Monday

You Are More Than You Know by Patsy Clairmont

Patsy Clairmont has a marvelous gift of making challenges
molehills instead of mountains... she helps you see that God is mightier than any problem or trouble. This is a great book of inspiration. I highly recommend it to anyone who realizes her own strength is not enough to overcome life's challenges.

From the first page to the last, Patsy makes you laugh and cry and realize that life is always full of bumps and pitfalls, but God overcomes them all.

ABOUT THE BOOK

While suffering agoraphobia, Patsy just wanted to make it to her neighborhood grocery store and safely home again. Instead, for the past 35 years she has been speaking to millions of women (and men) offering the encouraging message of this book. In You Are More Than You Know, Patsy answers the question she is most often asked — how she overcame her fears. Patsy’s trademark humor spills out along the way as she helps readers face their own fears such as: personal safety; rejection; health issues; the unknown; pain; etc.

Wednesday

Dauntless by Dina Sleiman

MY REVIEW...

The book starts out really good. It's attention-keeping so you keep turning those pages. You would think that's the main thing, right?

Well, I believe that an author should do deep research when writing in a different period than modern day. An author should immerse in the language of the day, the customs of the day, and make the reader step into that world... and stay there until the last page is read. Sleiman does an okay job with this technique, but...

Modernisms keep creeping into the story line. Not necessarily in language, but more in mindsets. The freedoms that we Americans and others of the free world take for granted are just that--taken for granted. So much so that we don't even realize how the feminist movement, the freedoms from slavery, the educations we have will bleed into anything we write. An author needs to peel off all that, and step into the mindset of the period he or she is writing about. I strongly suggest all authors who want to write about times gone by read the book A Cast of Stones to see how this is done. 

Setting that aside because that kind of thing may not bother you like it does me, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good Christian-values read. It has enough plot twists to keep the pages turning.

4 of 5 stars


ABOUT THE BOOK...
Timothy Grey plans to earn a title by capturing "Lady" Merry and her band of orphan thieves. But will he carry out his mission when he meets their dauntless leader face to face?

The Last Heiress by Mary Ellis

MY REVIEW ...

This novel is very intriguing. Mary Ellis has woven an interesting storyline with definitely interesting characters. She develops the characters in a slow-cooker kind of way so that the reader can savor every nuance. Not too slow, not too fast. Just right. It will keep you turning pages.

There are quite a few characters to keep up with, and the two sisters get a bit tangled up at times, but their characters are quite different so it is not hard to keep them separate. I won't talk about the ending, though, because it wasn't very satisfying for me. You may like it. Although not a main character, the husband of Amanda's sister did the most "growing up" in the book. That should have been the main character to do that. Ah, well, times are changing...

I definitely liked how Ellis incorporated some free Negros into her story. There were many more free than people have been taught. She did a very good job with that.

However, there were some things that were hard to swallow. Some situations were very heavy-handed such as without any indication whatsoever on the part of Amanda's sister having a mean streak, she ordered a couple of slaves to kneel in salt for hours upon end while she napped. That was over the top. It is something I could believe the husband would do, not the wife. I just did not get the feel throughout the story that Ellis had really done her research well. It felt like she had taken all the stereotypical scenarios  and pasted them into her story. Another thing is how modernisms were sprinkled throughout.

I made note of a few of them, but I can't find that paper I wrote them on now. Sigh... I do remember one. Women were not allowed to enter eating establishments without escort, nor were they allowed to eat by themselves. The sisters went to a hotel restaurant by themselves. That would not have happened, especially since one of them was unmarried. Another thing is shrimp was caught, cooked and served within about a two hour time limit as shrimp spoils quickly in hot, Southern summers. Those are the only two I remember.

One very good thing was the similarities and the differences between the Brits and the Southerners view of slavery and servanthood. Good research alignment there.


ABOUT THE BOOK...

