Monday, December 18, 2017

Heartwarming Beginning to a New Series -- A Plain Leaving

Leslie Gould's A Plain Leaving is a heartwarming story that begins a new series, The Sisters of Lancaster County.

Leslie crafted a story where the characters have to deal with some very complicated issues in their family relationships. Misunderstandings and poor communication provide realistic conflicts that keep the story flowing.

A couple of elements make this story a little different from your average Amish story. One is that instead of a character struggling with the question of whether to leave their community -- a common thread in many stories -- Jessica is struggling with whether to return to her Amish community. Her strong pull to her family's farm and desire to understand family issues drew me in to her story. Another very interesting thread in the book is a historical thread that helps paint the picture of the family's heritage for several generations.

This is a great story that I highly recommend to all fans of Amish fiction.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book. I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Leaving Was the Hardest Thing She'd Ever Done... Until She Had to Return.

Three years ago, Jessica Bachmann walked away from everything: her family, their beloved farm, her Amish community, and Silas Kemp. After clashing with the new bishop and her brother about her role in her family and the future of the family farm, anger and restlessness wouldn't allow her to stay.

When she is forced to return home because of her beloved father's death, her arrival stirs up all kinds of emotions--sorrow, grief, and yearning alike. Jessica knows things can't return to the way they were, but, especially upon seeing Silas again, she can't help wonder what might have been--and what still could be. The stakes grow higher when she learns that her brother, Arden, is still pursuing potentially hazardous fracking on the family's land.

As Jessica wrestles with her next step, she learns the cautionary tale of Ruby Bachmann, a Revolutionary War-era ancestor who faced similar struggles. Will Ruby's decisions motivate Jessica to leave her family, the land, and her community forever? Or is there healing, love, and belonging yet to come for her in Lancaster County?

About the Author:

Leslie Gould is the coauthor, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife and The Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels including two Lancaster Amish series. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Oregon. Learn more at www.lesliegould.com.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Engaging Suspense -- Imperfect Justice

Imperfect Justice is the first book I've read by Cara Putman, and I plan for it not to be the last.

There is an engaging level of suspense in the story in at least two of the main plot lines. As the story progresses, the pieces start to come together in a way that the resolutions are not too surprising. The particulars in getting to those resolutions, as well as the interesting characters, keep the interest level high.

Although it is the second book in a series, this story worked fine as a stand alone.  There are hints of back stories, though, that definitely make me interested in going back to read the first book, Beyond Justice, as well as being anxious to read the next.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book.  I am glad to share my own thoughts for this review.

About the Book:

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . . can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him. Thrown together in a race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

About the Author:

Cara Putman is the author of more than 25 legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at 16, college at 20, completed her law degree at 27, and recently received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Good suspense -- Dark Deception


Dark Deception is a good second installment in Nancy Mehl's Defenders of Justice series.

The book has lots of action and suspense, leaving plenty of room for trying to figure out the "who-dun-it" elements.  Twists and turns keep the interest level high and keep bringing up more and more questions throughout the story, which makes distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys a challenge.

Fans of good suspense should enjoy Dark Deception.

Thanks to Nancy and Bethany House for providing a copy of the book.  I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Kate O'Brien's quiet life in small-town Shelter Cove, Arkansas is shaken when her past suddenly comes roaring back to life. Four years ago, she and her twin sister were attacked by an elusive serial killer. Only Kate survived, and she's been in witness protection ever since.

When new evidence arises to suggest the convicted man wasn't the murderer, she's subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Afraid to go back into that world, Kate only agrees if Tony DeLuca, the deputy Marshal who protected her during the original trial, escorts her to St. Louis.

Tony readily takes on the assignment; Kate's beauty and inner strength made more of an impression on him than he expected. But when Kate's safety is threatened, Tony must race against the clock to keep her alive and put this ugly case to rest before anyone else gets killed.

About the Author:

Nancy Mehl (www.nancymehl.com) is the author of twenty-seven books, including the Road to Kingdom, Finding Sanctuary, and Defenders of Justice series. She received the ACFW Mystery Book of the Year Award in 2009. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their Puggle, Watson. She is part of The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.

Simple Amish story -- The Farmers' Market Mishap


The Farmers' Market Mishap is Wanda and Jean Brunstetter's sequel to The Lopsided Christmas Cake.  Twins Elma and Thelma return in this simple story of life's ups and downs in their small Amish community.

This book is quick to read and pretty predictable in most elements of the story.  Elma's concerns about whether or not she will every find love and how difficult it would be to move away from her sister are somewhat overplayed for my interest, which makes the story rather sluggish at times.  Die-hard fans of Amish fiction, though, should enjoy this sweet story.

Thanks to Wanda and her publisher for providing a copy of the book.  The thoughts provided in this review are my own.

About the Book:

New York Times Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter and Daughter-in-Law, Jean, Weave a Lighthearted Romance from Indiana’s Amish Country

Living alone for the first time in her life is lonely for Elma Hochstetler, whose twin sister Thelma recently married. Though they share the running of a general store, more and more of Thelma’s time is taken up by her growing family. Elma has dated some, but she wonders if she is just too picky to find love.

Through a mishap at the farmers’ market, Elma meets Ben Wagler and instantly likes him. But there is a problem. He lives in Grabill—50 miles away! But Elma has tried long-distance dating before, and it won’t work for her.  Besides the store needs her. Her sister needs her. Elma feels love will forever remain beyond her grasp.

