Thursday, April 30, 2015

April's Review Round-Up

Here's are the links to April's reviews posted at Wildflower Faith:

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

The Inn at Ocean's Edge by Colleen Coble

Against the Flow by John C. Lennox

Coming up in May on this blog:

  • Flash by Rachel Ann Ridge
  • The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang
  • No Place to Hide by Lynnette Eason
  • Heart Sisters by Natalie Chambers Snapp
  • The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

Book Review: "Better All the Time"

I was disappointed in Carre Armstrong Gardner’s new book, Better All the Time. Unlike the first book in the series, All Right Here, which focused mostly on one member of the family while introducing the others, this book jumped around from character to character, from point of view to point of view. Gardner was still introducing new and significant characters in the last third of the book. This makes for a frustrating read.

There wasn’t really a story line either. The book just told about a year in the life of the Darling family. And because each member of the family was totally absorbed in a personal aggravation, there wasn’t much positive interaction going on. Gardner assures readers these people love each other, but I just wasn’t convinced. If they’d loved Laura for who she was instead of for what they expected her to contribute, she might not have moved to Arizona or let the family down in other ways. Both Laura and Sephy found relief in distance.

Being self-absorbed is not living a Christ-filled life. The Darling family does not understand this truth. Prayer is not a one-sentence mantra that you say several times a day until you find a way to get what you want. It’s a conversation with God through which you seek His will, His strength, His peace. Giving a stranger—a janitor at a hockey game—your card and telling him you’ll call to offer him a job is not God answering your prayers. Rather it’s the kind of reckless behavior that can get a college-age girl kidnapped or killed. Offering yourself grace, in other words, giving yourself permission to be imperfect, is not the same thing as receiving God’s grace. Personal discipline (with God’s help, not apart from it as shown in this book) is part of Christian living, but it’s not the main thing.

Sephy’s story, of all of them, was the only one that touched my heart. If the book had focused on her and taken her story to its natural conclusion, one I suspect may come in the next book, this novel could have been better. As it was, there were just too many characters all focused on themselves. I can't recommend this read.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Better All the Time in exchange for this honest review.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: "Finding Me"

When Kelli Huddleston’s father and stepmother are killed in a car accident, Kelli makes discoveries which suggest the life she has been leading is a lie. She discovers that she doesn't know who she really is; in fact, her name might not even be Kelli. On impulse, she drives from California to Tennessee intending to discover the truth without revealing her secrets to others who’ve been deceived by her father's scheme. Her mission turns out to be much more difficult to accomplish than she’d ever believed.

I loved this new novel, Finding Me, by Kathryn Cushman. She does a beautiful job of creating impossible situations for well-meaning characters, characters readers can’t help care about while being frustrated with results of the choices they make. When they come to their senses, it is such a relief.

Of course, Kenmore was my favorite character. He’s one readers won’t want to miss—a former friend of Kelli’s father, an instant father figure to mentor her through the complications of her adventure in Tennessee, also a human being in need of her gifts. This relationship and what came of it was one highlight of the story. Lacey and Mrs. Birdyshaw were treasures as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this honest review. I recommend it to fans of contemporary Christian fiction, of modern day damsels in distress in need of God’s gentle guidance.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: "Buried Secrets"

Bad things happen when image is everything. And criminals whose motive is image can be the hardest to catch. When small-town police chief Lisa Grant is called on to uncover the secrets that were buried with a human being whose skeleton was discovered on a new construction site, she knows that solving the obviously-very-old case could be impossible. Ex-Navy SEAL Max McGregor, now a county detective sent to assist her, will make the challenge more interesting. But neither member of this team imagines just how determined their nemesis is.

I had fun reading this first book in a new series by Irene Hannon. The growing relationship between Max and Lisa, both ready for less stress in their careers in hopes of finding a life companion and starting a family, was sweet. The look into the twisted mind of a criminal with no conscience was intriguing from a psychological point of view and tragic in consideration of all harm caused. It’s a case of worship of self taken to a deadly extreme.

Fans of romantic suspense will like reading Buried Secrets and look forward to the next book in the Men of Valor series. I thank Revell for sending me a complimentary copy of Book One to review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Captive Imposter"

 When an event from the previous book in the Everstone Chronicles leaves the family worried for the youngest Everstone daughter’s safety, they send her into hiding under another name. Estella Everstone the heiress becomes Elle Stoneburner, hired companion. And she’s mostly okay with that until her employer decides to take her on an extended trip to visit Everston, a resort owned by Estella’s father. Further complicating matters, she discovers that her annoyed ex-fiancĂ© is staying there, too. Estella fears he’ll give away her identity, forcing her to return home, having failed, before she is safe. Little does she know that Jay Crawford will turn out to be the least of her concerns.

Though Estella’s situation is the result of an event in the previous book, The Captive Imposter can be read alone. A few significant characters from the earlier books make brief appearances, but all is explained—and without giving away information crucial to those books. I enjoyed getting to know Estella’s character and discovering how her story resolved. Now I’m wondering if there’s another Everstone Chronicle in the works!

This story is set in Maine in the late 1800’s. Fans of historical Christian fiction romances will enjoy this book. I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for this honest review.

