Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Favorite New Novel, the first in a series!


"Sometimes it's like trying to swim upstream. You fight the current the whole way, and only those determined to tough out the heat, animals, natural disasters, and blase attitude make it. This country isn't for the fainthearted or idealistic." ~Rhonda, aid worker down in Haiti. 

"Love is a really strong word." ~Kaylan, nutritionist volunteering her skill in Haiti. 

"Pray for Kaylan and leave her in the capable hands of the God who has her wrapped in his arms, even when she can't feel him right now." ~Pap, Kaylan's wonderful Grandfather. 

This book will be on my Best of 2014 list, I just know it. 
Shaken is an emotional tour-de-force. 
I cringed at the scenes of the earthquake's destruction, and the descriptions of life ebbing away in the rubble wrenched my heart. 
Once she was lifted from the ruins and returned to America, Kaylan's reactions to the tragedy were visceral and I longed for Kaylan to experience peace again.
I love the fact that her renewal was not easy, or simple, or instant. I appreciated the fact that she knew she had lost her old self, and that she'd never be the same again, but that bit by bit she could find goodness in life once more. 
That is what gives this novel its power, it is honest and real and heart-wrenching. (It is also never graphic or heavy, so don't avoid this novel out of those concerns.) 

As well as being the story of a young woman who undergoes a baptism by fire, this is also a family story. 

God brings Kaylan back to life slowly, using the people around her to help her and support her. She has three great brothers, the kind who tease her kindly and look out for her and spend time listening to her and threaten to throw her over their shoulder and carry her if she's late for dinner. :) 
And she has Pap... who made me laugh so hard when he told her that he was old and lived vicariously through her so he needed the details of her date. 

Which brings us to another element of this novel, the love story. It was a genuine love story, which is oh so rare and precious, where there is a bond being formed and sacrifices made and trust growing along with affection. As a SEAL, who bears the weight of responsibility for all of his men, Nick understands guilt when you lose somebody. Through this story, his own patience and love God shine into Kaylan's life when she needs them most. Perhaps best of all, as good as he is as a man, he knows that he can't save her. 
He alone can't be her rescuer. Yet he also knows her Rescuer, and he knows how to guide her to Him. 

Thank you to the Booketeria for my review copy! I'm so happy to see that book two, Shadowed, also features Kaylan, and that chapter one was included at the end of Shaken.

Kariss Lynch is an author to take note of, people. Refreshing, Real, and with a well-wrought message of Redemption that doesn't feel preachy, it just feels right.


 As a kid, I loved to write stories about magical lands or mark major life experiences with poetry, but making it a career was always a dream without substance.

Four years ago, someone challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and begin writing things that matter. So I started this scary, exhilarating journey. As this adventure moves forward, my hope is that you will meet characters with big dreams, adventurous spirits, and bold hearts, beginning with the characters in Shaken.
I believe the written word is powerful. I believe it has the ability to change lives and culture. And I believe every person has a story, no matter how glamorous, or controversial, or messy, or beautiful, or complicated, or terrible. I believe the Lord wants to use your story and mine to change lives.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Narnian Dictionary

The A-Z of C S Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life, Thoughts and Writings

Thank you to my father for this review, he loves C.S Lewis's writings and his way of looking at the world, the way his insights illuminate life and faith. So when Litfuse gave me this book to review, Dad was the best one to do it, and I wove in some of my own thoughts. 

What did C.S think of God? This book begins to distill the answer, and it points to his full works that expound upon it. Who doesn't love the thought of an atheist being converted? Especially one as brilliant as C.S Lewis. 

C. S Lewis readers would not go wrong committing some of their own financial resources to procuring a copy of this book. It's a pocket-sized encyclopedia of Lewis' thought, times, works, loves and life. 
Initially I thought this book was best if you were a real C.S Lewis aficionado, but that's not its only audience. 
Even if you know nothing of Lewis' remarkable mind, The A-Z of C.S Lewis will surely instill curiosity in you to know more.

More and more I see why Lewis is much-quoted by Ravi Zacharias and Eric Metaxas. 
Now I want to read more of Lewis' books, and I see several more books about Lewis written by Colin Duriez to check out. 
I've read The Four Loves, 'Til We Have Faces {it's time to read that again} The Screwtape Letters {hilariously relevant!} and The Chronicles of Narnia. 

I felt specific delight when I saw a Narnia reference in this book. Remember Rynelf? Remember Gwendolen? 
The first one I knew right off, the second character I had sadly forgotten. 
The wonderful thing is that along with the definition of Gwendolen being a pupil in the school they encountered in Prince Caspian, Colin Duriez also points out that she was an example of a virtuous pagan, which is someone who accepts Aslan when they meet him though they've never been taught about him. As usual, there's some Deep Magic lying under the simple happenings. 

Thank you Litfuse for our review copy!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Road Unknown...

