Saturday, September 21, 2013

Following Dreams -- The Invention of Sarah Cummings

Once again, Olivia Newport's vivid imagery and masterful intertwining of historical fact with fiction transports readers back to late 19th-century Chicago in grand style.  The Invention of Sarah Cummings, book three in her Avenue of Dreams series, continues the story of the wealthy Banning family and their servants -- specifically Sarah Cummings, a young maid who has dreams of finding her way out of service into the privileged life of those she serves.

Olivia's characters are so well developed that you can almost imagine yourself in attendance at the high society events with Chicago's elite, as well as sharing time in the kitchen and servants' quarters with the Bannings' staff.  The descriptions of the political climate of the day and the disastrous fires that ravaged parts of Chicago help bring reality to the story in ways that almost blur the lines between truth and imagination.

Sarah's attempts to create a new "reality" for herself and the lessons she learns about love from others and from God make for a very engaging story.  I enjoyed book two (read my review here) but found this story even more interesting.  Each of these books can be read as stand-alones, but reading the continuing story is even better.  I hope soon to find time to read book one and learn more of the background of the Banning family.

If you are a fan of historical fiction -- or if you are willing to give a new genre a try -- I highly recommend The Invention of Sarah Cummings
Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

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

About the Book

In a world where everyone is putting on a show, there is a love that is genuine.

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner to members of the wealthy Banning family and to start eating at society tables, Sarah spends her meager free time altering cast-off gowns to create the perfect wardrobe for her future life.

When opportunity knocks at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to her goal--and closer to Simon Tewell, director of St. Andrew's Orphanage--Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of.

Can she piece together the perfect life from scraps? Or will it all come unraveled in the face of true love?

About the Author
Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning and The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow. Her husband and two twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Find out more at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Enjoyable Conclusion -- Eventide

Eventide is an enjoyable conclusion to Shelley Shepard Gray's The Days of Redemption series.

Elsie is the main character in this installment of the Keim family's story, and her strength of character shines through.  It becomes clear early in the story that she is much stronger and more determined than her family members are willing to admit.  Although her sight is failing, Elsie learns to better see how to really live in the present and prepare her heart for the future. Both Elsie's parents and grandparents come face to face with results of their own past choices and find some surprises along the way.

Shelley's characters are realistic and face true-to-life challenges.  Throughout the series, she shares enough about each person's story to encourage her readers to care about the characters and the choices they make.

I recommend this entire series to fans of good Amish fiction.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me a copy of Eventide in exchange for my honest review.

See what other reviewers think about Eventide here. 

About the Book

A young Amish woman harbors a difficult secret. Does she dare share the truth with the man she hopes to marry?

Elsie Keim doesn't want to be left behind. Her twin sister, Viola, and her older brother, Roman, have both found love and are building lives of their own. But Elsie? She's still stuck at home, being treated like a child. No one seems to consider her a capable woman-all they see are the thick lenses of her glasses, constant reminders that Elsie suffers from keratoconus and is slowly going blind.

Elsie knows there's much more to her than her disease. That's why when a new neighbor, Landon Troyer, shows some interest in her, she doesn't want anything to scare him away . . . even if it means keeping her condition a secret.

Landon is ready to start a new life and feels like Elsie may just be the right woman to start it with. But when Roman steps in and shares the truth about Elsie's illness, Landon is floored. His job is demanding and takes him away from home, sometimes for days at a time. How could he keep up with his responsibilities and take care of Elsie?

Purchase your copy here:

Meet Shelley

Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the "Sisters of the Heart", "Seasons of Sugarcreek", "Secrets of Crittenden County", and Families of Honor series. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Connect with Shelley here:

Shelley Shepard Gray is celebrating the release of the final book in The Days of Redemption series, Eventide, by giving away FIVE sets of the series. 

Five winners will receive:
  • Daybreak, Ray of Light and Eventide by Shelley Shepard Gray
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 21st. All winners will be announced September 23rd at Shelley's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Shelley's blog on the 23rd to see if you won one of the book sets!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lily's Adventures Continue -- A Surprise for Lily

A Surprise for Lily is book four in Suzanne Woods Fisher's and Mary Ann Kinsinger's delightful Adventures of Lily Lapp series.  

Lily is now 11 years old and continues to find adventure in her day-to-day activities.  As she encounters big changes in her family, her school, her church, and her community, readers get an inside view of Lily's Amish life and learn more about a lifestyle both similar to and different from their own.

Lily's stories, while entertaining for adult readers, are especially suited for 8-12 year olds.  The book functions well as a whole; or the chapters can be read in individual sittings, much like a collection of short stories.

