Monday, September 30, 2013


Submerged (Alaskan Courage, #1)
Shattered (Alaskan Courage, #2)Stranded (Alaskan Courage, #3)

This is going to be a mini review. :-)

I jumped into the Alaskan Courage Series with Stranded, which is technically Book Three.
I like the characters so much that I now want to read the first two, Submerged and Shattered, and the next two after that!

Yep, there are five books in this series, one focusing on each of the McKenna siblings.
I think that is so cool... five books about a family.
The McKenna's are a spunky, zany, crew and they work their way into your heart as you read.
I really enjoyed seeing how they dealt with life and with the mysteries they uncover.

These books are all set in Alaska, of course, and they draw you into the different professions and callings of each sibling. In Stranded, it is a cruise line and a specific ship, the Bering.

Our McKenna sibling is Gage, and our main female lead is Darcy St. James.

I had never though much about cruise ships, but this paragraph says it all in a conversation between Darcy and a crew member.
"You don't have a clue about how the cruise ship world works, do you?"
"Cruise ship world?"
"It's its own entity."
"How so?"
He had her curious.
"Out on the open water, the ship is its own city, its own world.... It's self sustaining, set apart,
and operates under its own set of rules and agenda."

This is a unique setting for a chilling mystery!

Thank you Bethany House and Netgalley for my review copy. :-)

Did you know Dani is…

  • A consummate world traveler: Africa, South America, Australia—been there, done that.
  • A die-hard thrill seeker: heli-skiing, cave diving, storm kayaking—if it’s extreme, she’s there.
  • A bullet-dodging, high-speed-car-chasing, treasure-hunting adventurer.
  • An antiquities theft investigator, FBI agent, archaeologist, forensic anthropologist, and a detective who tracks down justice for a living.
 Okay, not really, but her characters are. And, that’s why she loves the passion God has placed in her for telling stories.
In real life, Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters.

*The Spymistress*

The Spymistress

Jennifer Chiaverini

I especially appreciated Jennifer Chiaverini's writing style, a style that fits the period in history when her characters lived. When you read old letters and journals and books from former times, you find a certain articulate reservation to their thoughts and speech, which is preserved here in the prose of this novel. When I find a historical fiction author whose writing fits the time she's writing about, I cheer.
It shows that they have immersed themselves in research, so that you can immerse yourself in story.

Reading The Spymistress lets you feel like you're living right in the turmoil of Richmond with Lizzie and her family. 

And what a family it is! There are enough different characters, each seeing the world through their own eyes, that the reader is allowed to experience the war through
 multiple nuanced perspectives. 

A few of those perspectives include: 

Mary Jane, the young woman whose incredible intelligence and near-photographic memory is ignored because her skin is a beautiful coffee color. 
Mary Jane is like a younger sister to Lizzie.

John, Lizzie's brother. 
Union loyal but wed to Mary, who supports the Confederacy. 
The tension is palpable as John tries to aid the sister he loves and at the same time live out his vows to the woman who stands for everything they're striving against. 

And Lizzie herself. 
Our protagonist is a woman who all girls should be introduced to. Lizzie fears...but she pushes herself on through the fear, living the true definition of courage. She knows that she does not act in her own strength, but in God's through Christ. She is a person like the rest of us, who finds pockets of love and happiness even in the middle of great struggle. She mourns the love she lost years before that left her a spinster, but her heart is open and giving, and her family means the world to her. She is indeed a heroine who we can admire and learn from. 

This is a novel of suspense, of espionage, of war. 
This is first of all a novel of humanity. 
Human love and loyalty, human choices and human emotion shine from these pages. 

Whoever professed that history is boring needs to meet Jennifer Chiaverini and The Spymistress. 

Now to read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker! 

Jennifer Chiaverini is the author of the New York Timesbestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as five collections of quilt patterns inspired by her novels. Her original quilt designs have been featured in Country WomanQuiltmakerQuiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volumes 3-5, and Quilt, and her short stories have appeared inQuiltmaker and Quilters Newsletter. She has taught writing at Penn State and Edgewood College and designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

*Clear Winter Nights*

Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After

Clear Winter Nights gets right to the heart of many people's Christian experience.

Chris has been pushed to a crisis point. He is about to make a decision about the character of God in a time of desperation right after being terribly, cruelly hurt by a person who was never supposed to hurt him: his father.

Reeling from this experience of human brokenness on a very personal level, Chris is led to question everything he thought he understood about spiritual matters.

Chris ends up at his Grandfather's house, ostensibly to aid his Grandpa after a stroke. Grandpa Gil is feeling physical weakness, yet living with gratitude even though his world has titled on its axis again so soon after he lost his wife.
Chris is spiritually depleted to the point that the darkness and distance feels like it will never lift.