A Road Unknown (Amish Roads #1)

Elizabeth Bontrager just wants out. She wants to get away from her Amish community, and from the needs of her large family. It feels like she has hit a wall, like nothing makes sense here and everything is pushing in on her. 

So Elizabeth runs away. No, this reliable girl doesn't climb out her window with her suitcase and hit the highway, hitch-hiking to the nearest city, hankering after some of those forbidden pleasures. 
She runs away in a very respectable manner. She takes a nice job, does productive work. Lives with a wonderful student nurse roommate. And yet it feels wrong. She feels like she had abdicated her responsibilities and gone AWOL. For a girl who is supposed to be forever content in her community, serving her family, this was a strange and difficult step to take. 

It is some time before her roommate Paula introduces Elizabeth to an explanation for why she was so eager to get away: Care-taker burnout. In the Amish world, where others are rightly valued above self, there was no time or place for her to recharge and refresh. As she looked after others she neglected the healthy, non-selfish care of her own person. 

Slowly, over the course, of this story, Elizabeth begins to gain new confidence, peace, and balance. She never ceases to care for others, but she gives herself some freedom as well. 

Making a change like this won't be easy for an Amish maiden, though. Not with a Bishop breathing down her neck, telling her to go home, and not once she's made friends who are like family. 
And thereby hangs a tale! 

This is much more going on beneath the surface of this quietly flowing story than meets the eye. 
A Road Unknown is about self-discovery, and about questioning your place in the world because you really want to be where you are meant to be. 

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy! 

Barbara  Cameron

CBD, CBA, and ECPA bestselling author of 24 books (including new series upcoming for Abingdon Press in 2011/2012) including fiction and non-fiction books for Abingdon Press, Thomas Nelson, Harlequin, and other publishers.

I sold three films to HBO/Cinemax and am the first winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.

My two novellas won the 2nd and 3rd place in the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest from the Faith, Love, and Hope chapter of RWA. Both were finalists for the novella category of the Carol Award of the American Christian Writers Award (ACFW).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wildwood Creek

Wildwood Creek (Moses Creek, #4)

Wildwood Creek is the story of Allison Kirkland, and her friend Kim. Allie's temperament is reserved and thoughtful while Kim is delightfully bold and confident, and it was predictably Kim who got them involved in the project of a lifetime. And thereby hangs the tale. 

Although Allie has filmmaking in her blood, and loves every bit of the work involved, it was all Kim's idea to get involved with the docudrama being filmed in the Texas bluffs. The whole summer stretched ahead of them, and it was a fine time for two college girls to have an adventure. What could be more challenging/enchanting than living and working in an authentic pioneer town for several weeks? 

Much to Allie's surprise, both girls are accepted and given a position within the cast and crew. The whole film is surrounded by secrecy and almost everything about it is privileged information, yet Kim slowly ferrets out the details that she can. What neither of them know yet is that they are about to step into the world of Wildwood.
Allie can't help but question why a director famous for his horror movies would suddenly be interested in history and hoopskirts, and something feels odd about it. This isn't just a "how the Pioneers lived" film. This has creepy overtones, because it is based on the legend of a town whose citizens went missing.

It isn't long before Allie's love of historical detail and the magic of film combines with her curiosity about the town they've recreated. The film set is as accurate as possible down to the last detail, and that makes life plenty interesting. Allie sneaks modern toothpaste into her historical setting, she learns how to eat fish fresh off the campfire, and and she wonders whether this is an important step in her life or if it's all just an odd dream-like occurrence. 
In the midst of all these mind-expanding experiences, strange parallels to the original Wildwood keep cropping up. In between the chapters that Allie narrates, we readers hear the real Bonnie Rose's story. Bonnie's story is one of innocents caught up in terrifying circumstances that left her enshrined in the folklore and misty legends. 

This novel, about two college girls on a summer adventure playing 1860's ladies, has an eerie edge that mirrors Bonnie's story. 
Wildwood Creek is a novel of suspense, sinister at times, with questions about our place in time and in our own families woven in. If this has you intrigued, I'd say go pick it up! And while you're at it, pick up another great book from this author, Firefly Island, as well. :) 

Thank you Bethany House for my review copy! 

Lisa WingateLisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books, including Tending Roses, Good Hope Road, The Language of Sycamores, and Drenched in Light. Her work was recently honored by the Americans for More Civility for promoting greater kindness and civility in American life. Lisa and her family live in Central Texas.

Friday, February 21, 2014

When Courage Calls

Where Courage Calls: A When Calls the Heart Novel

In every Janette Oke novel I've ever read, the story warms my heart and gives me a taste of life's goodness.

It had been a while since I had a new book by Janette Oke, and Where Courage Calls reminded me why I love them so much. I really wish I lived next-door to Mrs. Oke.
There's a peace about her writing, even when she deals with the hard stuff of life. There's a genuine delight in friends and family, the wonder of nature, the light of home, and the Power of God.

