Showing posts with label Christian fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian fiction. Show all posts

Friday, July 15, 2016

Review of the Book "Journey's End" - A Riveting Story

Gilded Promises Book Series
Journey's End by Renee Ryan is one of those books that once you start reading it, you simply can't put it down until you have finished the entire book.  

I started this book after a very long and tiring day.  I was immediately drawn into the story and hated the idea of putting my Kindle down.  I kept drifting off to sleep and forcing myself to wake back up because I wanted to see what was going to happen next.  Needless to say, I finally gave in to sleep, but as soon as the morning light filtered through the window, I grabbed my Kindle and started reading again.  

Few books can keep me from my morning work, but I simply had to get back into the "pages" and join Caroline on her journey once again.

Brief Synopsis of Journey's End by Renee Ryan

                              Journey's End (Gilded Promises)                             The story begins with Caroline St. James disembarking from a ship that has just docked at Ellis Island.  At 22 years old, she set out from London, her home for her entire life, to avenge her mother's long-suffering and eventual death.  She plans to seek out the wealthy  grandfather who abandoned her mother and herself when they were in desperate need of help.  The one man who could have prevented an entire childhood of begging, stealing, and lying just to care for her sick mother.

With both of her parents dead, Caroline had no home or family, so there was absolutely nothing that could stand in the way of her planned vengeance.   She no longer had any loved ones who could be hurt by her actions.  She was determined that the old man would suffer for his callous disregard for the lives of his daughter and granddaughter.

Caroline changes her last name and ingratiates herself to her innocent cousin as a means to gain access to her grandfather.  She is thrilled when her cousin, Elizabeth, invites her to dine in her home.  She is so close to meeting the man who ruined her life and ensured the early death of her beloved mother by ignoring her repeated pleas for help.  

When she arrives in the doorway, all eyes fall on her and there is complete silence except for the shattering of glass.  She finds herself facing her aunt & uncle who clearly recognize her.  Actually, it is not her they recognize, but who she looks like.  For a moment, they believe she is her mother.  After all, they haven't seen her mother, Libby, since she herself was 19 yrs. old.  When her grandfather enters the room, he is shocked, yet clearly elated to see her.   When she tells him that her mother is dead, the man is devastated.  

Caroline soon realizes that her grandfather had not abandoned his daughter.  He knew nothing of her father's death and he had no idea he had a granddaughter.   He has not seen, nor had any word from his daughter since she disappeared in London while they were on a vacation.  That could only mean that someone in the household intercepted her mother's many letters and returned them unopened. 


That's as much as I am going to tell you!  If you wish to unravel the mystery and find out who was the villain, you will have to read Journey's End for yourself.

This Christian fiction book is more than just a mystery.  There is also a love story intertwined throughout the pages of this novel, but it is also more than just a love story.  The love, the loyalty, the deception, the betrayal are all a part of what makes this a wonderful book to read.

Journey's End Reviewed by:
House of Sylvestermouse

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review

The Wedding that Wasn't

We meet Kate Evans, protagonist of Touching the Clouds, on the day that was supposed to be her wedding day. A week before, she had told Richard, the man she was to marry, that she feels a need to move to Alaska to become a bush pilot. Richard is hurt and not ready to give up on marrying her. Her parents don't completely understand, either, and it's hard for Kate to explain. She likes Richard a lot. She doesn't enjoy hurting him. She just doesn't think she loves him enough to marry him.

Kate wants to get away from all that reminds her of the awful day she "killed" her best friend Alison. Kate was seventeen then. She had talked her friend into flying with her in her father's plane. The weather had been fine, with clear skies, when they started out. But when they got to Rimrock Lake it was foggy. She didn't turn back even though she knew she should. They had crashed into the lake, which sucked the plane down into the icy waters. For seven years Kate has blamed herself for Alison's death and is sure everyone else in town blames her, too. She want to go where  no one knows about the accident.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Image in Public Domain Edited with Text from Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon.
Created on

Right after the accident, she was afraid to fly again, but her dad, an excellent pilot who had taught her to fly, helped her to get back in a plane and resume flying once again. Now she is 25 and wants to do something she believes matters -- something more than just getting married and having babies. Her mother warns that she can't let her past rule her present.  She replies,

As long as I stay here, everything is about the past. I need to start over in a place where I can prove myself, a place where I'm free to live without shadows of that horrible day dogging me.
Now, as she's about to get into her Bellanca Pacemaker and head for Alaska, she leans against her father Bill -- the one who taught her to fly and has always understood her. Her feelings are mixed as she prepares to leave her parents and the apple farm in Yakima. The angry roar of Richard's truck as he left moments ago, after one last attempt to keep her home, still sticks in her mind. She wonders if she will regret her decision.

She climbs into the plane. Her father cranked it for her, she pulled on her helmet, and checked the gauges one last time, and took off. The year was 1935.

A New Life in Alaska

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Chugach Mountains Near Anchorage from the Air,
Courtesy of Frank Kovalchek, CC 2.0 

When Kate landed in Anchorage, she spent the first night in a hotel she could not really afford. The next day she applied for a job at the local mercantile. She knew she probably wouldn't get a job as a pilot right away and meanwhile she would need to support herself.

When Albert Towns, the owner of the store, interviewed her, she admitted she really wanted to be a bush pilot, but recognized that probably would take some time. Albert and his wife Helen were OK with that, saying that if she found work as a pilot, she could work part-time around her flying hours. The couple also said she could stay in a room at the back of the store. The arrangement worked well for all of them. They became close friends.

One of the first customers Kate helped in the store was Paul Anderson, who lived in Bear Creek in a rather isolated cabin. He came to town a couple of times a year to stock up on supplies. He had come from San Francisco but no one knew much about why he came to Alaska. The reader learns his wife back home, Susan, had died. No one knew how he had earned his living in California. In Bear Creek he was trapping animals for their meat and fur.