Bestselling author Mary Ellis (A Widow’s Hope) presents The Last Heiress, a new romantic standalone that intertwines the lives of a British manufacturing heiress and an American merchant caught in the turbulent time of the War Between the States.
When Amanda Dunn sets sail from England for Wilmington, North Carolina, she hopes to somehow restore shipments of raw materials for her family’s textile mills, which have been severely disrupted by the American Civil War. Though there is not much one individual can do, the wealthy young woman feels she must try, as her mother and hundreds of employees at Dunn Textiles are dependent on Southern cotton.
When Amanda meets Nathaniel Cooper, her desire to conduct business and quickly return to England changes. Though captivated by one another, neither is fully aware of the other’s true nature.
Nathanial, who on the outside appears to be a poor but hardworking merchant, is actually a secret Yankee sympathizer who will stop at almost nothing to bring about freedom for those who live under subjugation, even when that involves questionable judgment. And Amanda’s wealth is made possible by underpaid workers living in slums around the mills, not much different than American slavery.
Can these two earnest souls find the best in one another rather than focus on what could tear them apart? And though they both believe they are on God’s path, how will their decisions affect those around them?

What Every Christian Needs to Know about Passover - Rabbi Even Moffic

MY REVIEW

I think almost every Christian should absolutely study the rituals involved in Passover. I plan to celebrate Passover with my Bible study group. However...

If you are looking for a book that delves deeply into all the signs that Passover illustrates about Jesus, then this book probably is not for you. While Rabbi Moffic does point out some of those illustrations, this is more about the Jewish mindset in Passover celebration. I was disappointed, actually.

It is clear that Moffic has a deeper understanding of the Catholic religion than Evangelical Christian beliefs. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping to get insights from an Evangelical point of view. Moffic even says he does not recommend conducting a sedar from a Christian viewpoint haggadah.

One great thing about this book is that you are given all you need to know about a Passover Sedar so you can celebrate it, too. There is a complete Haggadah (script, if you will) in the back of the book. You also receive many blessings from understanding the Jewish mindset. This will help any Christian to talk to a Jewish friend or acquaintance about Jesus. That is invaluable!

All in all I give this 4 stars out of 5.

ABOUT THE BOOK ...
Understand the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples and its ancient roots in the Jewish Passover, and discover what it can mean to a Christian celebration of Communion and Easter today.
The Passover was celebrated by Jesus and the disciples the last time they were together. Now popular speaker and writer Rabbi Evan Moffic brings an understanding to the Last Supper that will forever change how Christians celebrate Communion and prepare for Easter. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible and Jewish history, Rabbi Moffic shows how these inform the roots of Christianity as he weaves together history, theology, Jewish practice and observances. Then he provides the background and resources for Christians seeking to experience an authentic Jewish Passover Seder and integrate it into their own preparation for Easter. Rabbi Moffic brings an informed and ancient perspective, explaining and bringing to life the source of so many of our modern Christian practices.
By exploring and explaining the ritual and story surrounding the Jewish Passover, Rabbi Moffic shares with Christians the wisdom and inspiration of the Hebrew Bible—what Christians call the Old Testament—in a way that increases appreciation and understanding of the culture in which Jesus lived and taught. For contemporary Christians desiring to enrich their understanding of the faith they practice today, this book offers deeper understanding of their spiritual heritage shared with Judaism.

Thursday

MY REVIEW

I've been reading Lori Copeland for many years. I think she is a fine writer and has plenty of experience. This novel illustrates her story telling ability very well. The story premise is unique, but just a bit unbelievable.

Story flow is good. Nothing bogs down the rhythm and pace of the story except when a character steps out of character. I'll explain that in a moment. The setting is great. The period of history is not explained until well into the story, but that doesn't matter until the plot twists, and the reader needs to know why the gold is so important to Creed. That is actually done very well. You get the feel for the period right off when the girls are rescued from a wagon by men on horseback.

We have a con artist white girl (believable), and a stoic Indian (believable). Creed, the Indian, is a man of very few words (believable). But then the Indian goes in shops and saloons and other places where Indians were not usually allowed without anyone raising an eyebrow. That isn't so believable.