Carrying on in the proud tradition of Catherine Marshall's Christy, Where Courage Calls tells the story of a young schoolteacher venturing into an unfamiliar world.
As we saw both the poverty and beauty of Cutter Gap through Christy's eyes, we experience the spirit of Coal Valley through Beth Thatcher.

She's a lovable girl from the start. Somehow, Beth wants more than the comfortable life that her family has bequeathed her and a teaching position in a mining town will let her spread her wings and do some good at the same time.

There are a whole cast of men, women and children worth meeting in Coal Valley. Life itself is hard earned here, with no room for luxury. The wisdom and fortitude she encounters was forged through trials and grief: a terrible mining accident left most of the women widowed.

There are great needs to be met in Coal Valley, and Beth is one young lady, yet she has high ideals, true faith to depend on, and a few unexpected friends to help her.

The romance in this story was very refreshing... it is actually a story of friendship, between Beth and two young Canadian Mounties who are in and out of her district. Through the whole book, as I watched her relate to both of them based on mutual respect and goals, I couldn't guess which one would be more than a friend. That made the ending a sweet surprise.

Thank you Mrs, Oke and Litfuse for my review copy!

Janette OkeJanette Oke writes with a profound simplicity of what she knows best—real life, honest love, and lasting values. With over 23 million in sales, her historical novels portray the lives of early North American settlers from many walks of life and geographical settings. She also writes engaging children's stories and inspiring gift books that warm the heart.

Janette was born during the depression years to a Canadian prairie farmer and his wife, and she remembers her childhood as full of love and laughter and family love. After graduating from Mountain View Bible College in Canada where she met her husband, Edward, they pastored churches in Canada and the U.S., and they raised their family of four children, including twin boys, in both countries. Edward eventually became president of Mountain View Bible College and recently established a coalition of colleges that became Rocky Mountain Bible College.

During her earliest years, Janette sensed the desire to write. Though she yearned to be a published novelist, she devoted herself to being a wife and mother because, she says, "there is no higher honor—that is my number-one priority." She began serious writing when her children were entering their teens.

Her first novel, a prairie love story titled Love Comes Softly, was published by Bethany House in 1979. This book was followed by more than 75 others. She reaches both religious and general markets, telling stories that transcend time and place. Her readers of all ages and walks of life can identify with the everyday events and emotions of her characters. Janette believes everyone goes through tough times—the key is to be prepared with a strong faith as the foundation from which decisions are made and difficult experiences are faced. That perspective is subtly woven throughout her novels.

After Love Comes Softly was published, Oke found her readers asking for more. That book led to a series of eight others in her Love Comes Softly series. She has written multiple fiction series, including The Canadian West, Seasons of the Heart and Women of the West. Her most recent releases include a beautiful children's picture book, I Wonder...Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb and The Song of Acadia series, co-written with T. Davis Bunn.

Janette Oke's warm writing style has won the hearts of millions of readers. She has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medallion Award, The Christy Award of Excellence, the 1992 President's Award for her significant contribution to the category of Christian fiction from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and in 1999 the Life Impact Award from the Christian Booksellers Association International. Beloved worldwide, her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

In recent years, Janette and her siblings lovingly restored their parents' prairie farm home, and it now serves as a gift shop and museum of prairie life. Please see below for a special invitation to the Oke Writing Museum and The Steeves' Historical House. She and her husband live nearby in Alberta, Canada, where they are active in their local church. Visits from their families, including their grandchildren, are their delight.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

*Friend Me*

Friend Me

One sentence review of Friend Me: This book is chilling and fascinating.

When you read it, you need to be prepared for a scary story that isn't just entertainment.
Friend Me sure elicited a strong emotional response as I read.
There were times I shuddered and times I felt revulsion. Now that is powerful storytelling!
I want to call the writing style 'plain' in the best of ways, because it brings to life just how ordinary Scott and Rachel's days were.

Scott worked hard and then came home tired and wanted an ever-listening, supportive wife to be waiting for him. What he found was his beloved Rachel, who had difficult days herself and needed him to understand her once in a while.

When the chance came for Rachel to create an online friend to share her burdens with, she took it.
After all, how perfect and safe can it get? You design this "person" to your own specs, you program them to be anyone you want, you can call them up on the screen at will, they are present when and if it is convenient for you, they never talk behind your back or share your secrets, and they "live" for you and your purposes alone.

All goes well until Scott designs himself a friend too. An intimate friend. A woman.
And because he knows she's only virtual, he plugs his ears against the warning bells he is hearing.

Adultery with a flesh and blood woman we can all understand, but fantasy about a fantasy is insane! And that's just it: As technology gives us more all-senses-involved experiences, we need to define what is real. Is a virtual person a person? Does FriendMe dot com produce real friends?
What is real? What is "alive?"

What a thought-provoking novel this is.

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy.
I look forward to more books from John Faubion in the future!