The reader can sense that Paul finds Kate fascinating, and Kate admits to herself he is handsome and intriguing. One wonders if this is the beginning of a possible new romance.

When Paul learns that Kate wants to work as a pilot, he suggests she try the new airfield at Lake Spenard. She had already tried Merrill Field with no success. They didn't need any more pilots. Kate applies at Lake Spenard. Although the interview was tough, Sidney Schaefer tests her in the air, and hires her part-time for a mail run. The current pilot filling in for the mail run, Mike Conlin, was to train her the next Monday.

Kate Begins Taking Passengers

This is the terrain of  the Chugach Mountains Kate flew over near Anchorage. 

Kate soon got used to the mail run, and looked forward to giving people their mail, especially Paul and his neighbors -- Patrick and his wife Sassy and their daughter Lily. Paul felt uncomfortable with Lily because he knew Patrick and Sassy wanted him to marry her and he didn't want to. Sassy was always sending Lily over with food, or to help. Paul was polite, but he didn't want to encourage her.

Paul was fighting his attraction to Kate because he didn't want to give his heart away again.  Falling in love would make him vulnerable to hurt again. He knew Kate's work as a pilot was dangerous, and he could lose her, just as he'd lost his wife.

Kate proved herself capable on the mail run, and Sidney began to let her carry passengers. Her first opportunity was a rescue flight to check on hikers at McKinley Park who should have gotten in before the sun went down. She was called in  early morning to go search for them. She found them just before her fuel got low enough to necessitate turning back. That made her more sure than ever that she would not return to Washington and Richard, who was still writing and begging her to come back. She knew she belonged in Alaska, flying as a bush pilot, fulfilling her dreams.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Photo of Mt. McKinley Courtesy of  Pixabay

Kate got to play Santa Claus before Christmas. She flew to Kotzebue,  549 air miles northwest of Anchorage, to bring Christmas packages to that small town. She had made friends with the owner of the airfield Joe Turchick and his native wife Nena on her first visit. She had arrived on Halloween and Nena invited her to go trick or treating with her and her children. Since then she'd stayed overnight with them on her trips there. It was like her home away from home in Kotzebue.

Nena was afraid to fly. After the Christmas  trip, though, she asks if Kate will take her to visit her sister in Candle, who is about to have a baby. She overcomes her fear when she sees how beautiful it is to look down at the scenery. She decides she actually likes to fly.

Flying Wasn't All Fun

Most of Kate's trips were uneventful, but some passengers put her and everyone else on the plane at risk. It's hard to handle drunk hunters bigger than you are and fly a plane at the same time, especially when the drunkest one opens the door in the back of the plane . One woman lied about about how far her pregnancy had advanced and actually gave birth in the plane. Kate knew nothing about bringing babies into the world, but she had to find a place to land and deliver the baby.

Kate had many close calls. On one occasion she left on a mercy flight with a nurse to pick up a miner in Hatcher Pass who had fallen, was seriously injured, and needed to get to a hospital.  The weather conditions were so bad that Jack, the other pilot there on call refused to go and called Kate a fool for going.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Hatcher Pass Photo Courtesy of Dootsle20, CC 2.0

Kate wound up agreeing with him when after flying in the fog she discovered she was off course. Her compass was malfunctioning. She had to find a safe place to land and wait for the fog to clear. Meanwhile, everyone at home was worried. Unfortunately, when the fog cleared they found that the miner had died. None of the pilots could afford radios in their planes, so when  pilots had trouble, there was no way to contact anyone to report their locations.

After each close call, Mike, who was getting to be a close friend, comforted Kate. His interest in her was obvious. Paul's reaction to Kate's close calls was to withdraw.  One of Kate's fellow pilots, one of the best, crashed and did not survive. The loss hit Kate and the other pilots hard.

Nena finally made it to Anchorage. She had a wonderful time. As Kate was taking her back home to Kotzebue, they passed Mt. Susitna, also known as the "sleeping lady." Kate veered from the flight plan a little to give Nena a closer look. That's when Nena smelled something, and Kate saw a drop of oil on her windshield. Memories of Rimrock Lake came rushing back. Below is a photo of Mt. Susitna from Cook Inlet, the location Kate was flying over when this happened. You will have to read the book to find out what happens next.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
BySanchom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0aption, CC 3.0

A Decision to Make

The first decision, the one Kate had already made, was to stay in Alaska and fly. She had learned that she did not want to live an ordinary life. She had told Richard she would not be coming back to him. She knew he would not want to live in Alaska.

Kate had been dating Mike, her fellow pilot. He was protective of her and a good friend, but she did not think she was in love with him. She was eager to know Paul better, but although he sometimes seemed attracted to her, he would  keep withdrawing. They had some great experiences together, but then he would avoid her again. She knew she was attracted to him.

She is pretty sure Mike wants to marry her. He has given her plenty of hints, but she just isn't ready.  She knows she needs to decide soon, because she doesn't want to lead him on if she knows it won't work.


I found it hard to put his book down. The characters were well-developed, and   every one of them was necessary to the plot. I appreciated that I had time to get to know them in small batches instead of having too many being introduced at the beginning and having to try to keep them straight. I enjoyed learning more about Alaska and aviation in 1935.

I enjoyed getting to know Kate. She is the sort of person you can imagine having as a friend. She is brave, kind, and stubborn. She is willing to take risks, and sometimes takes foolish risks that land her in trouble. 

The characters are realistic and complex. Kate and Paul individually have guilt and fear to overcome in order to become whole again. Kate trusts in God. Paul has given up on God. Even minor characters, such as the drunk hunters, and the pregnant woman come alive through Bonnie Leon's words. So do the other pilots, Jack and Frank.