There are several places in this story that feel contrived and forced, such as the time Annie-Marie goes out into a blizzard. She shows a lot more sense than that early on in the novel. She grew up in the region, so she knows blizzards and their hazards. She knows better. There is no real reason why she does this except for her pique at the Indian girl, Berry Woman. It would be different if she were running a fever, or had drunk some loco juice. Women do silly things sometimes, but this is one thing I take great exception to, why have a character do something out of character in order to contrive a sudden caring in the heart of the Indian for the silly woman? That isn't believable to me.
 
The dialogue in this book leaves a LOT to be desired. It is stilted, and reads like not-very-good-actors on a stage. I have not read a Lori Copeland book that had this problem. So this was an unexpected surprise.

All things added together thought, the story and the character development mean more to a story that a few stilted lines of dialogue, and there are some very cute situations, so I give this 3 of 5 stars.

ABOUT THE BOOK...

From bestselling author Lori Copeland (more than 3 million books in print) comes the inspiring sequel to Sisters of Mercy Flats.

The three wily and beautiful McDougal sisters can swindle a man faster than it takes to lasso a calf. But their luck is running out, and they’re about to be hauled off to jail. When the wagon carrying them falls under attack, each sister is picked up by a different man.

Anne-Marie, the middle sister, is saved by Creed Walker, a Crow warrior. It’s loathing at first sight, but with bandits on their tail and a cache of gold to hide, Creed and Anne-Marie need each other. Will they learn to put aside their differences and trust each other—and God? And can their growing faith turn their lives around?

Tuesday

Heaven Help Heidi by Sally John

MY REVIEW...

I have often wondered what possesses an author to have multiple major story lines in one novel. Subplots are great! But a novel needs just one major story line. This one has two major story lines that interlace Two love stories, well three if you count the past love story of Liv McAlister and her quasi-love story with a dear friend. ACK!

Liv has a secret that is only alluded to when she meets Heidi. There is no reason to keep this a secret from the reader. We're in her head for crying out loud. She goes to a friend to discuss the problem, but we don't find out what the problem is. That is the worst kind of ploy authors and editors indulge in these days. Frustration bubbles up, not anticipation. There is no suspense, and when frustration increases to a certain degree, the reader is more likely to toss the book to the floor rather than keep reading to the end. That's what I did, so I have no idea how the thing ends. What's more, don't tell me because I really don't care.

Too many characters that feel two-dimensional rather than well developed into warm, real, messy people. Three-quarters of the way through, I gave up. I found out I really didn't care about any of the characters. I tried to, but by that time the Heidi story was so watered-down by the distractions of the other characters I just gave up.

Give me a story where two or even three characters are developed and finely woven into a smooth flowing story and I'll read every word to the very last page. I'll even read all the acknowledgements and the "About the Author" page. This is not that kind of story. This story is choppy. It feels disconnected, and there is far too much head jumping.

You have a sloppy driver get into a sloppy one-car accident (Heidi) and you have a deeply grieving woman (Piper) who was engaged, not married to a military man.

Piper didn't have years of memories of loving and living with her man. She was engaged, but she is portrayed as a "dead" woman as her story opens, and we are told she acts for years like she's devastated. Then suddenly, she blossoms into all tingling delight at the mere sight of a man. No depth, no build-up, no anticipation with that. Just goo-goo eyes and heart flip-flops. Perhaps that happens to teenagers: The flipping of emotions, the sudden attitude changes, the languishing and mercurial moods swings, but not to an almost 30-year-old. Okay, there are moments when she realizes she hasn't thought of her dead fiance. She thinks she just might be able to go on with her life. Suddenly we find out she isn't happy in her job and she doesn't get along with her boss. Again, no build-up, nothing to indicate this contrived plot twist. This is both an editor and an author problem.

As for Heidi, she is a much more developed character. It is almost like this book was written about Heidi, and then some other characters were thrown in to pad the novel. This story would have been tremendous if all the focus was on Heidi. She makes the other characters seem like mere distractions, buzzing flies. The book is worth it just for Heidi. Her life is a mess. She has problems with what is actually important in life. It is fun watching her grow into a God-loving woman. I'm glad they changed the name from Take My Hand, to Heaven Help Heidi. The title fits perfectly.

Because of Heidi, I give it 2 stars of 5.

ABOUT THE BOOK...