Yet as you read their exchanges, you find out that Chris still believes a lot more than he thinks, and his faith is a lot stronger than he dared to believe.
Chris has tenacity in him that causes him to dig deep... something that God enjoys in His people.

I love Grandpa Gil for the kind yet firm way he deals with Chris.
For one example, Chris decided to try and compare three Spring holidays: one Christian, one Jewish, and one Muslim. He explained to Grandpa that they are all basically the same, celebrating the triumph of the human spirit. {At this point Grandpa is trying to keep a straight face, because that is a deduction that would only be made by a 21st century liberal religion professor or one of his students- never by a Muslim, Jew or Christian who understands their own religion.}

Gil is a wise old man, and even rarer than his wisdom was his ability to let Chris talk and say things that didn't always make sense, and sometimes to say things that downright hurt. I think that was Gil's humility, which he had come to own through years of following Christ.

I think the most comforting thing for Chris was that his Grandpa was an older man who believed all that Chris wanted to, and who had believed it for years and years, decade after decade of faithfulness at a time. He put a caring, care-worn face on the words: A long obedience in the same direction.
And that, for me, is what is comforting about elderly Christians: Their lives are proof that this stuff applies for ever, that it is a sustainable belief. You will not outgrow Christianity. Rather, it will richen and deepen for you the longer you live it. As C. S Lewis said, Jesus will grow bigger to you as you grow.

This book would be excellent reading for any Christian in a position of ministry (which is just about everyone in one way or another) especially to youth, hurting people, or those who teach apologetics. 
The biggest lesson I believe you will take away is from Gil's attitude. His words are accurate and kind, but it is the attitude, the welcoming come-as-you-are-and-I-will-listen-to-you attitude that we most need to emulate within the Church. If you ask today's youth, they'd probably tell you that is what they find most lacking in Christianity. 

 Thank you Readers Favorite for my copy of Clear Winter Nights!

A few words about us…
My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have three children, Timothy, Julia, and David.
Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

*What Once Was Lost*

What Once Was Lost: A Novel

'Slightly care-worn, with a face that often expresses love and tenderness and has also seen its share of tears.' That's how I imagine Christine Willems.

As the lady in charge of The Brambleville Asylum For the Poor, carrying this responsibility since her parents died, Miss Willems is a wonderful example of a woman who ministers to others.
She cares for her charges like a mother hen, pouring her concern for them into her efforts to shelter and protect them... yet perhaps she protected some of them more than was needed.

When a fire drives Christina and her friends out of their peaceful, beautiful home they are all set off on an adventure of growth and change.

The residents find themselves divided up and parceled out into a world that too often doesn't recognize the person beneath the label of Poor Farm Outcast.

The stories of individual residents meld together to form this novel, making it a thickly plotted tale with many characters giving it many themes. {My favorite was Cora's Story, and her's was my sister's favorite too.}

Some of the residents need to face their pasts; some need to stop hiding their shames; some need to find warm, open arms to welcome them.

For Christina, the main catalyst for change is her relationship with Tommy's temporary guardian, Levi Jonnson, and their very differing opinions on how to treat this blind young man.
How do you carefully guide someone and yet instill confidence in them at the same time?
Levi, a man who has avoided forming ties with just about everybody for just about forever, may just be the man to teach them all about how powerful accepting someone can be.

Now, I presumed that her and Levi's romance would be a straightforward, predictable thing.
Oh no no no!
I was surprised by the amount of steps and missteps and retraced steps that formed their dance as they
realized that they were made for each other.

Along the way, Christina learns that some of her charges may be destined to travel down the road of life, away from her helping hands that gave them their good start, but they will never travel far from her loving heart.

One last thought: I really like the way Kim Vogel Sawyer writes, and it makes me happy to think about reviewing more of her books in the future. I see Echoes of Mercy listed as "Coming Soon!"

Thank you Waterbrook for my copy of What Once Was Lost!

Kim Vogel Sawyer Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at for more information."

Friday, September 27, 2013


I haven't got the words to review this book. 
So I'm giving you some thoughts from reviewers who had words. 


It IS a book about growing up.
It IS a book about unity.
It IS a book about sacrifice.
It IS a book about loss.
It IS a book about discovering what is important and what you can and cannot live without.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker Queen of the Undead

Matterhorn tells the Odyssey of Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas as he leads Bravo Company through the jungle near Vietnam’s border with Laos, just beyond the DMZ. The company’s mission is to secure a remote hilltop base: the fictional Matterhorn. This novel is a living thing. It breathes and pulses, it horrifies and heartens. It is a brilliantly written tribute to combat veterans and a searing examination of the fog of war.... 
Marlantes writes with clarity and authenticity, in a style that is raw, vivid and surprisingly readable. Matterhorn flows with fully-realized characters whom you come to love or revile with ferocity, your heart breaking with each loss. He provides breathtaking detail; the combat scenes are rendered in a minute-by-minute reel and you experience the fear, adrenalin and pain alongside the soldiers. 

