Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5-Star Review of "The Choir Immortal"

Review of The Choir Immortal

by Katie Schuermann

The people of Zion are at it again. 

Two of their very own are getting married, and everyone is pleased as punch to be hosting Bradbury’s wedding of the century. Their collective joy is short-lived, however, as busted air-conditioners, melting cakes, and a trip to the emergency room intrude upon the celebration.

Yet the congregation rallies. Led by Pastor Fletcher and the stalwart Mrs. Scheinberg, they turn in faith to God’s promises of life and salvation to see one another through trying days that demand patience, prayer, and perhaps another batch of cinnamon rolls. 

Emily Duke, Pastor Fletcher, and the rest of Zion’s quirky flock return in this compelling sequel to House of Living Stones, proving that life in a small-town is anything but small.
MY REVIEW:  Who can resist a bunch of lovable choir members?   Not me!  This bunch of sweet, lovable sinners captured my heart when I read the first book in the series and this sequel certainly warmed my heart.  I was reading it on my kindle as my husband drove us to visit my daughters for Christmas and found myself sobbing.   I expected humor and did not know that this one had its fair share of deep sadness as well.   It broke my heart.  I was thinking about it later before bed as I wondered what would turn the heartache around for the characters.   Things did turn around for the characters but not without significant grieving first.
         This book is full of emotion and will delight readers as forgiveness is a key for several characters.   I rated this book 5 stars and feel sure that other readers will find it just as engaging as I did.
         I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Katie Schuermann

Honest, sincere, and lyrical, Katie's writing reflects her Midwestern roots and her interest in the arts. After earning graduate degrees in music, she taught music history and literature at various colleges, directed children's theater camps, and sang in various concert halls, theaters, and churches across the Midwest.

While Katie's upbringing and curriculum vitae factor heavily into her writing, it is her Lutheran confession of faith in the Triune God that readers have come to expect and trust in her writing.

When she's not working on a writing project, Katie can be found gardening, cooking, hiking, singing, and enjoying fellowship with friends and family.

Friday, December 25, 2015

5-Star Review of "Whispers in the Reading Room"

Review of Whispers in the Reading Room

by Shelley Gray


Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.

Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

MY REVIEW:  This book has a dark, brooding nature to it and is beyond intriguing!  Lydia hardly seems the sort of woman who would capture the attention and heart of club owner, Sebastian Marks, but that is precisely what happens.   She has led a dull and boring, though peaceful life until she meets Mr. Marks in the "reading room"....the library where she works as head librarian.  She loves to discuss books and he loves books.  They seem a match made in heaven in the reading room, but outside these walls, just being seen with him marks her as a different sort of "lady".    
          This book kept me hungering for more time to sit and read, it kept me on the very edge of my seat, and I highly recommend it to readers.   I am a huge fan of Shelley Shepard Gray's works and this one is very different and yet equally addicting.   Check out this unique book by Shelley and see what you think.   
       I rated this book 5 stars because it is just that good!  
       I received a free copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
 Shelley Gray
from goodreads' bio:
I live in southern Ohio with my husband, two teenagers, and two dogs. My days are filled with busy activities like most any other mom and housewife. But I also love to write books.

Each morning, after my kids go off to school, I sit at my desk, look out my window, and dream of other places. The hours fly by as I make up people and places and drink way too much coffee.

Writing for Avon Inspire has truly been a dream come true. Being able to spend my days in my make-believe world of the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast is a true blessing. I have enjoyed getting to know more about the Amish culture and tapping into my faith as I show each character’s progression toward a personal relationship with our Lord.

Before becoming a full time writer, I taught elementary school in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado. A job transfer to Ohio led my husband to encourage me to finally give writing a try. After all, I had notebooks full of made up stories.

I’ll never forget that first book I typed in our unfinished basement. It was exciting to make up a story, but also very scary. I was also so embarrassed, sure someone would come out of the woodwork and point out that I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer. But I persevered, and sold my third manuscript.

Things have changed a bit. Now I have a real office of my own. (think old guest bedroom!) My walls are painted pink, and more than a couple of book covers decorate my walls. But my days are still the same. I wake up, dream about other people, and do my best to type out stories.
Shelley Gray also writes Amish and Christian fiction under the name:   Shelley Shepard Gray

Monday, December 21, 2015

4-Star Review of "Once Upon a Christmas"

Review of Once Upon a Christmas

55 Heart-Warming Short Stories Bring Meaning to the Season
Rosanne Croft, Linda Reinhardt, Sharon Bernash Smith
Once Upon a Christmas: 55 Heartwarming Short Stories Bring Meaning to the Season

A mysterious package left in the snow on Christmas Eve. A startling encounter with the homeless. A treasured gift of love. Set in the 1800s through the present, in colorful settings that span the globe, beloved inspirational writers Sharon Bernash Smith, Linda Reinhardt, and Rosanne Croft pen charming holiday stories to warm, delight, and romance the heart. Travel to small towns, to the tropics of Africa, to the wilds of Montana, to battlefields, and many more fascinating locations with 55 short stories featuring unforgettable characters who discover, in the midst of difficult circumstances, the true meaning of Christmas.