The fact that Mary Ann Kinsinger grew up Amish lends an extra measure of credibility to the book.  And Suzanne Woods Fisher's expert writing brings the stories to life for readers of all ages.

Young readers can have more fun with Lily at
Thanks to Revell Publishing for providing a free copy of A Surprise for Lily in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

Change is in the air!

Eleven-year-old Lily Lapp wants her life to stay just the way it is. Instead, it's constantly changing. New jobs, new schoolmates, and new challenges sure keep life interesting. It seems like the only thing Lily really wants to change--Effie Kauffman's mischief making--is the one thing that never does. Effie is up to her old tricks, and Lily is her favorite target.

With each chapter in Lily's life comes another ever-more exciting adventure. But no one could have prepared Lily for the biggest surprise of all!

About the Authors

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Christy Award finalist and a Carol Award finalist. She is the host of internet radio show Amish Wisdom and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She met and married her husband, whom she knew from school days and started a family. After they chose to leave the Amish church, Mary Ann began a blog, A Joyful Chaos, as a way to capture her warm memories of her childhood for her own children. From the start, this blog found a ready audience and even captured the attention of key media players, such as the influential blog AmishAmerica and the New York Times. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Restoring Broken Families -- The Promise

The Promise, book 2 in the Restoration Series by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley, continues the story of the Anderson family.  Jim and Marilyn's heart-tugging story in The Dance continues in this book, with the real emphasis on the struggles of their son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Jean.

The fictional characters and their real-life challenges provide a good story that draws you into their lives.  At the same time, Biblical principles of family relationships and responsibilities challenge readers to look at their own families and see how God's grace can bring change and growth where it might be needed.   

While The Promise was not as captivating as other Dan Walsh books I have read, it is a fairly quick read that provides both entertainment and encouragement.

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

Thanks to Revell for providing a copy of The Promise in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book

One home, two hearts, and the power of a promise kept . . .

For the last five months, Tom Anderson has been without a job, a fact he's been hiding from his wife Jean--and everyone else. He leaves each morning, pretending nothing has changed, and spends his disheartening day rotating through coffee shops and the library, using their wifi to search job listings online. The stress of keeping this secret is beginning to put serious strain on his marriage.

But Tom's not the only one hiding something. Jean Anderson has a secret of her own--one that will seriously complicate their situation. Will the promises they made on their wedding day hold firm? 

About the Authors

 Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance with Gary Smalley, The Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best-known authors and speakers on family relationships and has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and TODAY, as well as numerous national radio programs. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of many books, including the Baxter Family Redemption series with Karen Kingsbury and The Dance with Dan Walsh. Gary and his wife Norma have been married for 49 years and live in Missouri.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

She Does It Again! -- Trapped

Wow!  I don't know how she does it . . . but I think Irene Hannon outdoes her previous work every time she writes a new book.  Trapped had me fully engaged from the very first words on the first page.  In fact, Irene piqued my interest with her trailer (view below) before I ever got my hands on the book.

Irene Hannon is a master at her art of writing romantic suspense from a Christian perspective.  Her characters are well developed and very believable. Laura, Dev, Darcy, and the other characters in Trapped are faced with trying to resolve issues from past hurts, looking for answers to questions about God's involvement in their lives, and finding their way in personal relationships -- all while navigating life-threatening dangers

As with all Irene's stories, the plot is gripping, written so that you experience the tension as though you were right in the middle of the scenes.  Her extensive research into areas such as law enforcement procedures and medical details lends a valuable sense of credibility to the story.  The level of suspense in this book is probably the highest of any of her books so far.

If you're looking for a great suspenseful read with just the right dose of romance, give Trapped a try.  I believe you'll be glad you did.  I would also recommend the first book in this series, Vanished.  (Check out my review.)  Now we have to wait for the third Private Justice book, Deceived, due out in the summer of 2014.

Thanks to Revell/Baker Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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

About the Book 

A runaway teen, a desperate sister, and an intrepid PI determined to discover the truth.
When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . .

In her latest thrilling read, queen of romantic suspense Irene Hannon outdoes herself with a fast-paced tale of fear, deception, and just the right dose of romance.


About the Author

Irene Hannon is the author of more than 40 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award, a Retailers Choice Award and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. She lives in Missouri.

To learn more about Irene and her books visit her web site at, follow her on Twitter at @IreneHannon, or find her on Facebook.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Red Dawn Rising

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Kregel Publications (April 8, 2013)

***Special thanks to Sarah Krueger for sending me a review copy.***


Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. She is the author of Mortal Wounds (Barbour, 2001) and Fatal Loyalty (Kregel, 2010). Sue has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children.