It was intense and deeply moving. I will not look at Vietnam or any war the same way. My husband was the radioman in a platoon humping in the jungle of Vietnam about a year after this book was set. Heretofore, he has not talked much about it. Matterhorn helped me understand what that period of his life was like. The book has also opened up conversation with my husband. There will be an event that happens to the characters in the book and I will ask my husband about it. After confirming that the author's depiction is dead-on accurate, he will continue talking about his experiences. Matterhorn has led to some enriching conversations with my husband. For that, I am grateful to Karl Marlantes.

Mellas, a college boy, certainly has an interest in his own career, but that gradually takes a back seat to survival as he sees his marines being shot and blown apart with no clear objective. At one point, he admits to his friend, Lt. Hawke, his desire to bring a medal home that will look good on his resume. Hawke replies: "Look. Everyone wants a medal...It's just that after you've been out here long enough to see what they cost, they don't seem so f**king shiny."

You will learn and you will be moved. You will be torn apart, get mad, cry and laugh. Every emotion is reflected in this book. It is an absorbing experience....
I am falling in love with this book. …. It is intelligent, it is moving, it is superbly executed and it captures a “place” and an experience that few of us can envision....
Yes, I am crying because I have fallen in love with all these guys: Bass and Pollini and Cassidy and Furcasso and China and Mallory and Parker and Jacobs and Goodwin and Kendall and Hawke and Jackson, Murphy, McCarthy, Frederickson, Jancowitz, Pallick, Ridlow, Scar, Fitch, Broyer, and Vancouver and many, many more…. Oh Vancouver!
This book has won me over completely. It is marvelous. What can I say? If the book seems difficult tin the beginning, don’t give up.

 I want to say a special, heartfelt thanks to every Vietnam veteran. This is a book I'll never forget. As many who served in this jungle have said better than I can, this is a powerful story of so many aspects of war, particularly this war. Everything was so nebulous, I don't see how anyone either managed to fight or came out alive. This is a story of the people of that war up and down the ranks. If you never fought in such a war (I didn't) and want to know what war is like, read this book. 
If you don't understand why people protest war, read this book. If you didn't understand why Vietnam vets threw away their medals (800 of them reportedly), or why warriors come home with post traumatic stress disorder, read this book. If you don't care about any of this, read this book because it's an important part of American history and should remind us never to repeat this war and what happened within it and around it. 
For the squeamish, the book isn't unduly gruesome. It is, though, enraging and incredibly sad and enlightening. It is about a brotherhood that can't be truly understood unless you lived it. It is about how it really was, not how the news portrayed it. It's the story of a few good men -- and a few others. 


Filled with images of oozing immersion foot, young faces smeared with purple Kool Aid, clinging leeches, young soldiers crawling on their bellies through the dense jungle, I couldn’t relax one minute as I read.

I have read many books throughout my life. Very few have caused the same emotions than what Matterhorn has done while I read through it. It created a complex web of anger, sadness, and anticipation that constantly shift as the story unfolds. I got to know the characters and felt the pains of their passing. This book is one of the few that remind me of how powerful reading truly is... 
Throughout the overarching story line, there are smaller, more personal, story arcs following the different soldiers surrounding Mellas. Marlantes crafted a compelling background for many of the soldiers that created a connection between them and I.

I've finished this mammoth book and it's sitting on my desk now, dog-earred, stained, the spine ready to break. I was actually loaned the book, and now I'm going to buy the owner a new copy because this one has taken a beating. Why? I couldn't put it down, reading in the car, at a diner, a doctor's waiting room, on the couch with a cup of coffee, etc. You feel the characters' anger at being forced into a situation over which they have no control, having to march without food or water because an incompetent, alcoholic, promotion-seeking officer is using them to advance his dismal career.
John Jeffire

For me, this book is outstanding. I think more than anything else, it is because the story is written about operations at the tactical and small unit level that were very similar to those in which the units I was with (also in 1969) participated. It was written about the very terrain over which I walked, slipped, fell, dug holes, got leaches, suffered jungle rot from the smallest nicks and scratches, and all the while drank a lot of halazone- or globaline-treated water well-dosed with Kool-Aid to cover the iodine taste. All of this described by Marlantes with terrific accuracy and clarity. 
All you 3rd Marine Division guys, our brother Navy corpsmen included, will actually be able to picture the settings described for nearly every step Marlantes' characters take. For those who were not there, all I can say is - believe it.