Welcome to the Casa de Vida—eleven quaint bungalows located three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in tiny Seaside Village, California. Owner Liv McAlister never advertises vacancies beyond a small hand-lettered sign out front, preferring to trust that God will send the right tenant at just the right time. And He always does.

Heidi Hathaway’s life has been turned upside down. After an accident leaves her injured, unable to work, and incapable of negotiating the stairs in her multilevel oceanfront condo, she leases her home and moves into a cozy little cottage in the charming garden complex where her friend Piper lives. There she finds so much more than a place to rest and recover.

Piper Keyes knows Jared is not coming back from Afghanistan. After making it through the fifth anniversary of his death, she wonders if she’s at last ready to get on with life. She gingerly explores new avenues—photography, cooking, and buying her own boutique—and learns to open her heart again.

The most comforting thing about living at the Casa is that the women there become each other’s mentors and confidantes, learning from their own mistakes and arriving at new, healed places in their lives.

Monday

Dubiosity by Christy Barritt

MY REVIEW
 
Christy Barritt is a well-established author, and she has done a good job with this novel. All in all, it is an intriguing and well-executed story design.

The main characters are well-developed, and seem a lot more real than 2-dimensional paper dolls. Only on occasion do they seem a bit card-boardish being forced into some action that doesn't quite fit the mold the author created for them.

Besides  Savannah, who is quite intriguing, we have Clive who has a terrible secret that he's too desperate to reveal. I think this kind of intrigue that surrounds Clive is a LOT heavy-handed.. There could have been such a deep sense of suspense if this character had been developed with a lighter touch.

Savannah, on the other hand wallows in self-recrimination and deep sorrow over the deaths of her husband and baby. Not until the very end does the reader find out exactly why this sorrow is so intense that it stretches over so much time and so much territory. I have grandbabies, I can certainly appreciate the depth of this sorrow, and especially the depth of her feeling it was her fault the baby died, and even appreciate the loss of her faith. However, I think this was too heavy-handed as well. This may be the editor's fault so the publisher could meet a deadline. I think the book would have been so much better if it hadn't had so many different story lines.

I also deeply wish that authors would quite delving into the minds of the insane villains. This kind of writing adds nothing to the story line and adds zero to suspense. Give readers a benefit of their own imagination!!! Our imagination lends so much more terror when things are left to the imagination. Also building up that anticipation in the love interests lends so much more to the suspense. Interweaving all this adds so much more flavor to the story that the reader is hooked far into the night reading. That is what keeps those pages turning.
good job with this novel. All in all, this is a good premise and well executed writing/story design.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Tuesday

Betting on Hope by Debra Clopton


MY REVIEW
 
This novel started out so well, but dribbled to a rather predictable storyline. There was immediate sexual tensions. That's is not a bad thing, but it was very heavy-handed, almost forced. The thing is mostly Tell rather than Show, but Clopton did a great job raising questions in the readers' minds without coming out and telling the reader what the questions are supposed to be. That is rare these days.

Character development is cliche and heavy handed. There is little subtlety in this novel, and it is so predicable. I was yawning by chapter 5.

The main character is difficult to discern at first because there is so much back story given for 3 characters: The columnist, the cowboy, and the pregnant girl. Where should my attention be directed?

I blame the editor for a lot of this. In the attempt to show, not tell, a lot of backstory is given for the pregnant girl. This is very confusing at the beginning because you think she's hiding in the back of the truck driven by someone from the ranch, but it's not so. Everything sorts out later, but there is just so much confusion that a reader can take before getting fed up with a book.

Keep reading and there's still not one character that grows or is transformed or developed by what happens. Souls are not stretched, it is just a series of happenings. Again that is not necessarily a bad thing, but frankly I would much rather pick up bread crumbs along a winding path than be ramrodded down an Interstate highway.

ABOUT THE NOVEL

 Maggie Hope is an advice columnist whose background leaves her with little advice to give . . . and it's beginning to show. When Maggie fills in at an interview with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan, the on-camera chemistry between them is undeniable.
Maggie's bosses know this is the opportunity she's been looking for to launch her career-and their bank accounts. In order to save her column, Maggie takes Tru up on the bet that he can teach her to ride a quick-stepping cutting horse like any cowgirl, despite the fact that she has never been on a horse. And in the meantime, she can get the scoop on the man under the cowboy hat.