John Faubion
I am a former thirty-year foreign missionary, now working as Senior Software Engineer for a large electronics and appliance retailer.
In 1966, as a new Christian and an American soldier in Vietnam, I was deeply moved at my first exposure to idolatry.
In 1974, after completing Bible college and missionary deputation, our family of four moved to South Vietnam to begin formal missionary work, where we remained until the war was lost and Americans had to leave.
In 1976, with another missionary, we started Harvest Baptist Church and Christian School on Guam.
We returned to the field in 1977 going to Taiwan, where we began our Chinese ministry. The Lord allowed us to start the Ping Lin Baptist Church in Taichung at that time.
From 1981 until 1988 I did the software development for Baptist International Missions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We then returned to the mission field of mainland China. In 1989 my first wife went to be with the Lord, and the Lord gave me my wife Beth in 1990. 
We remained in Beijing and Hong Kong until 1999.
I'm still a Mandarin Chinese speaker. I have five children, the youngest sixteen years old.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Sinner's Garden

The Sinners' Garden

You know how we readers will often finish a book and then recommend it by saying "It made me laugh and made me cry?" Well, sometimes what we really mean is: "This book made me smile a little, and then it made me kinda sad." Not so with The Sinner's Garden. This book runs the full emotional gamut. 

My mother, who read it first, actually looked at us when she neared the end and said "The way this is going, I might cry, and I don't want you guys to see me and wonder why." She had burst out laughing periodically as she read, and then tears were threatening. That alone told me I needed to hurry up and open William Sirls book. Mom was right. 

While I read The Sinner's Garden, I realized that it reminded me of another story, C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, especially the part when young Shasta feels the Great Lion Aslan drawing near to him.
Throughout this story, God draws near to the characters like He did in Narnia, in unexpected ways and places. 

Some will dismiss this as a "nice story" or call it far-fetched. I need to ask: Isn't everything of God far-fetched by nature? Isn't it all beyond us and not natural to our earthly ways and dubious in our minds? 
And yet...
Is what God has done in your life, or in my life, any less wondrous or beyond imagining than what he did in the town of Brenning? Aren't all miracles intensely charged with the Love of God? 

What a cast of character's William Sirls has created. Destined to become one of our favorite characters of all-time is Uncle Rip. His corny-yet-laugh-worthy comments provide most of the humor throughout the story. 
Rip may make jokes about his time in prison being a government sponsored vacation, but he came out of there a changed man. He'd always been fiercely protective of his sister Judi and nephew Andy, but now he has God's love pouring through him into them, and they need it. A domestic abuse situation has left Judi depressed and Andy troubled and Rip trying to hold it all together for them. Policewoman Heather, another great character, is missing her late father, concerned about her friend Judi, and perplexed by a black-clad figure who breaks into homes only to leave valuable and needed gifts. 

It truly is a strange summer in the town of Brenning.

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!

Over the course of his life, William Sirls has experienced both great highs and tremendous lows--some born of chance, some born of choice. Once a senior vice president at a major investment firm, he was incarcerated in 2007 for wire fraud and money laundering, where he learned a great deal more than he ever bargained for. Life lessons involving faith, grace, patience, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. He is the father of two and makes his home in southern Michigan.

*It Had to be You*

It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family #2)

Ok... lets get this out of the way right away. 
I now need to read Take a Chance on Me, the first stand-alone-yet-connected novel about the Christiansen siblings!!! 

It is wonderful to find a set of books featuring siblings that lets us into their world. We learn about their work, we watch them explore their hopes and dreams, and we see them in their relationships with the family and in romance. 

Oh yes. It's a great thing to discover Susan May Warren's newest series. 

In It Had to Be You, we meet Eden Christiansen. "Precise and Professional" is what comes to mind when I think of her. 
Eden has a good head on her shoulders and lots of ambition... but she feels side-lined, stuck in limbo. 
And as a grown woman, that's not where she pictured herself. She's trained to be a reporter, but she's now writing obits. 
She's single and not interested in dating-just-for-the-sake-of-dating, she wants something special, and boring. 
It has to be boring, because she has enough excitement (and stress, and head-aches) with her brother Owen. 

Ah, Owen. The annoying, arrogant guy whom I have a sneaking suspicion I will learn to love when he gets his own story told. Of course, he's got a lot of changing to do, because right now he's a jerk. And he's a professional hockey player, with all his new fame and money going to his head. 
Yep... he's on a crash course. 

And it doesn't help that Owen's idol and team captain, Jace drove down that same road not too long ago. 

With Eden acting as Owen's personal secretary and caretaker, she sees a lot of Jace. And she doesn't like what she sees. 
Why, when Owen's reckless behavior is an imitation of Jace, doesn't Jace stop him before he destroys himself? 
That's what Eden would do... she would stop Owen, and save him from himself. She's had to do it often enough. 