This is by far one of my favourite books I've read this year, an arresting, incredible story about the organised insanity of war. It was a page-turner in the best sense: not something you sprinted through and forgot about because very little was being asked, but a book that places you so completely in the world of the marines on Matterhorn that you can't look away.
Elliott Hall

While the subject matter is harsh, brutal and leaves those of us who lived during those times with a feeling of abject sadness, it is a book which compels the reader to continue. The dialogue is realistic and spontaneous as the following example provides:
Hamilton looked ruefully at his pack. “Do I give them my peaches or my pound cake?”
“Just one more glorious day in the corps,” said Bass, “where every day’s a holiday and every meals a feast.”
“Lifer,” Fredrickson retorted.
“Loyal, industrious, freedom-loving, efficient, rugged,”Bass shot back quickly.
“Lazy, ignorant, #### expecting retirement,” Fredrickson replied. 

As with any war story there are casualties which don’t come cheap. The reader becomes such a part of Bravo Company that one grieves each death and this is perhaps the real greatness of Matterhorn, the realization of the costs of war.

As many have observed, a frontline soldier’s life involves long period of tedium and boredom punctuated by soul-searing episodes of pure terror. In Vietnam, the Marines spent endless days on patrols in the jungle: “The fourteen-man snake moved in spasms. The point man would suddenly crouch, eyes and ears straining, and those behind him would bunch up, crouch, and wait to move again. They would get tired, let down their guard. Then, frightened by a strange sound, they would become alert once again. Their eyes flickered rapidly back and forth as they tried to look in all directions at once. They carried Kool-Aid packages, Tang – anything to kill the chemical taste of the water in their plastic canteens. Soon the smears of purple and orange Kool-Aid on their lips combined with the fear in their eyes to make them look like children returning from a birthday party at which the hostess had shown horror films.”

One passage provided a dark-humoured and presumably realistic look at the compilation of the infamous body counts provided by the military in the Vietnam War (and probably by all armies in all wars). 

“Mellas looked at Daniels. Daniels held up both hands, palms out, and shrugged. He didn’t give a shit. Mellas keyed the radio. “Bravo Six, this is Bravo One Actual. We got one probable. That’s all. Over.” He wasn’t going to lie so that any artillery officer could feel good. So the one probable became a fact. Fitch radioed it to battalion. Major Blakely, the battalion operations officer, claimed it for the battalion as a confirmed, because Rider said he’d seen the guy he shot go down. The commander of the artillery battery, however, claimed it for his unit. The records had to show two dead NVA. So they did. But at regiment it looked odd – two kills with no probables. So a probable got added. It was a conservative estimate. It only made sense that if you killed two, with the way the NVA pulled out bodies, you had to have some probables. It made the same sense to the commander of the artillery battalion: four confirmed, two probables, which is what the staff would report to Colonel Mulvaney, the commanding officer of Twenty-Fourth Marines, at the regimental briefing. By the time it reach Saigon, however, the two probables, had been made confirms, but it didn’t make sense to have six confirmed kills without probables. So four of those got added. Now it looked right. Ten dead NVA and no one hurt on our side. A pretty good day’s work.”

 After three days spent with this emotional behemoth, my only wish is that I could forget about it and rediscover it again for the first time. Fantastic. Eric McGreevy

This was a book that took me two weeks to read the first 120 pages and then I burned through the last 350ish pages in an afternoon. It's written in Marine, which is a few deviations away from standard American English, so your head kind of has to click over to that unique lexicon, but once you do, oh, man. This is one that should be required reading for all Americans, because it really digs into that uncomfortable place of what it is we are asking when we ask our troops to go to war. What does it mean at an individual level to ask this teenager or other very young person to be making split-second life and death decisions for themselves, their comrades, and the nebulously defined enemy. How are the actions required of them not aligned with the political machinations that are running the war?  Rachelfm

Scenes of young men, many of them former altar boys (and not so long ago either), reduced to savagery and despair are enough to break your heart and there are many such scenes here. Marlantes is a master storyteller. The stories here, unfortunately, are mostly horror stories, interspersed only rarely with moments of humor, but laced throughout with deeply felt feelings of brotherhood and humanity.
Timothy Bazzett

Unforgettable is a cliche we throw around too much. Some things really are unforgettable, and Matterhorn is one of them. Please read it.
Richard Burger

In the midst of horrific chaos and the suffocating and maddening presence of death, Marlantes also tells a parallel story; a story of camaraderie, beautiful unity overcoming societal forces of racism and xenophobia which were so soberingly present in the 1960’s. The political analysis interwoven throughout this incredible novel is nothing less than noteworthy and an absolute testament to the bravery of Mr. Marlantes. He receives my utmost respect and admiration for having the courage and personal strength to tell this story true and uncensored. War at its worst- war completely naked, exposed, and revealed as an ugly, bittersweet reality of our human existence.Sarah

Thursday, September 26, 2013

*You'll Get Through This*

You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
"We indwell the land between prayer offered and prayer answered. The land of waiting."

