Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Two of Us - Victoria Bylin

Sitting in a Las Vegas diner, watching a man in a cowboy hat, win one stuffed toy after another from a vending machine, Mia Robinson is fascinated at his skills. The last thing she expected was to talk to him.

After two failed engagements, the young, soon to be thirty, woman has sworn off relationships. Her focus is on God and forging a new career. So why is she in 'Sin City'? Because her 18-years-old sister is about to get married. To a man Mia hasn't met. And, to make things more problematic, she's pregnant.

Mia - steadfast, reliable, reluctant to show emotions - is worried about Lucy. Raising her, she knows Lucy is the sister who wears her heart on her sleeve, is driven by impulsive behavior. Should she be surprised that she's both with child and getting married so young?

Jake Tanner, solid, reliable and due to tragic circumstances resulting in a work injury, left the police force. He also left with a purpose. Although physically recovered, he has yet to placate his soul. Finding comfort in looking out for his partners son, Sam, he is more than happy to be there in Vegas to watch Sam marry Lucy. Although the wedding is on his mind, his determination to open a camp for boys who lost their parent in a police incident, is never far from his thoughts. But the small community of Echo Falls, is not so keen.

With differing opinions on the forthcoming marriage, Mia and Jake form an awkward friendship. Awkward because they soon realize that they have feelings for each other. But with Mia's reluctance and past hurts, plus her ambition to join a medical organization that would involve international travel, she knows it would be wrong to commit to anything or anyone. As for Jake, not only does he have concerns over the camp he wishes to start, but he is also worried about the decline of his mother due to Alzheimer's.

When her interview with Mission Medical causes her to reevaluate her life, she moves to Echo Falls. There, Jake and her lives entwine even further. Will they overcome the obstacles they have set up for themselves? Or will they allow God to show them the path they should follow, a path that will lead to love, harmony, peace and happiness?

As odd as it sounds, it's been a long time since I've read a Christian fiction novel with God and faith having a prominent position in the plot. Not overbearing in the slightest, but rather added lovely warmth and real depth that Mia, Jake and their families hold their faith in deep regard.

Bylin has created a compassionate, touching, and heartfelt story, whose narrative is honest and unapologetic. An excellent mix of characters and real-life situations, filled with funny and loving moments. A highly recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House publishers as part of their blogger program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Gathering the Threads (The Amish of Summer Grove, Bk 3) – Cindy Woodsmall

Returning to her Amish home, was a joyful event for Ariana Brenneman. And then, sitting at the family table, listening to her father dictate what was to be done, triggered an unease in the young woman.

Forced to live in the ‘Englisch’ world, when it was discovered, she was unintentionally swapped, at her birth, along with Skylar Nash, was an eye-opening situation. Relying on Quill Schlabach wasn’t an ideal, but he was her friend, despite the strained relationship, and he helped her out when she needed it.
Isaac, Ariana’s Amish father, is in disbelief that his daughter, would defy him, his authority. At least her relationship with Rudy (the man she plans to marry) is still going strong. His wife, Lovina, is worried that the two won’t see eye-to-eye. After all, Ariana now knows what it is to live in the Englisch world. Can they truly expect her to be the same?
Now that Ariana is back in the Amish world, will the fact that she wishes to keep the phone and occasionally contact Quill be condoned by the Bishop? And, how much more understanding will Rudy be about that aspect of her life?
Finding her feet, and her place, in the Brenneman family, as well as the Amish community, Skylar is on the road to recovery from drug addiction. Just as she feels that she has control back in her life, in walks Ariana. What happened to spending a whole year outside of this community? And how come her Englisch father, Nicholas, seems so much more understanding of Ariana’s woes than he ever was of hers?
Will the two ‘sisters’ find common ground? To be able to grow together in the Amish way? Whilst Ariana questions her belief in an (almost) oligarchical system, she knows her faith in God is unwavering. How can she be a part of two different worlds, when neither seem to want to understand the other?
In the last part of theSummer Grove series, the story is focused more on Ariana, rather than Skylar, but doesn’t fail to impress. Whilst it would be easy to tie up loose ends, Woodsmall, spins a thoughtful, absorbing story, that is far from predictable. I really enjoyed how she pushed Ariana's thinking, yet being respectful of the Amish culture. There were so many emotions for the characters in this final installment - frustration, anger, disbelief, love, hope,  happiness - that, as a reader, I was experiencing them along the way. As always, Woodsmall's characters have depth, personality and traits, that make them all endearing.
An excellent series and a highly recommended read for, not only, all fans of Amish and Christian fiction, but those who enjoy a really good story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from WaterBrookMultnomah as part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

With You Always – Jody Hedlund (Orphan Train, Book 1)

A struggling immigrant, trying to find their way in the new world, Elise Neumann and her sisters, find a flicker of hope when they meet Miss Pendleton.