One of the mysteries in the book is Paul. No one knows why he came to Alaska. No one knows much about him.  Patrick knows his wife died.  Paul eventually also shares that information with Kate under duress.The author gives the reader enough clues to get close figuring out who he really is.

The author is very good at foreshadowing what will happen without really telling the reader. An alert reader is able to pick up the clues and be on the alert for what will follow. 

I would recommend this Christian novel to anyone who likes adventure stories, aviation, strong women, Alaska, and/or a touch of romance. I am anxious to read the rest of the series. I hope I've been able to interest you in these books, too. I would suggest you get the set so you can just keep reading after you finish Touching the Clouds. I don't  think you will want to stop. Just click below if you want to buy them. 

Here's one last photo that's designed to Pinterest specifications if you'd like to pin it.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review of The Hawk and The Eagle - A Gripping Plot
I recently read and reviewed the first book of the series, MacPherson Brides.  I loved The Rose and the Thorn and could hardly wait to read the next books in the series.  The second book, The Scar and The Star, was a good book, but I am going to skip reviewing it and move right on to the third book of the series.

The Hawk and The Eagle had a very unique plot which is always the best reason to review and recommend a book.  You would know by this selected genre to expect a budding romance.   We all expect trials of some sort to develop in the plot and we anticipate the couple ending up together in the end.  What we don't know when we first pick up a book is whether or not the plot will seem believable or if we will like the characters. 

In a series of books, we have often been previously introduced to the characters.  That was the case with Nia and Adam.  Adam Lone Eagle is Thorn's best friend and the tracker who helped Thorn when needed.  Nia is Thorn's sister and it was alluded to in the first book that Nia was in love with Adam so it came as no surprise that their relationship was the foundation for one of the books in the series.  What was a huge surprise was that Nia married someone else.

Synopsis of "The Hawk and The Eagle"

 The Hawk and The Eagle (MacPherson Brides Book 3)Adam was an accepted part of the MacPherson clan.  He was considered a member of the family instead of just Thorn's friend.  As a matter of fact, Thorn MacPherson was more like a brother to him.   Adam had known for several years that he would marry Thorn's sister Nia once she turned 21.  He had already built a house for them that required only the finishing touches.   His business partner, Clay, and Clay's wife, Caitlin, lived in a house on the same property.  They could easily see each other's homes across the yard that separated them.  Caitlin was also Nia's cousin, which is one of the reasons Adam chose Clay as a business partner.  Clay kept the books, while Adam handled the horses.  When Adam was called away on business, he fully expected to return and marry Nia.  Their lives only had to follow the plan, but we all know plans can be interrupted by life.

Caitlin and Clay already had one son, Sam, and Caitlin is close to the delivery date of their second child when she falls and goes into labor.  When Caitlin realizes she is dying, she pleas for a promise from Nia that she will care for her children.  With Clay lying in the next room very close to death himself, Nia doesn't hesitate to make the promise.   She loves Caitlin, Sam and her newly born niece, Lily.

Shortly after Caitlin's death, Nia is called into Clay's room where he begs her to marry him and adopt the children immediately so they are assured a protected life.  That is a difficult decision for Nia.  She loves Adam, but she and the family are certain that Clay is dying.  Acting quickly is a necessity.  She agrees and marries Clay.  This is were life interrupts Nia's plans because Clay does not die.

When Adam returns home, he is devastated to find Nia married to Clay, plus he has to watch from a close distance as his fiance struggles to make her marriage work for the sake of the children. 

My Conclusion & Recommendation  

The Hawk and the Eagle is another excellent book written by Mischelle Creager that takes a close look at a Christian life that is far from perfect.  Just as I said in my review for the first book in this series, the author does not paint a fantastical life around her characters.  She digs much deeper and allows her characters to be human and to make mistakes.  In this particular book, I also appreciate the illustration of how other lives can be drastically impacted by those mistakes, even if the mistakes were made based on good intentions.  This is something we all need to be reminded of on occasion. 

The Hawk and The Eagle (MacPherson Brides) Book Review & Recommendation Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Friday, May 20, 2016

The Rose and The Thorn (MacPherson Brides) Book Review

The Rose and The Thorn Book Review
I was initially drawn to this book because of the title, The Rose and The Thorn.  I was not familiar with the author, but decided to give the book a chance.   After all, I needed a new book to read and the title piqued my interest.  Since it was in the romantic Christian fiction category, I felt pretty safe. 

As it turns out, I am really glad I took a chance and read this book!  I finished reading it last night and immediately downloaded the next two books from the series.  I never want to be without a book and finding a series I enjoy is always exciting! 

It turns out that the book title was a play on the main characters names, Sarah Rose Greer and Thornton MacPherson.  Unlike many of the Christian fiction books I read, this book delved into some really painful experiences including rape and spousal abuse.   As a rule, I prefer books to be more lighthearted.   I have oft said there is enough sin and pain in the real world, I don't want it in my entertainment.  But, this book was more insightful about the impact of those actions on the victims.  In my opinion, the author struck just the right balance.  Nothing got too graphic to handle and the victims weren't wimpy, whinny little creatures.   They were strong women with real issues that they confronted.

Synopsis of "The Rose and The Thorn"

The book takes place in the 1800's when women were not considered equal to men.  It was also a time of arranged marriages, or at least marriages that were established based on social and economic background.  Marriages that were beneficial to families and not founded on love were much more commonplace.  Such was the marriage that was forced upon Sarah.  