There is something exceedingly comforting about reading a Max Lucado book. 
He has a gift for dealing with very hard stuff in a very steady way.
As you read, you say "So someone else has been through this, and has gotten out the other side. They're alive. They're on their feet...maybe just barely, but they're getting stronger again day by day." And they you ask,"How?"
And the answer is God. And as you think about what's written in this book, the stories of God's provision and restoration recorded here, you feel a little-at-first spark of hope. God took care of them, He carried them through their grief, He never left them in their dark night of the soul, after months of tears they smiled again in a happy moment. And you think "My God will do the same for me."

The message is You'll Get Through This, and the stories inside are stories of people who did, people who know the God you and I know.

We have the story of Howard Rutledge, fighter pilot held as a POW in Vietnam, enduring time in the "Heartbreak Hotel" and coming out thanking God for His mercy, knowing how to "separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste."

We have the story of Lt. Sam Brown. "Two years out of West Point, he was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device turned his Humvee into a Molotov Cocktail."
He expected to die then, and see the face of Jesus. He lived.
Max writes "By the time I met him three years later, he had undergone dozens of surgeries.... the pain chart didn't have a number high enough to register the agony he felt.
Yet.... beauty walked in. Dietician Amy Larsen."
Sam and Amy fell in love, and now they live out a God-centered marriage with a little son,
and Sam directs a program that aids fellow wounded warriors.

These amazing testimonies from today are woven through with the story of Joseph from the Bible, showing that the same God is active on His people's behalf today... that "You will never go where God is not," and that You Will Get Through This.

 Max was born in a small town in West Texas, the youngest son of an oil field mechanic and a nurse. He grew up in church but as a teen took a different road, walking away from his parent’s faith. One starry summer night, after downing a six-pack of beer, Max began to wonder if there wasn’t more to life than parties and chasing pretty girls. Not long afterward, a Bible class at nearby Abilene Christian University stirred his heart again, drawing the young student into the unconditional love of God.

Max Lucado’s first book, On the Anvil, was published in 1985. 2013 brings the release of Max’s 30th trade book, You’ll Get Through This (September), which beautifully illustrates Lucado’s ongoing mission to encourage the brokenhearted and to remind all readers of the healing love of God.
Max and family moved back to Texas in 1988, and Max has been a minister at Oak Hills Church ever since. Max and Denalyn have three grown daughters, two in ministry, one in publishing, and one son-in-law, also serving in ministry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Beowulf: Explosives Detection Dog (A Breed Apart, #3)
The final book in the A Breed Apart Series. These three books follow the adventures of military working dogs and their handlers as they complete difficult missions in dangerous parts of the world.

The title comes from the lead dog in this book, a big, very slobbery, brave mastiff named Beowulf. Not only is this dog calm, cool and collected in a combat zone, he is preciously protective of his best girl Timbrel.

And Timbrel wants that protection... or so she thinks.

This was one of my Most Anticipated Books of 2014.
Thanks to Reader's Favorite, I am so blessed to have been able to snag an e-copy months early!

So why was this book on my Must Read List? Because of James Anthony "Candyman" VanAllen, of course.

He is destined to be one of my favorite characters of the year... probably of both 2013 AND 2014.

He's a tough guy with a heart of gold and a great smile. A Green Beret, he's brave and has proved himself in combat many times. He has a ton of personality and a *very* interesting tattoo. Can't tell you more about that 'cause it's a spoiler, but his ink-art actually sounds beautiful.

What first stood out to me was his sense of humor.
{That's what I usually notice first about people.}
He made me laugh all through Talon: Combat Tracking Dog. And when someone can make me laugh like his character did, I know I need to read another  book about them. But it was more than just his great sense of humor, his personality that stood out, and his confidence in a war zone.
It was his heart.
Candyman is confident in his faith, unashamed of his identity in Christ, and hopelessly in love with a girl who's walled in her soul to keep him and everyone else out.
Yet this guy just keeps coming, answering Timbrel's barbs with jokes, making her laugh, tolerating her big attack dog, Beowulf, and not backing down from anything she throws at him.

I would not have thought that a book about Timbrel, who really knew how to ignore/insult Candyman, and Candyman, who was such a pro at deflecting pain and infusing seriousness with humor, could be so emotional and deep.

This story intensifies because even very good-natured Candyman couldn't take an infinite amount of rejection. He couldn't absorb all Timbrel's hurt.
He was a steady, accepting presence in her life, and although he wanted more than friendship and he knew when not to push, eventually he needed her to choose whether or not to trust him.

And Timbrel didn't know for a very long time how much she depended on him: on him just being there "bothering" her and trying to charm her at all the wrong times and being his happy self.
And when she thinks she's lost him, she doesn't know what to do.

But if I say anymore I'll ruin the adventure of finding out what happens for yourself.