She puts a roof over their heads and gives Elise and the second eldest sister, Marianne work as seamstresses. They are not well liked by the other women who work in the warehouse. These women, also rescued by Miss. Pendleton, have less than reputable backgrounds and they see Elise as a favorite. Fanny, one of the workers, takes a considerable dislike to her. However, the young German, endures the torment – she has to make a better life for her sisters and the two young children they have taken under their wings.

As work soon dries up, and angry mobs descend on the streets, a chance of a new life out west beckons. With the aid of the New York Children’s Aid Society, Elise is able to head there for her and her sisters. But what will become of them, with her being so far away? Little does she know, that the chance encounter with a stranger called Thornton, will change her life.

Thornton Quincy. Born in to a world of privilege, he has everything that he needs – except he’s always in his twin brother’s shadow. And, then his father gives them a unique challenge. Is this the opportunity that he has been waiting for? A chance to see pride in his father’s eyes? However, the contest is problematic. Not only does Thornton and Bradford have to build a successful, sustainable town/community along the Illinois Central Railroad, they both must find a wife. And, it must be love. With the grand prize of inheriting their father’s railroad-building empire, the brotherly competition begins. But how long will it remain amicable?

When Elise shows her skills as a cook and also a strong-minded personality, Thornton is drawn to her – she’s a breath of fresh air. But being socially, worlds apart, can they ever hope to have more than the friendship that they currently have?

Loved it from page one. An immediately absorbing, intriguing read. Hedlund’s characters are well defined and believable. The banter between the main characters is heartwarming and her historical references – women’s movement, railroad building – is reminder of how difficult life was in those times. An utterly romantic story. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series. A highly recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Bethany House as part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Captain’s Daughter (Book 1, London Beginnings) – Jennifer Delamere

Saying goodbye to her two younger sisters – Julia and Cara – was bittersweet for Rosalyn Bernay. After their mother loses her battle to an illness and their father, a sea captain, is seemingly lost to the oceans, the three children lived a pleasant life in a Muller Orphanage, until they went their separate ways.

Unfortunate circumstances force Rosalyn to leave the home where she worked as a ladies’ maid. Whilst she planned to join her sister in Bristol, she ends up taking a train to London. There, she is accosted by two men.

Nate Morgan, dressed in his military redcoat, happens upon Rosalyn as she arrives at Paddington (station). Unfortunately, she takes his helpfulness the wrong way and walks away with a woman who he suspects isn’t who she says she is.

Regretting the manner in which he handled the situation, he turns his mind back to his healing hand and the circumstance of his return from India.

After overhearing the real reason she was helped by “Aunt Molly”, Rosalyn finds herself in a back alley outside a theater. Immediately befriended by a young actress, Jessie, she convinces Miss. Lenoir, the administrator of the theatre, to take on Rosalyn as the new dresser.

Fate has intervened, and Rosalyn is surprised and wary of bumping in to the rugged soldier again. But, as she soon discovers, Nate is not as rough, or someone to distrust, as she first believed.
The bright lights of the theatre works its magic on Rosalyn,  and she wonders if the stage is for her. However, will the life she abruptly left behind, find her again in London?

Thrown together in a close-knit community, Nate and Rosalyn form a friendship, with hints of something else. But with both having a past they would rather keep to themselves, as well as a future that wouldn’t include the other, will they be able to work past their different pursuits and perhaps turn their friendship in to something more?

The main protagonists are likeable and warm. And, with the author giving subsequent characters as much depth and enticing background stories as Rosalyn and Nate, it was an excellent opening to both the Bernay and Moran families as well as the beginning of a serial. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the theatre group, the descriptions of 1800s London and the romantic undertones. I look forward to reading more from this author and her ‘London Beginnings’ series. A recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Bethany House as part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Love Letters from God - Glenys Nellist

Designed for young girls, each story taken from the Bible, is transformed in to a letter of love from God.