 The Rose and The Thorn (MacPherson Brides Book 1)At 16, Sarah's parents died.  She and her little brother moved in with her wealthy grandfather who immediately made marital arrangements for Sarah with an older man who was deemed a good business partner for her grandfather.  Against her wishes, she married a stranger who turned out to be a real monster behind closed doors.  The inescapable marriage lasted 13 years.  After her husband was murdered by the mother of one of his rape victims, Sarah, her brother and the child she adopted, moved away from her grandfather and Boston.   As the named heir to her husbands wealth, Sarah was able to purchase a home for her little family and start a new life in the small, but growing, mining town of Central City.

Unfortunately, her brother still worked for their grandfather.  Not because he wanted to, but because it was his "duty" to expand their business into Central City.  Even though he was out of his grandfathers home, he was still controlled by him through his grandfather's manager, Stanley.  

Stanley had plans himself for the new wealthy widow.  He knew that if he married Sarah, he would not only control her money, but he would have equal standing with her grandfather, not just his employee.  His scheming backfired on him though and Sarah ended up being forced to marry Thornton, but this time it was a decision she made to protect her reputation and her adopted daughters future.  However, Thornton was just as much a stranger to her as her first husband had been when they "walked the aisle".

The analogy of the rose and the thorn became obvious almost immediately after Mr. and Mrs. MacPherson were united.  Both Sarah and Thornton had survived their previous spouses, but they still struggled with issues from their past.  Those experiences tainted and affected their relationship.   


As I have previously stated, Christian fiction is my preferred genre, but I am often annoyed by how an author will present life as being easy for Christians.  They want readers to accept that God is going to make everything wonderful in their lives and that everyone will live happily ever after.  Since Christianity is not a fairy tale, neither is the life of a Christian.

I appreciated the fact that this author, Mischelle Creager, did not paint a fantastical life around her characters.  As a reader, I may not want to be bludgeoned with horror and gore, but I also don't wish to be assaulted with stupidity and completely unbelievable characters.  For the most part, this book was realistic without being too real.

The Rose and The Thorn (MacPherson Brides) Book Review & Recommendation Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Friday, February 12, 2016

A Review of "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" by Colleen Coble
Every once in a while I find a book that is so rare, the plot so unique, that I want to shout to the world, "you must read this book!"  That is the case with the book I literally just finished reading.  

I don't normally read mysteries, but this book appeared in my romantic fiction genre.  I didn't even realize I had selected a mystery until I was hooked.  As it turns out, this may well be the best book I have read in years.

Obviously, I could highly recommend "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" by Colleen Coble to anyone who enjoys a romance, a lot of mystery, and a plot that is not at all obvious to the reader.  I literally set on the edge of my seat, stayed up as long as my eyes would stay open, to read this book and find out what really happened to this family, these people, the little girl who was lost in the woods.

The Inn At Ocean's Edge

The plot of the book is so detailed, there is no way I can truly do it justice in a few short paragraphs, but I will try. 

 The Inn at Ocean's Edge (A Sunset Cove Novel)On her 4th birthday, Claire Dellamare was lost in the woods.  A year later, she was found, but she had no recollection of anything that had happened to her.  It was as if the whole year was completely lost to her.  As she was growing up, she was cherished by her parents who previously thought their daughter was gone to them forever.  Her life was cushioned by great wealth and she was respected for her business acumen within her father's company.  It seemed her life was perfect until she returned to "The Inn at Ocean's Edge".  

She didn't think she had ever been there, but she seemed to know things about the place she couldn't possibly know otherwise.  Not very deep into the pages of the book, we find out that this hotel was the setting for her 4th birthday party.  This was the place from which she disappeared.  She didn't even remember that she had disappeared.  She had no idea that her life was so shrouded in mystery, until the residents started talking.

Murders, illness, abduction, lies, and scary nightmares of an unknown man who she witnessed commit murder, all play a part of this most unusual plot.  Once the killer realizes she could actually identify him, he doesn't hesitate to stalk her.  Even with a murderer close on her heels, she is having occasional flashbacks, revelations about her father and his infidelity, as it all culminates to put her, and others, into even greater danger.  So many lies have been told.  So much of the past has been covered up.  She has no idea who she can actually trust.

As Claire searches for the truth, her life, past and present, becomes intertwined with Luke Rocco, whose mother disappeared the same day the little 4 year old went missing.  Unlike Claire, Luke's mother did not return to Folly Shoals, Maine.  He fears she actually never left, especially once bones are found on nearby property.  

A Sunset Cove Novel

Apparently "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" is the first of 3 books in the "Sunset Cove Series".  I don't think there is any way Colleen Coble can ever match this book again, but I will definitely be starting the second book in the series tonight.  I can hardly wait to see what she has in store for us in "Mermaid Moon", but most likely by the time you are reading this review, I will have finished that book as well.  

It is so very exciting to find a book series that I can barely finish one book before I am downloading the next in the series as fast as my little fingers can sail across the keyboard and push that little purchase button.

Now, I am off!  I only stopped long enough to tell you about this most excellent book.  I know you will want to read it too.

"The Inn at Ocean's Edge" Book Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review of Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot

Imagine having to leave the city where you had happiness,  loving parents, wealth, and social standing, to become a mail order bride on a Texas ranch in 1856. It was a long way for Sarah Dobbs to go with her little sister Thea from Philadelphia to San Antonio. Why would she do such a thing?

Her wealthy father’s investments had disintegrated into nothing and he had shot his wife and then himself. All the old friends abandoned Sarah after this disgraceful thing had happened.  The house was gone, the money was gone, and she had no family left except her very young sister Thea, whom she felt responsible to protect and care for.