Tru has been on the competition circuit for longer than he'd like, but he knows it's the only way he can afford to keep the Four of Hearts Ranch that means so much to his ailing grandfather. So when his sponsors see the opportunity for Tru's fans to get to know the star on a more intimate level, he knows he must oblige. To his dismay, Maggie not only invades his small town of Wishing Springs, but she also invades his heart, and that is something he cannot let any woman do-for her own good.

In Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart's desires.

Friday

Beyond all Dreams bay Elizabeth Camden

ABOUT THE BOOK

When a librarian and a prominent congressman join forces to solve a mystery, they become entangled in secrets more perilous than they could have ever imagined.

MY REVIEW

This is a book that the author mostly tells rather than shows what's going on. The point of view is from the two main characters, and that is something to be thankful for (more about head jumping later). There is an incredible amount of back story for the characters that is sprinkled in and throughout the story. Back story about minor characters as well that I think could have been blended much better, and I blame the editor for this not the author. Back story is all the things that happened to a character before the current story that is being told. Sometimes the back story is jarring. For instance: Suddenly you are introduced to another character from a memory of the congressman so the librarian worries and frets over this new character who is nothing but a memory. Ye gads!

It gets 3 stars of 5 stars from me because the character development was superb. The story premise and the research is excellent. The characters don't wring their hands and blather endlessly about "What should I do?" However...Camden or the editor saw fit to explain numerous times about certain aspects of the story, which is never needed. Readers are in the moment with the characters and don't need to be reminded about what happened or what the character thought in the last chapter or even three chapters ago! Authors and editors should give readers credit for having a brain and an attention span longer than a gnat's.
The story reads like a patchwork with the main thread being this mystery that surrounds the ship that sunk killing her father. Then you have the mystery of why Anna's voice is so throaty and hoarse. Then there is the mystery of why the congressman has so much anger smoldering inside. Then there is the mystery of why he has a boy who belongs to his sister living back in Maine living with him in Washington D.C., and his sister by the way had a severe problem with alcohol. I didn't read close enough to find out why she had that problem unless it was because their father had the same problem.

Camden does a lot of head jumping (note: head jumping is going from one character's thoughts to another character's thoughts, It is not in the same scene, which is head hopping). There are basically no transitions from one head to the next so the jumping is as startling as a splash of cold water. If you have a lot of head jumping, you simply must have good transitions to make the story flow seamless, and to avoid dams, which make for a choppy read.

However, the storyline itself is very good. Camden does a good job with character growth, although it takes forever for either main character to address the congressman's anger issues... and even then it seems to be only in passing. It is definitely more like a soap opera than an honest to goodness mystery. Way too much is going on to do any of the story lines justice.

This book would have been much better if more time and expertise had been taken by the editor to blend the story lines into a solid flow rather than a series of locks and dams.



Monday

Review: Like a Flower in Bloom


Like a Flower in Bloom
Like a Flower in Bloom by Siri Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Siri Mitchell is one of the best all time writers of our time. She is adept at all the mechanics of storytelling. Don't let that fool you, when a story unfolds seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly, one has a tendency to think something like that just happens. Not.

Mitchell's attention to detail, her tremendously deep research, and her follow-through are all signs of great writing mechanics.

This novel is one of the best that Siri has written. I say that because she admits she doesn't much like botany, but she writes like it is a science closest to her heart. That, my friends, is a very rare talent. Usually, our likes and dislikes bleed all over our stories, but not Mitchell's. That is amazing.

The storyline is quite intriguing. It takes place in an era where women were beginning to become a bit disgruntled with men's assumptions that women were bubbleheaded creatures. Full rebellion had not sprouted wings yet, but Charlotte was definitely disgruntled that she could not publish her own research under her own name, but had to put her father's name on everything from books to articles to correspondence.