Find out more at


Twenty-seven-year-old Cass Rodino is a hardworking, dedicated set designer on Broadway. But, like the actors who take the stage every night, she is masking a different reality. Her secrets lie deep within past wounds too severe to expose to anyone.

Evgeny Kozlov has secrets of his own. A former KGB assassin, he is trying to outrun the underground revolution he once served. Trying to right his wrongs, he's in a race against time and against a former colleague, Ivan, who has sinister plans to bring down the United States, including an assassination attempt on famed pianist Liesl Bower.
As Cass and Evgeny separately set out to save Liesl from an impending doom, both are hurled into a fierce CIA/FBI dragnet, not knowing that their formidable opponent—a most unlikely predator—is already closing in on them.
Book 2 of the Red Returning Trilogy, Red Dawn Rising mixes suspense, action, and romance in a tale of personal tragedy and triumph that will keep readers pivoting between the evil desires of world powers and the redeeming powers of personal faith, life, and love.

Product Details:
List Price: $
Series: Red Returning Trilogy (Book 2)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825442664
ISBN-13: 978-0825442667


The Moscow night had frozen in place. But at three in the morning, a lone figure hurried along the back streets and alleys of a worn and grizzled neighborhood, leaving tracks in fresh yet impure snow. It was the safest hour for Evgeny Kozlov to surface from his warren. Once a warrior spy for Soviet intelligence, he had fallen to his own conscience and the conviction that everything he’d believed in was a lie. Now, the liars hunted him.

Where an alley emptied onto a main boulevard, Evgeny stopped and peered cautiously through the brittle light of a streetlamp. He would have to cross the street to reach the bookstore where, in a back room with shades drawn, the only person he could trust waited for him. He resisted the urge to sprint headlong to safety. Instead, he pulled the hood of his coat lower over his face and emerged slowly from the alley onto the sidewalk, nearly colliding with an old woman long past sobriety. Ragged and absent-eyed, she hardly looked his way as she shuffled around him, hunched and rattling in her breath. He watched after her a moment and wondered how many others like her might perish this forbidding night, within reach of the gilded Kremlin, home of the government charged with tending even the least of its people.

He veered into the street, ambling in the fashion of the old woman, his heavy boots slurring against the pavement, the backpack that never left his side slung over one shoulder. To anyone watching, his boozy charade would make no impression. They wouldn’t see the gun he gripped firmly inside his coat pocket.

When he reached the front of the bookstore, he was about to turn into the alley running toward the shop’s back door when a face stopped him. In the display window lit by the streetlamp was a rack of CDs. He knew better than to linger in the exposing light, but he couldn’t move. The face on one of those CD covers wouldn’t let him. She was a striking young woman in a shimmering green gown seated at a concert grand piano, her long amber hair cascading over one shoulder. The title read Liesl Bower Plays the Russian Masters.

He stared into the eyes that couldn’t see him. Eyes that had, on three occasions, flashed with terror for what he might do to her. Now, gazing at her fixed, radiant smile, Evgeny brooded. Liesl, forgive me. I did not know the ones I served then. But now I do.

He remembered his last words to her. He’d slipped into her dressing room at Avery Fisher Hall just moments before a performance and warned her about those he would serve no more. “Never stop watching them,” he’d told her. Regrettably, though, he had.

After a quick scan of the street, he darted into the alley. At the back of the shop, he tapped lightly on the door and waited. When it opened, the spidery hand of Viktor Petrov reached to pull him inside. “Hurry! They are near!”

“They found me?”

“Yes. You cannot return to the apartment.”

Evgeny searched the older man’s face, the hollows beneath his fierce eyes, the sagging jowls that belied the ramrod strength that had sustained his double life. The old-guard member of the KGB secret police had transitioned easily into that agency’s post-Soviet successor, the Federal Security Service. Viktor Petrov had served the new Russian Federation with exemplary dedication—while secretly plotting with other revolutionaries to overthrow it.

But no longer. He and Evgeny had penetrated the heroic, all-for-the-people veneer of Vadim Fedorovsky’s anarchist movement to discover its corroded underside. Fedorovsky and his mounting legion of Kremlin and military recruits had so dazzled themselves with the promise of a powerful new Russian empire that they had cultivated a callous disregard for the everyday plight of their own people.

“But how?” Evgeny rasped as he slipped inside the store, his joints protesting the cold. “No one ever finds me.” He raked his fingers through his dark, thinning hair. His fifties had pressed hard against him, and he’d felt himself begin to wither.