MY REVIEW:   This is a fun, light reading for the Christmas season but the stories would certainly warm your heart any time of year.   Most of the stories are highly engaging and take place in various time periods and places.   Some of the stories were a little slow for me and I will admit to skipping through portions on those particular ones as I read.   I love the ones set in war times as it called to mind possible scenarios for relatives of my own who served in World War II in particular.   
        These stories can be read one at a time or enjoyed in one sit-down.
        I rate this collection of short stories 4 stars and would be happy to recommend it to readers of inspirational fiction.
        I received a kindle version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

4-Star Review of "Journey to the Manger"

Review of Journey to the Manger

by Paula Gooder


Journey to the Manger explores the New Testament's various accounts of the birth of Jesus: their origins in Old Testament prophecies, the genealogies, the angelic announcements, the journeys and arrivals, and the aftermath of Jesus' birth for the powerful and the poor alike. 
Although many biblical scholars have puzzled over historical details in the accounts, Paula Gooder argues that doing this risks missing the point. Engaging seriously with biblical and historical criticism, she uncovers key similarities running through the Gospel writers' accounts and focuses on their shared understanding of the significant events they describe. 
Her detailed exploration of the texts is a goldmine for preaching and teaching, and will breath new life into the familiar Christmas stories heard year after year in churches, carol services and nativity plays. Devotional reflections and discussion questions also make this ideal for personal and group study. 
Biblical Explorations is an exciting series from bestselling author and scholar Paula Gooder that offers an accessible and informed study of the best loved texts in Scripture. Rooted in the conviction that greater understanding of the Bible leads to deeper discipleship, it is an essential resource for preachers, teachers and study group leaders, as well as those who simply wish to get to know the Bible better.

MY REVIEW:   As we celebrate the Advent season and prepare for the birthday of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I thought that this would be a good way to spend more quality time in the Word.   This is a very thorough, insightful look at the manger and Paula Gooder looks at the manger scene in ways that I never thought of doing.  Was the Christ child even born in a stable?  Was he actually placed in a manger?   I think this would be a wonderful resource for pastors, Sunday School teachers, and leaders of Bible study groups or for those who like myself just want to do an in-depth study of the birth of Christ.   I don't think I would recommend it to the average reader as it may easily become confused with fictional books on the subject.  This is a work of non-fiction and works well for reading a portion on each of the Sundays in Advent.   It has study questions for group leaders to use.  Some readers may feel that some of their longheld beliefs as absolute fact are challenged and they may not wish to accept this writer's interpretation which is of course their right.    I found it very interesting to look at things from a different perspective.
          I rate this book 4-stars and would highly recommend it to Bible scholars and serious Bible students.
          I received an ebook of this title from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Paula Gooder
Paula Gooder is a writer and lecturer in biblical studies and is Theologian in Residence for the Bible Society in the UK. 
She was born in Manchester, UK, where she grew up. She went to the University of Oxford where she did both her undergraduate degree and doctoral research (first at Worcester College then at the Queen's College). After that she taught for twelve years in two different colleges which train people for ministry (Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, and the Queen's Foundation, Birmingham). Her research areas are 2 Corinthians and Paul's religious experiences.
In the end she left teaching in colleges because she realised that trying to juggle looking after children, teaching and desperately trying to write something was impossible. So she worked freelance for seven years before beginning work with Bible society. This involves teaching and lecturing to a wide range of different people and, at last, writing the many books that have been waiting to be written for a very long time. She continues to juggle but now only has herself to blame when it all goes wrong.
Paula's passion is to communicate to best of biblical scholarship to an audience that would otherwise not read it. She seeks to bring the Bible alive again for Christians for whom it has become over-familiar and stale.

Friday, December 11, 2015

5-Star Review of "Joline's Redemption"

Review of Joline's Redemption

(Land Rush Dreams #2)

by Vickie McDonough


Joline had lofty dreams of love and luxury, but after her husband leaves her and she makes a series of fateful decisions, Jo has fallen as far as any woman can. Bereft of all hope and with the threat of losing her son, Jo seeks refuge at her sister’s home. Jo has a long list of secrets to keep and has to look over her shoulder, as the man she’s running from may show up anywhere, anytime. Is it possible that God can redeem Jo, and give her hope for a happy future? Find out in Joline’s Redemption—book 2 in Vickie McDonough’s Land Rush Dreams trilogy.