Charlotte's character is truly like a bud about to bloom. She opens up to new things so that she can go back to the old things--the way things were before her uncle convinced her father that she simply must get herself a husband. Mitchell sculpts with delicate hands each character's behavior so you have a giant spring bouquet of character's.

The reader is not burdened with inconsequential back stories inserted in the worst places. All the cracks are not filled in as each page turns so the story unfolds by the sure fire way to make it a page-turner -- questions arising and being answered in a seamless flow. No disjointed dialogue, no characters acting or saying bizarre things our of character, no revelations to spoil the reader's anticipation to interrupt the flow or damming the flow.

Mitchell is a master craftsman with words so that you get a full, satisfying experience. No infernal head-hopping or jumping! Praise the Lord! And faith is interwoven exquisitely like golden threads throughout. A truly magnificent and fun offering. Well worth the money! I rank it six of five stars.



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Matthew 13:44 by Scott Coren

MY REVIEW
I thought I'd really enjoy this book because I know personally how God works and orchestrates all those terrible things that happen into something wonderful for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. In fact, the first part of this book is incredibly depressing.

I am not a fan of novels that come from several different directions like a shot from a shot gun in reverse. While real life is rarely situated for one to handle one problem at a time, novels do not have to be like that to make a huge impact on the reader. So much happened in the first several chapters that overwhelms the storyline. It's similar to a storyflow dam, or a congested head. You can't breathe.

[Caution Spoiler Alert]
I did like the tactic [caution spoiler alert] used for the one person that became Lucy's friend. The way it was written, and all that happened before, you just think this is one more tangled snarl that will drag Lucy even farther down into the quagmire. Only after that do things start looking up for her, but by that time you are incredibly tired of trying to untangle all the storylines. Reading this book is work, not pleasure.

The writing is good, not much head jumping and that made me like it even more. I give it 4 of 5 stars.

ABOUT THE BOOK
Lucy and Steve Sinclair move into their dream home in Washington DC. They’re young, successful and expecting their first child. But within one month their world will implode. Steve becomes sick, disappears and is found dead and Lucy’s baby will be born needing life-saving cardiac surgery. Lucy is then falsely accused of killing her husband in the most public of forums by her very own Judas - a man who she once called her very best friend. And all because of a chance find, hidden in the darkest and deepest recess of their attic.

Why has life suddenly turned so sour? Lucy’s only clue is a torn and scribbled note, citing ‘Matthew 13:44,’ which she finds on her husband’s desk. Given he’s a non-believer, like her, this makes no sense. He’s never even held a Bible in his life.
Soon condemned by the very people who should be supporting her, Lucy must discover and expose the real perpetrators. In doing so, it becomes hard to know who she can trust.

Alone and in the midst of this chaos, a chance lifeline is thrown, tethered to a stranger; a man she has never met but feels blissfully familiar with, who helps her discover her true purpose in life, and how - like the very Passion itself - ultimate good can come from the very worst of circumstances.

In an ever more secular world where divine fate is passed off as chance, Matthew 13:44 is a gripping account of one woman’s struggle to discover her faith, her purpose and her plan; a divine plan.

Wednesday

Review: A Daughter's Inheritance


A Daughter's Inheritance
A Daughter's Inheritance by Tracie Peterson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars



Don't waste your time or your money. I have no idea why so many gave this book more than 1 star. It's the first in a series, so I'd steer clear of anymore that might come out. Unless something drastically changes, the others will be just as disappointing. In my experience, a book never gets better the farther you read into it. It just doesn't.

The characters are really flat, 2-dimensional obviously contrived automatons except for the villainous uncle.

There is tremendous build-up, but nothing happens and then the book just ends. This is not the way to get readers to buy more books! Have a conclusion. Cliffhangers don't work anymore, and soap operas that go on and on don't work anymore either... and there's plenty of soft soap here.

It is quite obvious that the editor of this book did not do her/his job well at all. It is also obvious that Traci Peterson needs to rest her brain awhile and maybe something creative might seep into it... but, wait! This really was a creative premise. But, really, it was way too close to Titanic which was just as unbelievable.

Now I get it, those that gave it more than 1 star must live to watch soap operas.



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