At first "It had to be you" is an ironic way of describing Jace and Eden's relationship. It just had to be him, didn't it? 
Just what she needed, another self-centered maniac on skates. Isn't Owen enough to manage in one lifetime?
Jace: the tough guy with the well earned reputation, the scrapper and the fighter. 
The hockey player who lived up to all the stereotypes, who lived for the ice and had violence in his eyes.
He just had to work his way into her life, and he had to have a real heart buried under all of that, didn't he. 
A heart that managed to show up more and more often when he was around her. 

Yes. I really enjoyed this story. 
Susan May Warren's writing fosters a strong connection to the main characters. They were realistic to me, as individuals. 
She also wove in at least two separate and very well done secondary plots that I cannot reveal, that brought out a lot of depth in Jace and Eden. 

Ladies, this one is a keeper. 

Thank you to Tyndale for my review copy.

Susan May Warren I can't help be amazed at the gifts God has delighted me with - a wonderful husband, four amazing children, and the opportunity to write for Him.

I've been writing as long as I can remember - I won my first book writing contest in first grade! Over the years, writing has become, for me, a way to praise God and see Him at work in my life.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Firstborn. Great dystopian!


The world-building in Firstborn is something to sigh over.
This is definitely a dystopian, except it feels more like it's set in the past {tribes, foot soldiers, villages} than in the future, which makes the story unique right from the start. 
The writing is exactly right for the tone of the story too, a kind of formal, measured prose with verse mixed in when a vision is given.

As a daughter born into a conquered tribe where females are despised, Tiadone would have been murdered at birth if her father hadn't declared her male. 
When he made that choice, he saved and doomed his daughter all at once. She must hide from her own identity now, spurning anything womanly in her mind or her body. Things would have been very different if the R'tan people were not under foreign domination, but they are. As per Madronian orders, Tiadone wears a dried desert cat's heart amulet to scare away any hints of femininity, and she strives to be the male she must to survive. 

We meet Tiadone just before three turning points in her life. The first is when she witnesses the High Priest Sleene take a newborn girl away to die on the screes. She had known intellectually that death would have been her fate, but know she understands the cruelty at a deeper lever. 

The second is that her Rapion has hatched! This was another really neat part of the story, instead of depending on advanced technology, the R'tan tribe has a special connection to the Rapion bird. In exchange for a child's placenta, the birds gift the child with one of their eggs. Tiadone has worn the egg at her belt for years, dreaming of the day when her bird would hatch and bond with her. Her doubts about her malehood haunt her even here, when Tiadone fears that the Rapion won't twine with her.

And the third is her initiation, when Tiadone will become a Patroller. Partnered with her best friend Ratho, these initiates and their Rapions will raise the alarm of any dangers along the perimeter. 
That's another way this world shines... the environment. 
The perimeter is in the vast, dry, colorful mesas. There are sandstorms and sidewinders and desert cats like the one that provided her amulet's heart. Tiadone and Ratho's training and patrolling makes for can't-put-it-down reading, especially as Tia's inner world unfolds to us. She finds herself longing for the love of her partner and questioning how she can live as a R'tan under the religion and dominion of the Madronians. She misses her father desperately and she can't imagine being separated from her Rapion. 

Something I truly loved was that when Tiadone felt the stirrings of womanhood within her, they weren't weakness and foolishness and some nonsensical seduction. Realizing that she was a woman at heart didn't mean that she was simpering and smarmy. It meant that she was strong in the way she was made to be. It was real, and girls today can relate to her journey. 

And I want another book! The Hunger Games would have been great with one book, but it became epic with three. Firstborn would make a wonderful series... I want to know more about the R'tan people, and the books they aren't allowed to access, and Ratho, and Tiadone.

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

All Things Hidden...

First, I want to say that the cover on All Things Hidden is the most beautiful I have seen this year. 
The whole look of it... the lone girl in her nurse's uniform with the golden-lit mountains rising behind her and the wind whipped grasses all around her. 
There are two other views of the girl on the back and cover spine as well. On the back she is standing near a clump of Queen Anne's lace, with the ever-present mountains in the distance, and she's staring off contemplatively. On the spine her face is downcast as if she's somber. 
I love that. Those photos capture the personality of Gwyn Hillerman oh so well. She is sunny and outdoorsy, skilled in nursing and loyal with those she trusts, yet she's also a lover of space and silence. 

And thereby hangs the tale, because the peace Gwyn had found in her Alaskan village was about to be invaded by 200 new families.
Gwyn and her father didn't have a perfect life. How could they, when Gwyn's mother and sister had left them years before to return to the continental United States? What they had was a steady life, her and Dr. Hillerman. He was the lone doctor and she was his right hand girl. They treated all patients that needed them, and had friends who were like family. Gwyn had a second mother in Nasnana and an adopted sister in Sadzi, and she was content. 