Review of Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Sarah herself was considered not worthy of a good husband because she had fallen off a horse and the fall had mangled her leg. She walked with a limp. Her leg was deformed. When Austin Canfield of the Bar C Ranch in Ladreville, Texas began courting Sarah through his letters, she fell in love with him. Even though she realized the marriage was more of a business arrangement, she knew she loved him. But here she was now, waiting at the station in San Antonio for him to arrive, and he was nowhere to be found. Had he deserted her, too?

When she had about given up hope, she was finally met not by Austin, but by someone else, who turned out to be his brother, Clay. It was Clay’s horrible task to tell Sarah her husband-to-be had just been murdered. His intent was to take Sarah back to the ranch so that she and Thea could recover from their trip, and be ready to make the return trip back home in a week.  As you can probably guess, it didn’t turn out that way.

Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot would be classified as inspirational fiction with a bit of romance. Both Sarah and Clay are dealing with anger over what has happened to their families and a feeling that God didn’t care or he would have prevented it. Austin’s one purpose was to find his brother’s killer, see that he paid, and then go back to his medical practice in Boston.

Sarah’s purpose was to protect Thea from the kind of ostracism she herself had suffered because of her father’s actions. She felt that could best be accomplished in a new setting where no one knew her. She wanted to stay in Texas. She was determined to find a way to make a living to support her and Thea.

Clay allows her to continue living on  the ranch until she can support herself. He is kind to both her and Thea. He had lost his own wife who was pregnant with their first child, and he has not recovered from that. She had died of food poisoning from eating tainted fish chowder, or so everyone had thought.

Thea insists on calling Clay “Papa,” much to his dismay, even though both Sarah and Clay have repeatedly set her straight. But he is very kind to Thea and even teaches her to ride a horse – over the protests of her mother, who was still terrified of horses.

Besides the theme of revenge, there is also the theme of the rivalry between the French and German immigrants in the town who hate each other. There is a thief who has been cutting fences and because no one knows who he is, the thefts and fence cuttings cause the people to blame anyone they don’t like so that the French and Germans hate each other even more.

Sarah is finally hired to work in the mercantile owned by  a French family, Isabelle and her brother, Leon. Neither could speak German, but half the town spoke only German. Sarah could speak German and had demonstrated her usefulness by translating for German customers on her first visit to the store the day Clay brought her to town to get some things she needed. After hiring Sarah, the store’s sales increased, and Isabelle, who was a devout Christian,  became Sarah’s close friend.

That’s all I will tell you. You may be able to guess the end from here, but not all the twists and turns that take you there as both Sarah and Clay try to find Austin’s killer, Sarah tries to unite the town and start a school, Sarah tries to help Clay’s father walk again, and God begins to heal old wounds to the spirits of all involved.

If you enjoy Christian fiction, I recommend Paper Roses. It’s worth the read. I turned out to be right about the murderer. The book’s title comes from the letters Sarah received from Austin during their courtship. She called them paper roses.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of Inescapable- The Road to Kingdom

Can We Ever Escape the Past?

Inescapable (Road to Kingdom Book #1) by Nancy Mehl is the story of Lizzie Engel's escape from her past in the Old Order Mennonite Town of Kingdom, to Kansas City to start a new life. She returns with fear again to Kingdom when a new threat emerges in Kansas City. Through most of the book, Lizzie lives under the shadow of Kingdom as it used to be. Gradually she learns that just as she is changing, the town she left is also changing. Though she never escapes her past, she is finally able to embrace the town and escape into a future where her emotional wounds can heal.

Why Did Lizzie Leave Kingdom? Why Does She Want to Return?

Lizzie was born in Kingdom, Kansas, to Old Order Mennonite parents. Her father was an elder of the church and one who could be depended upon to join with those who were the strictest in enforcing the Ordnung -- a set of unwritten rules of behavior the faithful were expected to follow. He had always treated Lizzie harshly. Throughout the book, every time Lizzie does something she feels might be wrong, her father's voice seems to reprove her or call her stupid or wicked. Her mother was more gentle, but was also intimidated by her husband on the rare occasions when she tried to intervene.
Lizzie left Kingdom in disgrace. She was pregnant after being seduced by Clay Troyer, whom she'd gone to school with in Washington. When Troy and his family learned Lizzie was pregnant, they suddenly left the area without even a good-bye. Her mother was sad. Her father was silently condemning. The looks of the other church members were disapproving. So Lizzie took her daughter Charity and fled to Kansas City, where she started a new life. She was determined that Charity would not live under the same shadow of disapproval she herself had always felt.
As this book begins, Lizzie is fleeing again with Charity. Although she had found a happy life in Kansas City and had a good job and friends, she had reason to be afraid again. At all costs she wants to protect Charity. Two things have shaken her world.
The first is that her boss Sylvia at Harbor House, a women's shelter, has suffered her second heart attack and resigned. Sylvia had been her first friend in Kansas City. They had met when Lizzie was a waitress at Betty's Cafe, her first job in the city. Lizzie was almost running it herself by then. Lizzie gave Betty notice, and joined Sylvia at Harbor House.
After Sylvia left, she was replaced by Reba, who got along with no one. After Reba's boyfriend appeared too interested in Lizzie, Reba accuses Lizzie of stealing a thousand dollars that is missing, and the books make it appear that Lizzie is guilty. Lizzie knows she is being framed, but does not know how to prove her innocence. She is afraid charges will be brought against her and they might take Charity away from her.
Around the same time her troubles at work started, Lizzie began to be stalked by a man in a red baseball cap. He would stand across the street and stare at her apartment. Threatening letters began to appear in blue envelopes with no return address. One letter read:" I'm watching you. It's just a matter of time before I get you and your little girl. You'll never get away from me." (From Chapter 2)
Lizzie quits her job and manages to get a last paycheck. After going home and getting the last threatening letter from her mailbox, she sees the man in the red hat, holds the letter in the air, and yells at him, "Why are you doing this? What do you want?" She threatened to call the police. He took a step back and she took a step off the curb. She was struck by a car and everything went black.
Next thing she knew, her landlady was standing over her. Someone had called an ambulance. She didn't feel she needed to be looked at and refused treatment because she didn't have money to pay for it. The man in the red cap was gone. She returns to her apartment in pain, and gets Charity into bed before looking at her bruised hip in the bathroom. As she berates herself for her stupidity, she hears the echo of her father's voice, "How could you be so stupid, Elizabeth? How could a daughter of mine be so ignorant?" She tells herself her father may have been right. Even though her childhood in Kingdom had been painful, she suddenly longed to be there again.
Then Lizzie seemed to hear another voice, a voice that sounded different than her father's. It urged her to go home and assured her everything would be all right. She couldn't imagine how things could turn out all right. She had left an outcast, the fallen daughter of an elder. But she still hears the insistent voice saying, "Go home, Lizzie. Go home."
The only thing Lizzie had left in life that she cared about was Charity, and she was determined to keep her safe. She felt there was only one road left she could take now -- the road back to Kingdom.