From ‘The First Girl’ (Eve), through to others such as ‘The Busy Girl’ (Martha), ‘The Hopeful Girl’ (Hannah) and the ‘Happy Girl’ (Mary Magdalene), the stories teach a young child how to have courage, strength and understanding all with the knowledge that God is always in their corner.

Whilst the stories have been retold in a child-friendly manner, the author references the passage in the bible, so whomever is reading can find it and read the whole story directly. With a few lines from scripture and little lift-flaps containing the love letter from God, this book is interactive and will be an inspiration for girls of all ages. Beautifully illustrated by Rachel Clowes, the inviting, colorful, images enhance the stories and will bring the message of God alive for all young readers.

I read this with my three years old, and she enjoyed opening the letters, especially as each letter is left blank for you to insert your child’s name. It certainly made it more personal for her. There is an envelope at the end for the reader/little girl to write her own thoughts and feelings to God. As she is still so young, it will be something she can do when she's older.

An enjoyable read and a great introduction to the women of the Bible, their stories and the meaning behind them. A recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Handlebar Marketing on behalf of Zonderkidz Publishing. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Chamberlain Key - Timothy P Smith

A successful appraiser, and part of a renowned family business, Smith is very interested in the history of objects. Then, he has a recurring dream. When another dream occurs that takes him to British Columbia, he starts a journey that will reveal a hidden text in a sacred book.

This 'story' is well written and easy to read. Told more like a novel than a non-fiction narrative, Smith conveys how his dreams led his way to exploring the ‘equidistance’ of a key the Torah. A key he calls Chamberlain. With the advancement of computer technology, he was able to delve further in to what this meant to him and eventually what it would mean to everyone else.

I believe the point of this book is not to deny Elohim’s truth. But, I may have missed any other points Smith raised. I understand the author’s journey to discovering a key that seemed to link to his life, but what kind of message was he trying to say? That we’re all within the sacred words of the Torah? That we all have a part to play in passing on the Word? In the last few chapters, Smith reveals events that were foretold in the scripture, although he insists he’s not researching this to predict the future.

For me it was a fantastical read, difficult to believe, although I am keen to understand how people come to believe that there are messages hidden in sacred scripts. But, the authors’ belief is real, deep and grounded in ‘proof’. And, whilst it was good to get the background of Smith’s findings, I found that last few chapters the most interesting and informative.

Whilst the mind may wonder (mine did) to other works such as ‘The Bible Code’ (mentioned in this book) and fictional work like the 'Da Vinci Code', there is something far more serious about the Chamberlain Key. Smith is certainly humble in his findings, and is not keen to immediately share them, lending a quality of credibility. It’s easy to dismiss this research as another ‘conspiracy theory –  hidden meanings in sacred words’, but, despite my misgivings, I do believe that Timothy P Smith has found something of interest.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books, part of WaterBrook publishing, and part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Gatekeepers - Chris Whipple

From Nixon's Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra affair to Obama's non follow through on Syria, author Chris Whipple takes the reader through a political journey of what it takes to be Chief of Staff (COS).

The book details how important this role is to the president, and if the COS was more brutally honest, didn't back down from confrontation or was too loyal, then certain events may not have happened.

Presidents always seek information and advice of key confidants. "When the president makes a life-and-death decision, often the Chief of Staff can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks."

Flowing in a chronological order, the books gives the outsider an insight on how the Oval Office is run - all the from the viewpoint of the chief of staff. Whipple offers his analysis and having interviewed several people, including two presidents, several chiefs of staff's (naturally) he has shown a world very few people see on a daily basis.

In his Epilogue, Whipple writes: "That duty - telling the president what he does not want to hear- will prove all the more important for Trump's chief., who will be advising a man who has shown no evidence that he has the focus, knowledge, or discipline required to be commander in chief. Never has a president been more in need of a "reality therapist"..."

A fascinating read. One that if you're completely or slightly interested in politics, even if you're not, just read it. It's a combination of every political TV drama out there in written form. Intrigue, history, and scandal.  I could quote the whole book, however this struck me as I read it, mainly because of the current political climate: page 289 (after considering the use of executive orders) "'...let's execute smartly.'" Barack Obama.

An engaging, informative book and a highly recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books program to review. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.