An Army brat, Ronie Kendig grew up in the classic military family, with her father often TDY and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. Their family moved often, which left Ronie attending six schools by the time she’d entered fourth grade. Her only respite and “friends” during this time were the characters she created.
It was no surprise when she married a military veteran—her real-life hero—in June 1990.  Married more than twenty years, Ronie and her husband, Brian, homeschool their children, the first of whom graduated in 2011. Despite the craziness of life, Ronie finds balance and peace with her faith, family and their Maltese Menace in Northern Virginia.
Ronie has a deep love and passion for people, especially hurting people, which is why she pursued and obtained a B.S. in Psychology from Liberty University. Ronie speaks nationally, volunteers with writer’s organizations, including American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and My Book Therapy, and mentors other writers.

*Promise to Return...*

Promise to Return (The Promise of Sunrise, #1)

Calling all readers: You want to read this book.

 I just finished it ten minutes ago and I have been telling everyone in earshot for the last hours: This is an out-of-the-ballpark Amish novel. 

In fact, for those of us who are wary of Amish "bonnet" novels, let me put it this way: 
Promise to Return is a grand story. 

Promise to Return is a complex love story. I found it extremely believable in its hopes and confusions. It was agonizing at times, as Miriam tried to find a steady guide in this crazy world to navigate the paths laid out before her. More than once, I feared that the craziness would cause a heart to break beyond repair. This is one of the few books I have read where the relationship triangle was spot-on and added depth instead of taking it away. There were times when I was unsure, like Miriam herself, of who I wanted her to love... although not *too* unsure, because Henry is a fine character and a very good man. 
May I repeat: This romance was well done. 

Promise to Return is a war story. That is why I really wanted this book, because it's about World War Two soldiers.  The author,  Elizabeth Byler Younts, was raised Amish as a child and is now a home-schooling Mom and the wife of an Air Force Officer. The authenticity of this book that I could feel bone-deep as I read,  that comes from her life experience. This is why her story shines when she writes about soldiers and the people who love them, and why she was able to bring Miriam's inner world to life.  No matter how the times and places changes from then to know, the heart of the matter doesn't. 

There are some books that are okay to stay in for a vacation, other that I've wanted to live in them. Seeds of Evidence, The Ollie Chandler Series, Burning Sky, Small Town Girl
Fireflies in December...I can think of a few books I would live inside. Right now, this is one of them. 
Promise to Return is a book full of characters I would love to meet. Miriam herself, who's power to make decisions seems frail at times, and I'd cheer for her and then say "I'd have been torn the same way she was." Henry, who is a giver. He gives grace and forgiveness and care. And then Eli who seems to be a taker, used to taking whatever he wants. And Mrs. Poole, a non-Amish woman whose Christianity is a beautiful thing. And a whole bunch of other folks I can't name by name because they're part of the plot.   

I'm afraid of saying too much more. Just go read the book. 

Thank you Howard Books for sending me my copy to review!!! 

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I’m Elizabeth, a blessed child of The King. I’m a middle-born daughter, military officer’s wife, homeschooling mama, writer, closet DIYer, and, dare I say it, Downton Abbey addict. May I also mention that I love both my history and my coffee rich.
EBY_1_smallI am formerly Amish and my heritage is very dear to me and thankful to be so accepted among my still Amish family. I can still speak PA Dutch, too! You can learn more about my Amish family in my first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl.
My three book series with Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) is a dream come true. The series is titled The Promise of Sunrise. In this series you will live through World War 2 from an Amish perspective and experience their unique struggles as conscientious objectors during wartime. What happened if one of their members enlisted? What was it like to serve at the Civilian Public Service Camps for years with almost no compensation? How did Amish women and families cope when a son or father was drafted? I look forward to taking you back into the richness of these years of Amish history through fiction.
I’m happily represented by the Natasha Kern Agency. I’m more than happy about this actually; I’m over the moon about it!
Again, welcome, friend, I’m so glad you stopped by. I can’t wait to hear all of your stories from your seasons.

Monday, September 23, 2013

All God's Children

All God's Children is the sort of book that immerses you in the period and embeds the characters in your heart.

From the first page in I connected with this book...the very tone and cadence was perfect for this story.

I read the first 98 pages in one sitting, then turned to a family member nearby and said with delight:
"Oh, this book is good. This book is so good."

All God's Children is a rich reading experience, but I hate to use that phrase because this book takes us into a world that should never have existed, that we must never forget was allowed to exist: Nazi Germany.

This story is properly frightening at times, as we consider events that are too easy to reduce to mere "lessons of history."

It is scary to think of children being forced into state schools and turned into informants against their family and their faith.

It is disturbing to think about losing our freedom of speech.