Why Kingdom?

Although Lizzie had always been subject to verbal abuse and had often been severely punished by her father, she did believe her mother loved her. Although the Old Order Mennonite Community had been repressive and made Lizzie feel stifled, she still did have friends there. She also felt it was a safe haven.
Kingdom (which is as far as I can tell a fictional town) is in Northern Kansas , about ten miles south of Nebraska. It is a long buggy ride from Washington, where many of Kingdom’s children went to school. It is an isolated community. You’d never find the turn-off from the highway for the road that leads to Kingdom unless you already knew where it is. Lizzie was sure her enemies would not find her in Kingdom.
Another reason Lizzie expected Kingdom to be a safe place was that the Mennonite community protected its own. In this small town of only 300, strangers were obvious. They were usually met by a church elder who intended to determine what their business was in Kingdom. It was not a good place for a stranger to hide. Though Lizzie may have been considered by some a black sheep, she knew the town would do their best to protect her and Charity. A stranger who was determined to be up to no good would be escorted out.
When Lizzie had left, the winds of change were in the air. Some of the younger church members were beginning to believe the rules should not be so strict. Maybe women should be able to wear lighter colors. Maybe farmers should be able to use tractors. Maybe modern plumbing wasn’t immoral. Maybe telephones weren’t sinful.
When Lizzie had left, her father, Matthew had been a very powerful and influential elder. When she returned those of his persuasion were beginning to be less influential. The church was on the verge of a crisis in leadership. The members of the congregation were not as judgmental as they had been when she left. They welcomed her back.
When Lizzie arrived in Kingdom again, she had only planned to stay as long as it took her to be sure her name had been cleared of stealing the money back in Kansas City and she no longer felt threatened by the man in the red hat. But her experience back in Kingdom gave her a reason to stay.

My Review of Inescapable

I have laid the background. You know why Lizzie left Kingdom and why she returned. The rest of the book shows you her new life there. She has relationships to mend, especially with her parents, Matthew and Anna. She gets a job working in a cafe again, and finds a friend in its owner Cara Menlo, who had warmly welcomed her back home. Cara also provided a place to live above the cafe.
Lizzie's old friend Noah sees her in the cafe and welcomes her back. They had done everything together as children. It is obvious to the reader that he has been and is still in love with Lizzie – in spite of the fact her child was conceived by another man when she was in her teens.
Even though the love shines from Noah’s eyes and everyone can see it there, Lizzie insists on believing he couldn’t love her because she thought they had never been more than just friends. I call this kind of misunderstanding, which I’ve seen in book after book I’ve been reading, a contrived obstacle to keep the plot moving. Perhaps Lizzie is just afraid to believe Noah loves her. So I’ll play along to keep the plot moving.
Had she not dismissed and insisted on misinterpreting Noah’s attention to her when they reunited, he would have courted her and they probably would have married soon after. This would not have solved all her problems, but it would have made much of what happened after that in the book unnecessary. It would have removed her sense of danger and given her daughter Charity a father. She would not have felt she needed to flee again, and she would not have been tempted to make another big mistake. But then there would have been no need for the author to write the rest of the book.
That brings up another contrived obstacle that is often used in fiction. That would be the obstacle of a decision made. A character says she will marry someone or take a job and it’s as though she now has no choice but to follow through, no matter what new information might be revealed. After Charity’s father, Clay, tracks Lizzie down and appears on the scene with excuses for leaving and lies about what he intended, he persuades her to marry him and come to Seattle with him where she and Charity will be safe from the danger that follows her. (Another blue envelope has showed up in Kingdom.) He claims to love her.
Lizzie is torn, but wants what’s best for Charity. Noah has not yet declared his love, and Clay has turned on the charm and convinced Lizzie she does still love him. Noah sees the danger of losing Lizzie and finally speaks his piece to her, declaring his love and proposing. She turns him down even though she loves him because she’s already decided it’s best to marry Charity’s father. Noah has warned her that Clay is a bad apple and she would regret marrying him, but Lizzie ignores her heart. She only realizes the truth when Clay’s lies become apparent and she sees his real motivation.
To tell you more would ruin the story. There is still a family to put back together, since Matthew would not permit Lizzie into their home. And Lizzie’s heart also needs to be put back together as she finds that God is not like her earthly father Matthew.
I would recommend this book if you like Christian fiction that deals with troubled relationships, has a bit of romance, and illustrates how God can redeem any situation. Kingdom is a refuge, but danger does arrive, and there is plenty of suspense to keep you reading to the end.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Review of Shadow On The Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Recommendation for "The Shadow on the Quilt"

When I finished reading "The Shadow on the Quilt" by Stephanie Grace Whitson, I simply had to write a review of the book immediately.