MY REVIEW:   I loved this book!   Joline or "Jo" as she is called is so lovable and Baron is every woman's dream come true!   I did not read the first book in this series and it did not keep from understanding the storyline.  I would like to find and read it now though, after reading Joline's story.   Book one tells Lara's story and book three will focus on Sarah.  It really was a sad time in our history when women had to be so dependent on men that, when alone, they were often forced into horrible conditions and situations.  Jo finally runs back to her sister and her family for help.  They are definitely glad to see her and happy to welcome her back into the fold.  Who or what will be Jo's redemption?   Readers will love finding out!  
         I have often thought I would like to live in the 1800's but many things in this book make me rethink that desire.   Would you want to live in this time period?    If so, what would be your favorite part?  What would you dislike the most?   
          I rated this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction and Christian romance.
          I received an ebook from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Vickie McDonough

Bestselling author, Vickie McDonough, grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen and others living in the West during the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of over 30 published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series. End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July, 2013. A Pioneer Christmas Collection was on the CBA Bestseller’s list for Jan. & Feb, 2014, and South Carolina Brides made the ECPA Bestseller's list in March, 2014.

Vickie is a wife of thirty-eight years, mother of four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and grandma to a feisty eight-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website and sign-up for her newsletter: www.vickiemcdonough.com 

Friday, December 4, 2015

5-Star Review of "Huckleberry Hearts"

Review of Huckleberry Hearts

by Jennifer Beckstrand

Young-at-heart octogenarians Anna and Felty Helmuth never miss the chance to find a perfect match for one of their grandchildren. And when their beloved Cassie returns to Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, Anna has a feeling they might soon have a doctor in the family…Though Cassie Coblenz left her Amish community to go to college, Mammi and Dawdi’s farm will always feel like home. It’s the ideal place for an extended study break—at least until her grandmother’s handsome Englisch doctor becomes a regular distraction. Zach Reynolds is the kind of heartbreaker Cassie has learned to avoid, no matter how charming he may be. 
Unlike every woman Zach has met in recent years, Cassie doesn’t fall at his feet. Strong, generous, beautiful within and without —she’s everything he could want. Yet the gulf between them deepens when a tragedy shakes his faith. Now the good doctor has one goal—to become a man who could be worthy of Cassie’s love…

MY REVIEW:   I love love love Anna and Felty Helmuth and their matchmaking!   I would hate to have to eat her awful cooking but would love to have one of her beautiful handknit sweaters, scarves and beanies!    Cassie and Zach don't stand a chance with Anna setting her mind of matchmaking the two of them!    This is the cutest story and most heartwarming that I have read in a while.    It is full of sweetness and mean attitudes as well.   Zach is Anna (Mammi's) doctor and she will do just about anything when it comes to finding good Christian spouses for her grandchildren.   They don't even have to be Amish as this one proves.  Cassie has left the Amish and attends a Christian church.   So Anna decides that her young handsome doctor would be the perfect husband for Cassie.   
          This book will have you laughing one minute and wiping tears the next.   I ran through the gamut of emotions.   I was drifting away to Huckleberry Hill.   I was in an Amish buggy and prayer kapp.   I could almost taste the maple syrup.    The details that Jennifer provides allow all these various emotions to occur as one reads.  
         I rated this book 5 stars and am delighted to recommend it to readers.
         I received a free ebook of this novel from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:
Jennifer Beckstrand

I grew up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. After all that literary immersion, I naturally decided to get a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of my six children needed help with homework. After my fourth daughter was born, I started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, I finished my first manuscript—a Western—in just under fourteen years.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish way of life and now write Inspirational Amish Romance. I am drawn to the strong faith of the Plain people and admire the importance they put on enduring family ties. I have visited and studied Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where I met with a bishop and a minister as well as several Amish mamms, dats, and children. It has always impressed me at what salt-of-the-earth people they are. My interactions with these kind people have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a dear Amish friend with whom I correspond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She helps me keep my facts straight and gives me inspiration for my stories.

My goal is to write uplifting, inspiring stories with happy endings and hopeful messages. If my books make readers want to give themselves a big hug or jump up and down for joy, I’ve done my job. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

There are three Amish romances in the Forever After in Apple Lake Series (Summerside/Guideposts). Kate’s Song, Rebecca’s Rose, and Miriam’s Quilt are all now available.

I have six Amish Romances in the works with Kensington Books. The first and second books, Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Summer, are now available in stores and online. The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill is set in northern Wisconsin Amish country.

The series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, is about an elderly Amish couple who try to find suitable mates for their grandchildren. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite? No one would ever suspect two octogenarian Amish folks of mischief.

Romantic Times gave Huckleberry Hill 4 1/2 stars and chose Huckleberry Summer as a TOP PICK.

I have four daughters, two sons, three sons-in-law, and two adorable grandsons. I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Front with my husband and one son still left at home.