It is saddening to think about local law enforcement and a nation's military no longer protecting its citizens, but attacking and persecuting them.
It is sobering to think about a government whose leaders view themselves as the arbitrary givers of all rights, instead of acknowledging that they are only upholding the rights God has given everyone.

All God's Children is a  human story: of tragedy and depravity and fidelity and resiliency and tenderness.

Characters who I typically see in rather black and white stereotypes were given flesh and spirit in this novel. Sometimes those committed to doing good second-guessed their convictions because of the desire to give their beloveds safety.

The man I thought would be a villain, a higher-up German official, was weary and tired and ached for it to all end because he cared about his son and loved his wife.

And in the middle of all of this, Josef and Beth find the sweetness of love and the mutual courage that comes from shared purpose.

All God's Children.
You need to obtain this book and place it on your shelf up there next to The Zion Chronicles. 
That's how good this historical fiction is, it belongs up there with the greats.

Thank you Barbour for my copy of this book to review.

 Book Two, Spring 2014.

Anna Schmidt is the author of over twenty works of fiction. Among her many honors, Anna is the recipient ofRomantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice Award and a finalist for the RITA award for romantic fiction. She enjoys gardening and collecting seashells at her winter home in Florida.

Romantic Times has consistently awarded Anna’s novels four stars and notes that “Schmidt is not timid about presenting her characters with their faults laid bare for the reader to see.”
Having survived her own battle with uterine cancer and more recently the death of her beloved husband (and best friend) after an eight-year battle with pulmonary hypertension, Anna has found some solace in blogging about this journey—   
In addition to writing, Anna loves gardening and she's hauled enough seashells home from the Florida beaches that somewhere in the future, archeologists may believe there must have once been an ocean in Wisconsin! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

*Love's Awakening....*

"They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. 
Death cannot kill what never dies."
William Penn. 

 The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.   The Holy Scriptures, in the Book of Ezekiel. 

 Love's Awakening is the best possible title for this novel. 

'Cause that's what it's about. 

And that theme, the them of love awakening, never grows old. 
It is a very special thing to find a book that tells the "Tale as Old as Time" 
{{Somebody cue the Beauty and the Beast theme song!}}in a fresh way. 
This book did that for me. 

I need to warn you: my review isn't going to capture the full breadth and depth of this story.
You need to immerse yourself in it to discover that. 

Let me just tell you what stood out to me. 

We've got Ellie, whose journey home comes for the rather amusing reason that she's 
fleeing the city of Philadelphia, which is populated by a great number of the sharp-eyed Matrimonial Society, a group of ladies whose purpose can be easily imagined and proved less helpful than it might have been.  This is just the beginning of Ellie's tale, however... 
This quote is the one I want to share to intrigue you about Ellie: "Shaken, she placed a biscuit in Chloe's open, entreating hand, wanting to give her far more. Ellie bowed her head, uttering a prayer as much for herself as for Chloe and Jack, her heart unbearably sore. Lord, please fill our needy souls."

We've got Jack, who inexplicably has good honest field work in his blood and is happiest 
when he's out under the sun with a scythe in his hand harvesting the crops. 
His quote: "The river was his reward, a shimmer of fire as the sun set. 
Here the grass was knee high as it hugged the riverbank, the lushness of spring begging a second look. 
And every inch was his, as far as the eye could see."

We've got Ellie's family, all of them making choices and dreaming dreams 
and entwining their stories with hers... making this book richer in the process.

We have Jack's family, the brightest spark in it being young Chloe. 
Chloe is a character I loved instantly, perhaps because I saw myself in her. 
I was a lot like Chloe at her age.... and her fishin' spot along the river sounds delightful!
Chloe is innocent and honest enough at her age to plot a marriage for two people based on what she sees in their character instead of what she's been raised to think of their family history.  
 Chloe walks with wide open eyes, understanding that slave-born Ben should be able to be her friend and fishing partner without fear of a future of slavery, being beaten and sold off. 

Those two plots: the Ballantyne family vs. the Turlock family, 
and the realization that the "slaves" are people too and have been all along, these combine to make a meaningful, history-drenched read. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy!

*Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.*


I was born and raised in Kentucky, living first in Ashland, Mammoth Cave, Bowling Green, and then Lexington. But my heart has always been in Berea, Madison County, the place my family has resided since the 18th-century. I came to know Christ there at the age of 12, was baptized, and spent my childhood roaming through the woods and swimming in the rivers of my books.
My earliest memories are of the public library, standing in front of shelves filled with those little biographies of famous historical figures like Daniel Boone and George Washington and Sacajawea. I began scribbling stories at age 7 and thankfully never stopped. My passion then and now is history and all the wonders of past centuries.
I attended college at Denison University in Ohio and also in England, living in a manor/castle and studying the American Revolution from the British perspective. Shakespeare and 18th-century literature form the backbone of my English degree. Strangely enough, I only took one creative writing class.
It was never a desire of mine to be published. I simply love to write for the sheer joy of writing – and that was enough. But as Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I hope my books bless you.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

*Before The Dawn and Sweet September*

Before the Dawn

Let me admit something a little odd. When I was a child, I always loved stories about children who went to live with their grandparents on a farm. No, really, I did.
I can't tell you how many stories of my own I started to write (at least three come to mind) about orphaned girls who ended up out in the country in a small town, being cared for by loving grandparents. Maybe part of it is that we know inside our hearts that if a child were to endure the most terrible loss a child can have, the death of their mother and father, that the love of Grandparents, their own flesh and blood, may be just what they need to begin to heal and grow again.