Even though this book is set in the 19th century, some of the difficulties, decisions and emotional crisis this widow faces could easily take place in any time period.  The desire to erase the bad decisions of the deceased and protect the lives of their loved ones is easy to understand.  I even found myself wishing I could protect Juliana, the widow, from the knowledge of her late husband's deceptions.

But, that is only the beginning of this book.  You, too, will want walk this path with Juliana and rejoice as she finds acceptance, contentment and happiness once again.

A Quick Synopsis of the Book 

Written by Cynthia Sylvestermouse

 THE SHADOW ON THE QUILT (The Quilt Chronicles)Juliana's husband was a prominent and respected member of their small town community.  When the local brothel burned to the ground, he was one of the victims of the fire.  The official press story touted him as a hero, stating that he had entered the establishment to help save lives, but there were those who knew the truth.

Cass is the foreman overseeing the construction of the couples mansion and was there when Juliana's husbands body was pulled from the ashes of the brothel.  As an employee, he had also known of the mans infidelity prior to that night and berated himself for never having confronted the man.  Of course, he feared losing his job.

When Juliana is devastated by the death of her husband and by the discovery of his deceptions, Cass has to balance friendship, honestly, and compassion.

This story definitely has a romantic appeal, but I would have to say that Julianna's strength through her bereavement, betrayal and the scandal was what truly give the book backbone and made it worth reading.      

More About the Book and the Book Genre

"Shadow on the Quilt" is actually the second book in "The Quilt Chronicles" series.  Although it is not necessary, you may wish to read the first book in the series, The Key on the Quilt.

This book is a Christian historical fiction.  It appeals to my interest in history, although I am far from a history buff.    I also prefer reading this particular genre because I never have to worry about the language, the descriptions or the story becoming too crude, frightening or violent.   Plus, romance is just that; romance, not eroticism. 

About the Author of "The Shadow on the Quilt",  

Stephanie Grace Whitson

Shephanie Grace Whitson is a best-selling author and two time Christy finalist.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in French with a minor in English and music.

By her own admission, Stephanie enjoyed writing reports and research papers in school, but never expected to be a novelist.  While home-schooling her children, she found she needed a "creative" way to teach her children history.  They visited a small, pioneer cemetery where they began to discover what life was like for the people buried there.  Her first character was born and was introduced to the world in her first published book, "Walks the Fire" in 1995.

Quote directly from Stephanie Grace White:  "Hindsight has shown me why that happened.   God was providing a career for a woman who was going to have to support her family as a widow beginning in 2001."

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review of Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

The Journey to the End of Stealing the Preacher Is as Rewarding as Seeing the Ending

I read Stealing the Preacher because it was a free promotional download from Amazon for my Kindle. I didn't know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw characters who were human and believable, even if the plot was unrealistic. The book is a light historical Christian romance, but I didn’t find it as predictable as most of them are. Yes, you know almost from the beginning how it will end, but the fun in the book is getting to the end, not knowing what the end will be.

The Kidnapping

Pioneer Church
The main character, Crockett Archer, is hoping to land his first job as a real preacher  in Brenham, Texas. We meet him on the train as he travels for his interview with the church elders. He and one other preacher are competing for the job he wants, but he’s sure he’ll get it. He has been an apprentice preacher in his own small town in Texas for three years.

The train suddenly lurches, and he discovers that it is being attacked by bandits. The big surprise for him, though, is that all the bandits want to steal is him. They don’t hurt anyone or take anything else. He is kidnapped and taken to a ranch about ten miles from Deanville, where he discovers he is to be a birthday gift for the rancher’s daughter, Joanna Robbins. She had told her widowed daddy, Silas, that she wanted a preacher for her birthday. He took her quite literally.

Crockett and Joanna

It turns out that Silas is not the least bit interested in church or preaching, but is simply humoring his daughter, who did not approve of his method of obtaining her present. Crockett explains his situation and Joanna frees him to try to keep his appointment. It turns out she had wanted a preacher because the small church for the ranch no longer had a pastor and the church had fallen into disrepair. The pastor had moved to a larger church in Deanville and it was too far for the ranch community to travel every Sunday.

Joanna wanted a preacher in the church because she  was still praying for her daddy’s salvation. She had promised her mother before her death, that she would continue the daily prayers for her father after her mother passed away. Johanna thought having a preacher in the church again would give her the support she needed. Daddy and his ranch hands had formerly been a gang of bandits, but when he married, his wife had made him give it up and they had all been honest men for over sixteen years. They had never hurt or killed anyone.

Crockett Becomes Ranch Hand and Pastor

As it turns out, quite predictably, Crockett doesn’t get the job he was after because he didn’t make his appointment on the right day at the right time.  As you might expect, he takes the job of pastoring the small church for Johanna. She talks her father into hiring him as a hand so he can support himself. He was well-qualified since he was raised on and helped run his fathers ranch with his brothers after his father died young.

That’s all I’m going to tell you. There’s plenty of action between the time Archer arrives at the ranch and the end of the book.  The action reveals much about character of the people who are interacting.  One situation which I expected led to another one which I did not anticipate, and it left me on the edge of my chair holding my breath.  If you like Christian historical fiction, I recommend this book for an entertaining and relaxing read. I will definitely read more by this author if I get the chance. Amazon carries it in every possible format. Just click the picture to purchase and see other reviews. Unfortunately, it is no longer free, since I got my book during a special promotional offer, and it has ended.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Every Bush is Burning by Brandon Clements, A Review

Christians Aren't Perfect

Of course, you already knew that. Every Bush Is Burning shines a harsh light on today's Christian churches in AmericaI don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading this Christian novel, but not what it turned out to be.  The book is hard to define. It’s fiction, but it’s also somewhat of a sermon and an indictment of American Christianity. It brings to mind the bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

Meet Jack

The book begins and ends with Jack Bennett, a newspaper columnist, writing a letter on his laptop in a coffee shop, supposedly to another regular, whom he’s seen there often and never spoken to. He admits to being very self-centered as he is always wondering how people perceive him. We learn the following about him: He is married with twin three-year-old boys. He lives in South Carolina. He is also having  an affair with a coworker named Jordan. His dad deserted the family when he was very young.  His Uncle Richard often watched Jack and his sister Sara as their mother worked. He molested Sara, and maybe Jack, as well.