Elma has a habit of putting others before her own needs. Can she learn to take a risk at following the desires of her heart?

About the Authors:

Wanda Brunstetter is an award-winning romance novelist who has led millions of readers to lose their heart in the Amish life. She is the author of nearly 70 books with more than 8 million copies sold. Many of her books have landed on the top bestseller lists, including the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today, CBA, ECPA, and CBD. Wanda is considered one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre, and her work has been covered by national publications, including Time Magazine, USA Today, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and Country Woman. Wanda’s books have been translated into four foreign languages.  For the writing of The Farmers' Market Mishap, Wanda is joined by her daughter-in-law Jean.

Romance and Intrigue -- Dangerous Illusions

Irene Hannon is off to a great start on another series of romance and intrigue in Dangerous Illusions, book one of her Code of Honor series.

At the beginning, this story seems to move at a a slower pace than some of Irene's books.  The main characters come onto the scene, and the pieces of their stories begin to fit together, carefully drawing the reader in and building a comfortable level of intrigue.  Then, just when you least expect it -- well, no spoilers, but there are startling twists that push the suspense to a greater level.  And the romance is a very enjoyable and important element throughout the story.

I highly recommend Dangerous Illusions to fans of great inspirational fiction.

Thanks to Revell Publishing for providing a copy of the book.  I am pleased to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death--and puts Trish under police scrutiny--her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn't certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge--and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn't just dangerous . . . it's deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon will capture your imagination with a mind-bending story that will have you doubling back to retrace your steps--and figure out what you missed!

About the Author:

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Buried Secrets, Thin Ice, and Tangled Webs, as well as the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. In addition to many other honors, she is a seven-time finalist for and three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA's elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Excellent contemporary fiction -- The Gift of Christmas Past

In The Gift of Christmas Past Cindy Woodsmall and her daughter-in-law Erin worked together to coauthor a very well-written story that deals with a variety of themes.

The characters pulled me in to their stories from the beginning and kept me very engaged throughout.  The experiences of Hadley, Monroe, Elliott, little Chloe, and the other characters provided a very pleasing pace and interest level.  The issues of foster care and elements of speech therapy, along with the problems resulting from parental pressure and misunderstandings, all fit together into a very interesting story.  And the romantic element is just right to round things out.

Despite the title of the book, the Christmas element really plays a very small role in the story.  But it does represent an important part of Hadley's life.

I highly recommend The Gift of Christmas Past as a very enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys good contemporary Christian fiction.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of the book.  I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

Young love…
Promises made.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.

Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

About the Authors:

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of eighteen works of fiction. She's been featured in national media outlets such as ABC's Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at cindywoodsmall.com

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.  How could a Southern gal not enjoy research time in Asheville, North Carolina, as part of the job?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Stories about God's promises -- The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible

The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible is not your typical Bible story book for preschoolers.  It contains many of the most familiar Bible stories -- and a few that are not quite so familiar -- but takes the facts of those stories to a higher level.

The main highlight of the 52 stories has to do with God's promises and his work of redemption shown from the very beginning of His Word to the end.  Each story is short but can easily be enriched with discussion and/or reading the Scripture passages given at the beginning of the story.  Colorful illustrations accompany each story, along with a major truth (given in large, colorful print), and a summarizing question to provoke thought and conversation. The gospel plan of salvation is clearly presented multiple times throughout the book.  The target audience is probably about ages 3 to 7 or 8, but the material could pretty easily be adapted a little outside that range.

I look forward to sharing this book with my young grandchildren as they continue to learn about what God's promises mean in their lives.  I am sure they will enjoy the stories and illustrations and will grow in their understanding of the Bible.  And before long, they will likely be reading the stories on their own.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for sharing a copy of The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible.  I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.

About the Book:

How do you explain the gospel to toddlers and preschoolers?

Often adults are stumped, but Jared Kennedy’s focus on the promises of God makes the gospel come alive to the littlest hearts. Through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible highlights God’s perfect promises. Every page pops with bright colors, playful illustrations, fun learning opportunities, and, best of all each story points children to Jesus.

Kids know the value of a promise. Through the gospel, our good and all-powerful God keeps his word and fulfills his promises to us better than we could have ever thought or imagined!

In The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, author Jared Kennedy traces God’s perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, retold in simple and compelling ways with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Each gospel-centered story highlights God’s tale of redemption through Jesus and the unexpected and surprising ways that God’s grace and mercy are revealed throughout the Bible. Children will hear the good news of God’s love for them clearly expressed in ways that will speak to their young hearts. Brightly colored illustrations highlight the stories and add fun teaching elements of counting, opposites, patterns, and object recognition to keep even the youngest child’s attention. Every story also ends with a question that parents and caregivers can use to further reinforce the message.

Through reading this book one chapter at a time to your children—or letting them read it to you!—even the youngest kids will come to know that God’s promises are especially for them, and that God always keeps his promises.

About the Author:

Jared Kennedy, MDiv, ThM, is the husband to Megan and the father of three girls—Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. He serves as Pastor of Families at Sojourn Community Church—Midtown in Louisville, KY and as children’s ministry strategist for Sojourn Network. He blogs regularly at gospelcenteredfamily.com and is also the coauthor of "Leadership Mosaic" and two VBS programs, "Proof Pirates" and "Clap Your Hands," "Stomp Your Feet."