Sunday, July 31, 2016

Faith-filled historical fiction -- Guide Me Home

When a new Kim Vogel Sawyer book comes out, I don't have to wonder -- I KNOW it will be great.  So I was not surprised that in Guide Me Home Kim crafted an awesome story of of love, family, faith, hopes, and dreams.

As in all Kim's books, the characters are real to life and draw you into their stories from beginning to end, coming across as friends or family you have known all your life.  In Rebekah Hardin she gives us an incredible young woman, devoted to her family and her home in the hills, yet not totally afraid of dreaming of more.  Her sense of loyalty and sacrifice, even at great hardship, drives her beyond her guilt and fears.  Devlin Bale, the college-educated city boy with great ambitions, has plans that are quite different from Reb's, and he has much to learn about what is most important in life.  Tolly Sanford is a hard-working gentle spirit with a healthy dose of Godly wisdom that is valuable to everyone.

The historical aspect of this story adds a fascinating component, and it is obvious that Kim has done her homework on that.  The uplifting emphasis on faith provides a generous level of inspiration.

I highly recommend this books to fans of great inspirational fiction. Thanks to the author for providing a copy of Guide Me Home in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Working in the massive cave might allow Rebekah the chance to bring joy back to her family. But will it claim more than it gives?

After tragedy leaves its mark on Rebekah Hardin’s family, she plans to help her parents and six siblings honor her beloved brother’s memory and alleviate their poverty by working as a guide in the dangerous cave system. Kentucky’s renowned Mammoth Cave presents profitable opportunities in for hardworking, capable men. But Rebekah is determined and if it means presenting herself as a himself, then she’s up to the job. 
Under the wing of experienced guide Tolly Sanford, “Reb” begins to learn the complexities of the cave and the two are joined by an aspiring young cartographer, Devlin Bale.
The university student has traveled to the hill country to map tunnels—not to fall for a girl in disguise. Can the God who designed miles of underground astonishment shape Devlin’s ambitious plans and free Reb from the weight from the past?   

About the Author:

KIM VOGEL SAWYER's titles have garnered awards including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Intriguing Biblical time period fiction -- The Advocate

The Advocate is quite different from Randy Singer's usual contemporary legal thrillers.  It is historical fiction set in New Testament times, with both real and fictional characters as well as real and fictional events.  It was a story, though, that I found very intriguing.

While the details came from a mixture of Biblical facts, historical facts, and fictional thoughts from the author's mind, the story helped bring to life some of what the world was like where Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament people lived.  Whether or not the Theophilus Luke mentioned in his writings actually came into contact with Pontius Pilate, Paul, or Jesus, imagining the events from his perspective made for a very compelling story.

About the Book:

At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young "assessore" raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, "Offer to release Barabbas." The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths--Roman crucifixion. Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire and has an opportunity for redemption. He takes the case of Paul of Tarsus, defending the outspoken apostle in front of Nero, Rome’s cruelest tyrant. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution? The advocate's first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.

Veteran lawyer-author Singer (The Last Plea Bargain) uses the idea advanced elsewhere that the Bible books Luke and Acts were written as legal briefs to defend the Apostle Paul against the Roman emperor Nero. The two biblical books are addressed to an enigmatic Theophilus, (a name meaning "lover of God,") and Singer develops a fictional Theophilus, a lawyer who stood behind Pilate to advise him to offer up Jesus Christ to be crucified. Theophilus witnesses the lives of Jesus and Paul unfold, and has to decide based on the evidence whether to join the early movement of Jesus followers and become a victim of the great persecution of Nero. Some of the dialog comes directly from Scripture; other speeches are faithful to biblical characters such as Paul: "The most important thing is not that the letter proclaims my innocence but that it proclaims the good news about the Messiah."

Cross James Michener's great historical fiction with a John Grisham legal thriller, and you've got this epic classic by Singer.

About the Author:

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney.

He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers and was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit his website at

Touching story -- The Loyal Heart

Shelley Shepard Gray is an author who does a great job in a variety of genres.  She is a favorite in the Amish fiction category but has also written some great historical stories in a Texas western setting and others set in Chicago during the time of the World's Fair at the turn of the 20th century.

In The Loyal Heart, Shelley takes us back to Texas, soon after the Civil War.  Some of the flashbacks of the story occur during the war itself, with the main story taking place a couple years later.

In this book, as in so many of her others, Shelley uses her gentle style to tell a touching story of hurts, friendship, love . . . and of course, loyalty.  Miranda is a hurting woman who discovers she is much stronger than she ever thought possible.  Robert is a man who has experienced almost every side of life and has come out with a rare wealth of character.  The other characters all come to life in amazing ways to fit into this engaging story.  And I also found one of the things I enjoy about well-written historical fiction -- a chance to learn some details about history that I didn't know before.

I highly recommend The Loyal Heart to fans of great inspirational historical fiction.  Thanks to Shelley for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.

About the story: 

Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.
Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers' prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner.  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.

You can find Shelley online at her website and on Facebook.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fantastic story -- Fraying at the Edge

Cindy Woodsmall's Fraying at the Edge is a fantastic second installment in her Amish of Summer Grove series.  It picks up right where the story of Ariana and Skylar left off at the end of Ties that Bind.