“My friend, you are not as invisible as you once were,” Viktor said. “Somehow, you left a trail. And now you must flee. But first, there are things you must know.” He motioned for Evgeny to follow him to a small room in the back of the bookstore where they’d met several times before. Viktor had once saved the store’s owner from arrest and certain imprisonment for his part in a riotous demonstration against the sitting president. The owner had given Viktor a key and unrestricted access.

Without turning on a light, Viktor set a small flashlight on a shelf and aimed its beam toward the wall, allowing only a dim glow in which to see each other. “Sit,” Viktor instructed. “We do not have long.”

Evgeny pulled a straight-backed chair beneath him and waited. Viktor eyed him gravely. “It is far worse than we thought. I have just struck the richest vein of intelligence yet. Hear this. For all his authority, Fedorovsky is only a puppet and always has been, even before he went to prison.” When Evgeny’s brow arched, Viktor held up a hand to halt interruption. “Just listen. There is someone else who commands Fedorovsky and his coconspirator Pavel Andreyev. Someone who is the mastermind of it all. He is called the Architect by the few who know he even exists, a man removed from Russia but whose roots are deep in her intelligence network. He has immense wealth and power beyond our own president.”

Viktor paused long enough for Evgeny to respond, “Do you know this man?”


“Where is he?” Already, Evgeny’s mind calculated the inevitable mission of stopping him.

“It is believed he operates from the sea, headquartered on one vessel or another within his fleet. He could be anywhere in the world.”


“This is a man of uncommon means. He—” Viktor quickly raised a quieting hand and looked toward the open door to the room. “Listen,” he whispered.

Evgeny leaned far enough to peer through the doorway, but he saw and heard nothing. Then a beam of light pierced the front window and arced through the store. He jerked back out of sight and glanced at the flashlight above him. Dousing it would only signal that someone was in the room.

Already hidden, Viktor remained still, but Evgeny could hear him wheeze. When the light retreated and didn’t return, Evgeny leaned forward in his chair and whispered, “A policeman making rounds.” It was both a statement and a hope. Surely his skills hadn’t failed him so miserably that he’d led others of his own trade to this place and to his trusted compatriot.

A cautious interval passed before either spoke again. Then, “There is something else,” Viktor said, his shoulders sagging. “Your uncle and cousins.”

Evgeny stopped breathing. But he already knew, in the way that assassins such as he knew death and those who forced it on others.

“They are all dead,” Viktor announced bitterly.

“When?” Evgeny struggled to ask.

“Last night, as they slept.”

Through the years, others had met the same fate at Evgeny’s own hand. How dare he mourn now. But how could he not? These innocent peasants had died for no other reason than their tenuous kinship with him. A solitary spy, Evgeny had long since severed the distant and fragile ties to family, to spare himself and them any harmful entanglements.

Fedorovsky had ordered their execution even from prison, Evgeny was certain. His late mother’s brother and his two sons, the last of his family, had scraped a bare living from the soil with no hope of improving their lot. Evgeny was certain they had never heard of Fedorovsky, never knew of the man’s raging quest to overtake their country. They wouldn’t have cared anyway. Their country could fail them no worse under his reign than at the hands of all the despots past.

“I am very sorry,” Viktor offered.

But Evgeny had already shifted from the hateful news to something within his control. Vengeance. “I must go,” he told Viktor as he rose from the chair.


“Someplace where Fedorovsky’s people will not look for me.” Evgeny hoisted his backpack to his shoulders. “His house.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

War-Time Romance Continues -- On Distant Shores

On Distant Shores picks up right where With Every Letter left off and immediately draws you back into the lives of an interesting group of nurses and men serving overseas during World War II. 

The Wings of the Nightingale series displays Sarah Sundin's masterful touch in placing an intriguing romance right in the middle of a history lesson -- without it feeling like a history lesson.  Her attention to detail from personal knowledge and extensive research shines through and brings the story to life.  Her characters face real-life challenges in their actions and their feelings that help the reader catch a personal glimpse of what it might have been like to serve on foreign shores.

Although Georgie and Hutch are highlighted as the main characters in this installment, there are many others who round out the story and add interest and depth in important ways.

If you're interested  in great Christian fiction set against the backdrop of WWII, I would definitely recommend On Distant Shores.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

See what other readers think of On Distant Shores here.

About On Distant Shores: Caught between the war raging around them and the battles within, two souls long for peace---and a love that remains true.

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson.

Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin weaves an exciting tale of emotion, action, and romance that will leave you wanting more.

Purchase a Copy:

Meet SarahSarah Sundin is the author of "With Every Letter" and the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist’s mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. 

Visit for more information.