The urgent board meeting that begins this book changes Gwyn's world all at once. 
The government is sponsoring the Depression-motivated idea of sending colonists to Alaska, and the medical needs will likely overwhelm the small clinic. Dr. Hillerman writes to a friend who is an up-and-coming Chicago doctor and beseeches him to come to their aid and start a practice in Alaska, and soon that man is an integral part of Gwyn's days. Through it all she must continue to work through her hurt over her mother's abandonment and ongoing deceptions about why she left them. 

Thank you Tracie and Kimberly for this pioneering story set in a land of legendary beauty, about a girl who would be delightful to know. 
The ending... whoa, that is a shocker, but no spoilers! The plot tension that began building made me want to keep reading. 
Plus, we discovered a great new expression to add to our family lexicon: "I don't believe in seeing roses where turnips are." 

Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 90 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Belgrade, Montana. Learn more at

Kimberley Woodhouse is a multipublished author of fiction and nonfiction. A popular speaker/teacher, she's shared her theme of Joy Through Trials with over 150,000 people at more than a thousand venues across the country. She lives, writes, and homeschools with her husband of twenty-plus years and their two awesome teens in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Connect with Kim at

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

*Prime of Life*

Prime of Life

This is the story of Ben, a janitor with an affinity for prime numbers. 
Told in Ben's voice and perfectly seasoned with humor, Prime of Life is great for reading aloud with a friend, which is what I did. 

Together we learned that Ben spends his days dealing with crises all over Heritage Gardens Retirement Home- some of them janitorial and most of them interpersonal. Whether it is removing a chicken bone from a beautiful and loquacious lady's garbage disposal or trying to suppress revenge plans after a tabasco-flavored denture cream incident, he is stuck in the middle of pranks and love triangles everywhere he turns. 

Keeping up with the residents leaves him almost no time to think about his past life, until a sharp-eyed octogenarian finds out one of his secrets: Ben was a cardiothoracic surgeon recently turned janitor, and he doesn't like to talk about the reasons why. 

This book is rollicking. That's really the best word I have for it.
With loud-mouthed Frank and the keen and kind Professor, and scheming slimy Junior, and sweet as peaches Betty Boop, and Ben himself who is an extremely likable fellow, Prime of Life is peopled with great characters. When I'm laughing and sighing and fearful that someone is not going to be alright, you know it's a good book. And when I'm reading aloud and I hear audible gasps of surprise at certain plot twists, and then next minute you're holding your breath, and then you laughing again, well you know this is a "Hey everyone, you've gotta read this" book. 

Add in Ben's refreshing honesty about how lonely life can be sometimes when we're all trapped in our own skin, stir in some of the constant bickering between Frank and his arch-rival Marvin, toss in an avacado sandwich, then mix in an impromptu road trip with a carload of those aforementioned men and women, and you've got yourself Prime of Life. Except it's way better than I can describe. 

So go find out for yourself, please. 

Thank you to Worthy's FirstLook program for my review copy. 

My Photo

Author and practicing eye surgeon. Happily married, proud father of two boys. Proceeds from my writing go to help fund my activites in developing countries as I work to bring cataract surgery to the needlessly blind. Feel free to contact me at

Love's Sweet Beginning.

Love's Sweet Beginning (Sisters at Heart #3)

I think that Love's Sweet Beginning is a way better Southern-Belle-Meets-Post-War-Reality story than Scarlett O'Hara's was. 
Now that I've got that out of the way.... 

Cassiopeia Haddon was gifted with a beautiful name, a name that seemed to fit in her pleasant pre-war life, before her fortune was lost and her fiancee died. Now that she and her mother are nearly penniless and living off of grudging charity, she goes by Cassie. 

She isn't sure what her identity is anymore. Is she just a refined lady who can't clean her own kitchen? Is she useless, as she has been called? 
With those harsh words ringing in her ears Cassie decides that she will care for herself and her mother, right now, no matter how hard the adjustment is. 

And that decision is the first sign that Cassiopeia is a plucky girl. And I like pluck. I like to think that I would be able to keep cheerful and hopeful if a curveball came my way as it did when Cassie ended up living in a little woodshed/cabin. I have a woodshed like that on my property, and I love the image of her scrubbing the floor and walls where there are ground-in shavings and mouse nests and cobwebs. When she finished, I felt her tired exaltation. She realized that although it wasn't shining clean, it was as clean as humanly possible, and she learned that her best was good enough. 

She finds that she isn't timid, useless, wilting Cassie. She's bold and brave and can make good decisions. She can decide who she wants in her life and who she doesn't. She enjoys her own emancipation and independence, and she also blooms in her relationships. Cassie comes to know and love a variety of people whom she never would have met in her narrow existence. 

Between her own ingenuity and diligence and some well-timed acts of kindness towards her, Cassie learned how to make a home and how to be a friend. 
If you're in a period of transition in your life, if you're taking the next step into some unknown path, then you may just smile and laugh as you read Love's Sweet Beginning. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy! I will be seeking out the rest of Ann Shorey's books.