And statistics are telling us that today more and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren, so a story like the Home to Heather Creek series is going to feed a lot of hearts.

These books are like honey... sweet and nourishing, too.
The story of Before The Dawn is honest: there is tragedy. There is deep, deep loss.
There are motherless children needing care. Yet this story is idyllic also: the farm is a place where the peace of the country and the productivity of hard work can reign, and restoration can begin.
Goodness is never lost sight of while dealing with sadness, and sadness isn't glossed over.
Bob and Charlotte {Grandpa and Grandma} and Uncle Pete all love Sam, Emily and Christopher, the children that they suddenly find them selves guardians of.
They love these three kids with a love that's full and real, but it isn't perfect and Charlotte is very conscious of this. Human love never can be absolutely perfect. We can't anticipate every need, we can't smooth away fears we don't know exist, we can't always say the right words and alway's hold people that need to be held at the right time. But God..... He can take our frailness when we put it in His hands and through His strength we can give comfort and protection to those he entrusts to us, young or old, boy or girl.
And that is one of the lesson's Charlotte learns: that she will always find a way to second-guess herself, but the fact that different choices could have been made in the past can't paralyze you now in the present or the future.
Charlotte is open to changing some things about the way her grandchildren will be trained. She is willing to listen to wise counsel, to evaluate her methods and to introduce the extra softness that the stress can easily steal away. She is a very godly, wonderful woman.

The home she has created there at Heather Creek reflects her spirit, and as I read the description of the farm kitchen I couldn't help but see the parallels.  For example, she describes her her hand-painted yellow cupboards, with the wooden knobs ringed around with the marks of a thousand hand touches.
She reminds herself that those were painted years ago and they are showing it.
Charlotte herself is an "older" woman, who says she's no youngster anymore {even though she can still Rototill her own garden.} Some would look at her and see "age," and they would look at her kitchen and see "shabby." I read, and I saw wisdom in Charlotte, teachable wisdom born out of decades of living life before the Lord. I pictured her kitchen and saw cupboard knobs smoothed by the hands who reached in thousands of times to get plates to set the table for family dinner.
I hope these words will encourage you to stay awhile at Heather Creek, and to find out what Charlotte means by the title Before the Dawn.

Thank you Litfuse Publicity for sending me this book! I'll definitely be reading the others in this series!

Sweet September

Sweet September picks up right where Before the Dawn left off, except a few months down the road and nearing harvest time now. You know, I think harvest itself is the best metaphor for this book. Each year, you break ground again, you plant again, you tend again. You wait again, things grow again.
Relationships are like that. How many times do we say "There! Done! I've planted seeds of praise and affirmation, I've broken through that stoney ground of distrust. I've watered with tenderness and not pushed growth even when I know it could have happened faster. And I've harvested some fruit from my efforts. Now I should be able to rest for a while. Things should keep growing steadily now."

But in relationships, there is always a new challenge. We can't plant and walk away for a day or a week. There's always a new weed to pull, always another seed of a kind word and a gentle touch to be sown, and always the promise of fruit unlike any we've ever tasted before if we keep at it.

We saw great strides taken in Before the Dawn in the relationships between Bob, Charlotte, Pete and Sam, Emily and Christopher. In this sequel we will see the dance continue, the dance unique to people's love, with it's beauty and fragility.

Once again, I treasure my stay at Charlotte and Bob's farm. They the are salt of the earth. Reading about their life made me smile inside.

I really enjoyed hearing more about Uncle Pete, a hard-working bachelor who has bright ideas for how to improve the farm, and who has the brains and dedication to carry those out. Pete just has to convince his father that he's not trying to push his Dad's experience out of the way....
Pete has found ways to connect with each of the children, proving that he will make a fine family man someday. I'm eager to hear more of his story.

And another favorite character is Hannah, who can always find a life lesson to share with Charlotte, usually from one of the 50's, 60's 70's and 80's tv shows she watches. I loved her references to these shows... now when will I hear her mention In the Heat of The Night? 

I have always loved a family-on-a-farm story, and this is the best one I've read in an age.

Thank you so much Litfuse for my copy!