He assumes most people are not honest with themselves and live in “zombieland,” as he himself used to and still does part of the time. He decries the fact that most relationships he sees are just surface. People numb themselves with substance abuse, and television when they feel hopeless and don’t want to think about their lives.

He hates advertising for its lies and false promises.  First it works on making people feel depressed because of what they don’t have. Then it promises that whatever product it is selling will make people feel better and help fill their emptiness. He points out that although we live in one of the world’s richest countries and we have luxuries, comfort, and every possible kind of entertainment people are still “exceedingly bored.”

Jack Bennett writes “We’ve all become experts at diverting our dissatisfaction into entertainment and a thousand other places, but it’s inescapable. We’re like kids at Christmas, unwrapping gift after gift only to find coal inside the box.... then we look around with darting eyes for the next present…” hoping it will be different than those we’ve already opened. One present Jack opened was Jordan, with whom he had the affair.

Do Church Billboards Tell the Truth?

One morning Jack is driving to work and sees a billboard for a well-known church with an ad in big letters ‘CHRISTIANTITY IS THE BEST THING FOR OUR BROKEN WORLD.’ He was frustrated by this because he felt this church was more a political social club for upper middle class white people.  He then wrote a column blasting the Christian religion as practiced in America. He mentioned the hypocrisy, scandals, lack of compassion for the poor and homeless, a judgmental attitude, and more. He concluded that although he had nothing against Christ, he sure didn’t like Christians, who were nothing like the Christ they supposedly followed. In the next chapter he tells some stories from his childhood that help the reader see why he is so sure his assessment of the church is correct. I won’t go into detail on those here.

On the next Sunday he passes another church, a smaller one, where he normally sees signs he thinks are hilarious. He was hoping to see another funny one and he wasn’t disappointed. He saw ‘What if Jack is Right About us?’ He couldn’t help pulling in to the parking lot. That’s when he first saw Yeshua, a homeless man knocking on the church door. Yeshua tells Jack an usher had escorted him back outside after he had been inside. The congregation was singing “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

Jack and Yeshua

At first I thought this would be like those stories you hear about people picking up hitchhikers who turn out to be a unique blessing, say something that makes you realize they know more than they could know naturally, and then just disappear. Jack offers to take the man out for a meal, they talk, and he introduces himself as Yeshua.

At breakfast, they discuss Jack’s column, which Yeshua has read. It’s evident that although Yeshua admits Jack was right about the particular church he wrote about, he still had a lot to learn. They agree to meet for breakfast every Sunday. At the end of their meal, as Yeshua is leaving, he tells Jack there is just one more thing he’d like Jack to do for him during the coming week: repent of cheating on his wife and beg her for forgiveness. Yeshua says if Jack doesn’t do that, he will expose the affair.

Jack is stunned. How does Yeshua know about his wife Chloe and the fact that he’s cheating on her? He had considered himself so careful and discreet.  He tries to figure out who could have revealed his secret. He later finds that Yeshua knows a lot more than that about him and his family secrets.

Who is Yeshua Really?

The rest of the book deals with Jack’s attempt to make things right with Chloe, who is  badly hurt and has no desire to forgive him or save the marriage. He also wants to help his sister Sara through her depression and substance abuse, and to find himself and meaning for his own life. Yeshua is able to nudge him in a number of right directions, including having him  take Sara to a Christian recovery group that is like a family. Yeshua becomes a big part of his and even Sara’s life.

Because of certain inconsistencies I saw in Yeshua’s character, I was pretty sure he wasn't a Jesus figure, even though he didn’t say he wasn’t Jesus. It wasn’t evident who he really was, though,  until it was revealed at the end.  I have to admit I didn’t see it coming. The book kept me interested because I wanted to see what happened to all the characters and find out the real story of who Yeshua was. One thing he did was preach a lot to Jack. Some people might find that off-putting.

What Was the Author's Purpose?

I would say one purpose of this book is to be a wake-up call to those who are leading empty and unsatisfying lives because they have not yet found their significance and worth in the knowledge of how much God loves them.  Since I am already a believer, I’m not sure how this would have hit me had I not been. The author is hoping to show his readers that what they see in certain versions of the Gospel being preached in many churches and in the media is a false  Gospel, not based on the Bible at all, and designed to appease the flesh rather than feed the spirit.

Another purpose of the book is probably to show those who frequent churches that their worship may not really be worship that God is pleased with at all. Clements definitely attacks self-righteousness and spiritual pride, as well as the attitude that we can be good enough to win God’s favor, that we can “buy” the water of eternal life with our good works, instead of coming to God with empty hands and a repentant spirit, knowing our true condition.

This book is available in paperback or as a digital book for your Kindle.

A More Positive View of Christians

To see a contrasting and more positive view of Christians in a series for young adults, read my review of  In Between, the first book, in the series. It's the story of a sixteen-year-old foster child whose mother had just gone to prison. She had been in a group home for six months and raised herself before that, and you can taste her fear as she drives with her social worker to meet her foster parents. I couldn't put the book own and had to buy all the books in the series within a week after I read the first one.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
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