Ann Shorey I was blessed to have a mother who read to me, and in so doing gifted me with a love of books that has defined my life. In school I spent as much time reading the novels hidden behind my textbooks as I did paying attention to my lessons. Guess that’s how I developed the ability to write stories in my head while working at day-to-day tasks. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Echoes of Mercy... a strong heroine.

Echoes of Mercy

I really enjoyed this story! 
Echoes of Mercy started off right for me when I met out heroine, Carrie. She is a sturdy young woman, able to do a difficult work, and through it all she keeps making friends and ministering with a tender heart. 

Her job was fascinating, and perfect for her nature. It was a job I'd never really thought of before, and certainly not for a woman in 1904: she is an investigator for the Labor Commission. Carrie has been undercover at many places, the most recent assignment at a farm where she got to spend plenty of time up close and personal with her least favorite vegetable, beets. 

Her new mission sounds much better, on one hand, and much worse, on the other. Carrie will put her strength to use by going undercover as a tray toter in a world famous chocolate factory. Although the product she'll be dealing with is much pleasanter- I craved chocolate after reading this book- she is there because a fellow investigator died and left the work unfinished. And his death doesn't look innocently accidental, it looks like murder. 

So Carrie has at a mystery to solve, a mystery that may endanger her and is also a race against time as she attempts to keep her true work concealed. 
To all appearances, Carrie is supposed to be a content factory worker, a simple girl with no revolutionary ideas. Inside, she wants truth and justice and she'll chase down every lead to get it.
The mystery intensifies when Carrie meets a man whose outward identity doesn't seem to fit him either. Ollie Moore... janitor at Dinsmore's Chocolates Factory. It doesn't take long for them to realize that they are both undercover agents of sorts, and that they'd better team up. 

And soon they're uniting their efforts at more than just the investigation, because three abandoned children cross Carrie's path, and she cares for every soul that she can. 

{An Item Of Note: Two of my favorite characters were Carrie's adopted father and mother Noble and his wife Annamarie. They were both strong and dear characters, and I can see where they would have shaped Carrie to be the woman she was. Annamarie was patient with a glint of humor, and Noble was steady and purposeful.} 

Yep... I liked this book. This is my second Kim Vogel Sawyer, the first being What Once Was Lost. I enjoy the way the two book's flavors and pace felt slightly different, while each one had the same themes at its core: good friends are out there waiting to be discovered, God is present and holding us close, children are worth every bit of love you pour into them, and your soul mate may be someone you never expected. :) 

Thank you Waterbrook for my review copy! 

As an author of inspirational Christian fiction, it is my goal to create stories that will edify God’s children and offer evidence of the hope we can all possess when we place our hearts and souls in God’s very capable hands. I’ve been asked… “Why fiction?” And the answer is simple: Even Jesus told stories to help His followers understand Who He was and His purpose for coming to earth. A story can draw one in and make an impact. Before I commit words to paper (or computer!), I spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. I believe my stories aren’t truly “mine,” but are a joint effort between myself and the God I serve. I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit. 

In His love, Kim

Monday, February 10, 2014

*Smitten Book Club*

Smitten Book Club (Smitten #3)

Four love stories in one volume!
Written by Denise Hunter, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Colleen Coble, these favorite romance authors put their talents together in this book. 
Each 80+ page story is slightly different in tone, writing style and flavor, and they all feature a different lady from the Smitten book club. 

The ladies of Smitten share more than just books. They share secrets, burdens, laughter, hope, and a tight friendship that weathers the storms. 
They really are sisters at heart. As as I read, I had the feeling that the authors were sisters at heart too. 
Smitten is one of those ideal small towns...on one hand, everyone knows your business before you do. On the other, people pull together and help each other readily. If your one of their own, they will stand behind you and work beside you. 

Smitten has those homey settings and friendly meeting places that only a small town can give us, and Smitten is a perfect place for falling in love. 
You can visit the library, where quiet and kind Abby will direct you to all the best books...though she's a little distracted by Wyatt. 
Lia would love to meet you, as long as you don't ask her to go with you to the dentist. Unless the dentist is Joey, who is a very nice man...
Or you can drop by the new organic community garden, managed by Heather, who is a little flustered by the arrival of her old flame. 
And you can book an outdoor adventure with Molly, a single mother who loves life with her son and running her late husband's business. 

Yes. A visit to Smitten, especially on a cold winter afternoon, is a retreat in and of itself. 
The fact that you meet the really cool ladies of the book club and you experience their happy endings makes it even better. 

Charming setting, unique characters, and honey-sweet endings... it's all here in Smitten. 

Thank you Litfuse ladies and authors for my review copy!

In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman’s Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Traitor's Wife: Great Historical Novel.