Did you know Dawn Crandall is hosting a blog tour with daily giveaways to celebrate the launch of this book? Click here to visit her blog and find out what’s going on right now!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: "The Bound Heart"

If this story had happened in today’s world, Meredyth Summercourt would have been considered a victim. In the late 1800’s, however, she keeps her trauma a secret, labels herself ruined, considers herself responsible for the crime committed against her, and decides to either wait for a marriage proposal from the one who wronged her or remain unmarried for the rest of her life. Throughout the story, I had to keep the cultural/historical difference in mind, desperately wanting Meredyth to understand what seemed so obvious to me. How tragic for a victim to be burdened with false guilt, to feel obligated to let it define her whole life. I’m sure there are those who continue to burden themselves with such even today, but our society has come a long way when it comes to helping victims instead of condemning them. I am thankful for this.

In spite of Meredyth’s decision, faithful-friend-since-childhood Lawry Hampton loves her and is determined to win her hand. When he invites her to view pictures of and participate in his secret helpful work, the passion of his heart, Meredyth knows this man is just too good to be true—which makes him too good for someone like her. But when they rescue an orphan together, Meredyth begins to wonder just what kind of game God is up to.

The scene where she finally figures it out is one of the most touching I’ve ever read.

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall is the second book in her Everstone Chronicles series. Familiar characters and settings from the first book make this one a friendly sequel. The story works alone, though; knowledge of the first is nice, but not necessary. Crandall sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I’m starting to read her next book now!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Book Review: "The Pleasure of His Company"

“Bethel, a ‘house of God’ relationship, allows one to know the blessings of salvation without ever experiencing the pleasure of His company. At this level of relationship Jesus is more a Savior than a friend, and God is more of a distant ruler than an affectionate Father. A Penuel, face-to-face relationship, on the other hand, changes everything. Jesus becomes our Friend . . ., God becomes Abba-Papa . . ., and the Holy Spirit becomes our close Helper.” – Dutch Sheets

If your desire is to enjoy this deeper, face-to-face relationship with our loving God, you will appreciate the insights to be found in Dutch Sheets new book, The Pleasure of His Company. Thirty short chapters (easily read one a day for a month) will mentor you, the reader, on this practice of lingering often with God, coming to know Him better, learning to walk His way. Sheets uses both Bible and personal insights to help readers understand the truths he wants to share, to help them discover why God is about so much more than providing salvation and how it is possible to live as His friend. Each chapter ends with a meaningful prayer that also serves as a chapter summary, a call to action, an earnest plea to God, and a pledge to delve right in.

I enjoyed reading this book—especially through this Easter season. It’s one I recommend.

Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Review: "The Hesitant Heiress"

The cover is so pretty I would have been terribly disappointed had I not loved the book! But The Hesitant Heiress, Book One of The Everstone Chronicles, was all I’d hoped it would be. Set in Boston and Maine (with connections to California and Washington) in the late 1800’s, The Hesitant Heiress reminded me of some of my favorite classics (Wives and Daughters and Jane Eyre in particular), yet this story was unique—and totally captivating.

 Amaryllis Brigham had loved her life on her father’s horse farm on Whidbey Island, Washington until her mother drowned in a tragic accident and her father abandoned her to a series of boarding schools. Eleven years later, Amaryllis is forced to discontinue her education and move in with her aunt, Claudine Abernathy. All Amaryllis wants to do with her life is return to Whidbey Island and open a music school. But when her aunt informs her that her mother’s parents, whom she’d never even met, have named her heir of their sizable estate on one condition, that she marry within the year, her reclusive lifestyle comes to an end.

To complicate matters, the son of the man she holds responsible for destroying all her plans seems to be playing games with her heart. Amaryllis is determined to avoid Nathan Everstone. Unfortunately, her avoidance makes him all the more determined to win her over. Her aunt and only friends seem to be taking Nathan’s side.

As I read this book, I decided Amaryllis must be one of the densest heroines ever, but it was her reasoning and Nathan’s response to it that made the story so fun to read. When it took a dangerous turn and the most unlikely hero showed up to play a surprise role, I was hooked. Author Dawn Crandall has become one of my favorites, just that quickly. I’m already engrossed in her second book.

I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for this review. I recommend this book!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: "The Wood's Edge"

The Wood’s Edge is a complex story spanning 19 years of Colonial American history in the New York frontier. It was one of those rare books I became so fascinated by that my husband heard all kinds of facts I discovered inside as I read. The story itself was engrossing, but it was the history, the Oneida people, who fascinated me. I’m glad they caught Author Lori Benton’s attention, too. Her story is most definitely worth reading.

The Wood’s Edge is a switched-at-birth story. When Major Reginald Aubrey discovers that his newborn son has died in the arms of his sleeping wife, he fears for her health and sanity. Taking the child from the room, he discovers another new mother, a white woman recovered from Indian captivity and being held at the Fort where he is stationed. The woman has twin sons, one who has pale skin like hers. As she sleeps, he switches his child for that one.

That’s when the nightmares of two men begin.

But Creator God has a good plan for both families, a plan that involves an orphaned girl, who, unknown to her adoptive family, will grow up knowing both of the Indian woman’s sons, one as a brother and one as a friend.

Fans of American history just before the Revolutionary War will find this story intriguing. Those who love stories that show how God can work in the lives of individuals, families, and communities will enjoy this book as well. I thank Waterbrook Press for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review. I’m watching for the sequel to come in 2016!