Cindy once again uses her personal understanding of the Amish culture and master storytelling skills to pen an intriguing tale, one where Old Order Amish and Englisch lifestyles overlap in very complicated ways.  The fascinating characters drive the story at just the right pace as they each learn their own lessons about love, forgiveness, and personal beliefs.  The type of questions about God and man-made rules add an engaging element somewhat different from many other Amish stories.

Fans of great Amish fiction should enjoy this series by Cindy Woodsmall.  This is one where it is important to read the books in order, so be sure to check out Ties that Bind first.  I can't wait to have some dangling loose ends tied up when the next installment comes out.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of Fraying at the Edge in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Family, community, faith, and love.  These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life.  When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.

New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?
Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

About the Author:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Moving story -- The Promise Of Jesse Woods

The Promise of Jesse Woods, a moving story by Chris Fabry, is only the second I have read by him, and it was an awesome confirmation of what a great writer he is.

The story spans the years between 1972 and 1984, with elements from both ends of that time period alternately filling in important details. The characters -- so well developed -- drive the story at a perfect pace for you to feel the deep emotions as they play out toward the finish, a finish that you can't be sure of until you're there. 

Make sure you have plenty of time to read when you start this one; you won't want to put it down!

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

About the Author:

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live! on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children. 

Chris's novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and Every Waking Moment, have won three Christy Awards and an ECPA Christian Book Award, but it's his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more. He has also published more than 65 other books, including movie novelizations, like the recent bestseller War Room; nonfiction; and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. RPM is his latest series for kids and explores the exciting world of NASCAR. Visit his Web site at

Conclusion of a series -- The Restoration

Wanda Brunstetter concludes her Prairie State Friends series set in Arthur, Illinois, with The Restoration.  This final book brings together all the characters and events from the series and wraps up several ongoing story lines.  

The close friends who are the main characters in this series all learn important lessons about love and "find themselves" through various experiences.  Some elements of the story provide a fair share of twists and turns, leading up to outcomes you can't be sure of until the end.  Others, though, seem to wrap up a little quickly.

All in all, this was a good story that Amish fiction fans should enjoy.

Thanks to Wanda and her publisher for providing a copy of The Restoration in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Dive into an Amish country love triangle in this third book of the Prairie State Friends series. Priscilla Herschberger finds herself pursued by Elam, a childhood friend from her community, and David, an outsider raised in the modern world. Elam would do almost anything to convince Priscilla that David would never fit into the Amish way. Will flames of jealousy rage out of control and ruin lives? Can forgiveness allow love and trust to grow?

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter and her husband live in Washington State but take every opportunity to visit friends in  Amish settlements throughout the States. 

First of a six-part serial -- The English Son

The English Son is part one of the six-part serial novel, The Amish Millionaire, by Wanda Brunstetter and her daughter-in-law Jean.

This first installment introduces former Amish Joel Byler, his English girlfriend, and the Amish father and other family members Joel left behind.  He has so far kept his Amish past from his girlfriend and really seems to have no use for his family until he finds himself in financial trouble.

While this is an interesting story, the serial novel approach is not one of my favorites.  If that format works for you, I'm sure Wanda Brunstetter fans will enjoy following the Bylers.

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the Book:

Join New York Times Bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter along with co-author, Jean Brunstetter, in Holmes County, Ohio for a dramatic new 6-part serial novel.

In Book 1: Meet businessman Joel Byler who has gotten himself into a financial bind, and his eccentric, wealthy Amish father who is done bailing out his spoiled son. When will Joel learn he must pay for his own mistakes—and at what cost to his business, his girlfriend, and his Amish siblings?

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 Amish Millionaire series, Wanda is joined by her daughter-in-law Jean. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Interesting mystery -- Murder Mezzo Forte

Donn Taylor's Murder Mezzo Forte is an interesting mystery that keeps you guessing pretty much throughout the whole story.  This is the second book in the Preston Barclay Mystery series.  There are several references to the mystery that was solved in the first book, but this one seemed to work fine as a stand alone.

While this is a well-written mystery with interesting characters, certain elements of the story kept it from being a real favorite for me.  The constant "musical hallucinations" experienced by the main character were distracting from the flow of the story; that could well be nothing more than personal preference and may provide just the right twist for others. Also, I had trouble really "connecting" with the characters to the depth that makes a story really draw me in.

If you are a mystery fan, I would recommend that you give Murder Mezzo Forte a try.  It could be just the story for you.

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

To see what other readers think about Murder Mezzo Forte, click here.

About the book:

He is a reclusive history professor with musical hallucinations. . . .

She a headstrong professor of religion, a converted Wiccan. Earlier, they solved a campus murder, but now police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly-murdered female colleague and they're probably guilty of her murder. A leak of the alleged scandal to the college administration threatens their jobs.

Their desperate attempt to prove themselves innocent of the triangle and the murder plunges them into a tangle of unsavory corporate relationships among college trustees. And it puts their lives in danger from a mysterious criminal organization that seems to have tentacles everywhere.

Can this ill-matched pair's stumbling efforts succeed against the entrenched forces of the police, the college's incompetent administration, and that powerful but unseen criminal organization? If not, they may end up unemployed, in prison, or suffering a fate much worse.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include three suspense novels, one historical novel, and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.