The Traitor's Wife

The flow of time and the way of memory and the records of history are strange and beautiful things. The past birthed the present; the thoughts and actions of people long dead shape us now. It is crazy to think about it, that the door to the past is locked so firmly and yet we are still influenced by it. We can still dream and write and think about it. We can never get back the to days of the Revolutionary War, we can never share the experiences of the men and women involved... except through a good story. Then the door opens for us. That is the magic of books, that even though we are Now and they were Then, we can step through the pages and meet there.

I don't know a lot about the Revolutionary war, and I certainly don't know enough. Yet I do know when a book feels right, when a scene is thoroughly set, and when characters feel confident in their place in history.

Allison Pataki has written the sort of book that you can dive into, knowing that the story will catch you, and then you can submerge yourself in the world of 1779.
We have a wonderful view-point character in sweet Clara Bell, a lady's maid to Peggy Shippen. Clara may have been raised on a farm, but in her employment she will witness more intrigue and insurrection than I thought possible. It is clear from Clara's first day that her mistress heeds nothing but her own will. Along with Clara we are bemused and often frightened by her willful, petulant, difficult mistress. If she wants unsuitable British suitors, she has them. If she wants to feast at parties and gamble at cards, she does so. Nothing seems beyond her, and she is wholly unpredictable. Even Clara never would have imagined that Peggy would one day marry a patriot general, yet Peggy is exactly the kind of wife you would expect a traitor to have. If it wasn't for wholesome Clara's continual presence Peggy would have driven me insane!

Peggy's excessive wardrobe, her sumptuous dinners and the ever-flowing wines that she ordered... she craved after richness and yet sought it with all of her wiles. Meanwhile, Clara's youth made her appreciate the smaller and yet finer things in life. For Clara, a New Year's celebration was banging pots and pans in the cold street with her fellow servants, or making crowns out of vines to wear for Christmas.
Clara also understood love and caring for people and hoping and dreaming, while Peggy used her admirers to get herself things.

And yet... It made me ask why Peggy would have behaved the way she did, ruling her world with coquettrey. Did she get her highs from knowing that she could have anyone or anything she wanted? Did she enjoy playing the conniving and insipid female? Was she a loyalist because she favored the luxurious lifestyle and high-society connections she had enjoyed, or was she genuinely concerned about nations and kingdoms?
Was she a manipulator of was she love-starved?

So much to talk about inside this novel!

Thank you Howard books for my review copy.

I love books. I love reading them, I love discussing them, I love writing them. I love immersing myself into a great story and having the opportunity to see a new world through a fresh set of eyes. My 98-year-old grandmother once told me: “As long as I have a good book, I will never be lonely.” I feel the same way.
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Rachel (Wives of the Patriarchs, # 3)

Richie Mullins liked to say that he loved to read the Bible, and that many people didn't like the way he read it, but he couldn't help it. He said he loved to read the Bible and look for all the weird people in there, and as he read he was always amazed that God would choose such odd, crazy, broken, unpleasant people to be His! 

Lets get one thing straight: the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel is one of the weirdest. Reading it in novel form reminded me of that. And that's what makes this story so cool: it's true. 
Man goes to his cousin's household to find a wife (?) and he falls in love with the youngest of two sisters. 
The father-in-law manages a massive sleight of hand and switches daughters for the honeymoon. Jacob realizes that he's wedded to Leah, throws a fit, and demands his first choice. Dad agrees, and both girls and Jacob and two maids all live the historical version of Downton Abbey. 

You know, people have long dismissed Christianity as an invention designed to subdue people into behaving. That's preposterous, because the point of Christianity is that model citizens don't win. Weird people caught up in Grace is what Christianity is about. 
By weird I mean dysfunctional. People with battles to fight. People who make bad choices. People who do downright evil things. 
In the Kingdom of God an ex-con who's repented is closer to Heaven than the suburban businessman who only commits respectable sins. 
That's the insanity and joy of the love of God. It is there for Rachel who shared a husband with her sister, and for Jacob who lived a strange life, and for me and for you! 

This story must have been really neat to write, to explore the lives of the patriarchs and their wives. 
It must have been fascinating to imagine how a woman like Rachel would respond to her culture, her husband, her children, and her God. 
It is something to think about: that those women in the Bible, who exist as names in the historical record, they were real. They felt disappointment and and pain and hope and joy and longings. They walked on the sands of this earth and they looked at the stars. 
That's what makes Biblical fiction so good. To remember the flesh-and-blood life of the characters as you read. 

Thank you Revell for my review copy of Rachel.

Jill Eileen Smith Jill Eileen Smith is the author of the Wives of the Patriarchs series featuring Sarai, Rebekah, and upcoming Rachel, (Releases 2-1-14) as well as, the bestselling author of Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba, all part of The Wives of King David series published by Revell (Baker Publishing Group.)

Her writing has taken her from the Bible to Israel and she loves learning how women lived in Old Testament times. When she isn't writing she can be found hanging out with family and friends, reading, bike-riding, testing new restaurants with her husband, or snuggling one of two adorable kitties. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.