character.  This story was a lot better than I expected it to be when I first read the synopsis.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers