Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

152An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainer National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

What I Loved: This was the first Karen Barnett book I have read, and I loved every minute of it. I found her characters well developed. The plot flow was spot on. There were times when I couldn’t see any way out for the characters because she had perfectly painted them in the corner. There was a great spiritual message here about trusting Christ with lost loved ones. But I think the part that stood out the most was the setting. I could easily visualize the park. It makes me want to go hiking, but she’s firmly talked me out of ever climbing a mountain!! I can’t wait to see where Barnett takes us next in this series.

Rating and Recommendation: I recommend The Road to Paradise to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction or if you’re looking for something with an outdoor setting. I’m giving it 5 stars.

~I received a copy from Blogging for Books. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Review: Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and Love and Friendship

301I had the pleasure of watching the latest Austen movie, Love and Friendship, in the same week that I read one of her earliest stories, Lady Susan. Since these are lesser known works, I thought it would benefit you to get a full review. For those who didn’t know, Love and Friendship is based on the story Lady Susan. Before I review the movie, the book, and the audiobook, let’s take a look at the story itself.

The Story: Lady Susan
I had always heard that Lady Susan was an unfinished work. I was under the impression that unfinished meant that she had not finished writing it and therefore the plot wouldn’t be complete. Who wants to read a story you’ll never have an ending to? Because of this, I had put off reading it for several years. But I’m happy to announce that this just isn’t so. Lady Susan is a finished story but is not as polished.
Lady Susan is different from the common Austen novel in two major ways. It’s an epistolary story therefore written completely through letters. And the main character, Lady Susan, is NOT the heroine Austen is known for. She’s not the sweet downtrodden female, although there is a sweet heroine to cheer for. But Lady Susan is manipulative, selfish, a liar, a flirt, and most likely an adulteress as well.
Now, this hardly sounds like something worth reading, but I beg you to think again. While the main character is…a total mess, we also have endearing characters to root for. Lady Susan’s conduct stands in clear contrast to the conduct of the more noble characters. And we’re treated to the classic wit of Austen all throughout the story.
Knowing that Lady Susan is an early work, you can easily see signs of her later, more famous works. The names of Churchhill and Martin will ring a bell with Austen fans. You’ll also see characters that remind you of some of your favorites. Lady Susan herself brings to mind several characters that I’ve loved to hate from her other works.

The Book:
As mentioned above, I found Lady Susan to be brilliantly written. You have to understand going in that with this being an early work, there may be areas of her writing that aren’t very strong. I’ve little doubt that someone has come along already and picked apart everything they felt was wrong with it. But for me, the thing I love the most about an Austen novel, or any other classic, is the language. I love the way they word their sentences. There’s a romantic, poetic tone to their speech that I just flat out enjoy. And all of that is present here which made it enjoyable to me.
I had picked up the story (we contemporaries would probably label it as a novella because it’s shorter than a novel) several months ago but didn’t finish it. There’s just a lot of information to pick up at once without the benefit of narration. Reading letters from person to person makes it harder to grasp who these people are and their connections to one another. But despite the rocky start, things mellow out with time.
*The link will take you to a free ebook version from Amazon.

The Audiobook: 
I had the opportunity to pick up the audiobook and decided to give this story another try since I never finished the written version. The link will send you the version I listened to.
They used different actors for each character. This was so much easier to listen to. Overall, I enjoyed it. However, there was one voice that got on my nerves. There was a whine to her speech, that while being very accurate for the character, grated on my nerves the more I listened to her. But it’s only three hours long, so it’s a quick audiobook just perfect for a day trip or in between longer audiobooks.

The Movie: 
If you’ve watched Austen movies over the years, you would have been shocked at some of the vulgar scenes we’ve witnessed. I’m happy to announce that this was a CLEAN movie. Granted, let’s remember that Lady Susan, while it never exactly says, is thought to be an adulteress. So there are adult and sinful themes. But Lady Susan’s sins are hinted toward and never fully exposed so younger viewers aren’t likely to pick up on the meaning of the conversation. And most importantly, we don’t SEE anything unpleasant or shocking…aside from the unfortunate low cut gown. Again, there are also honorable characters involved and Lady Susan’s conduct is always viewed as shameful. SHE never finds shame in her conduct, but the viewer is always encouraged to think the worst of her lifestyle, so I didn’t feel like her sin was encouraged or condoned.
Love and Friendship has a strong comedic tone to it. I laughed out loud a few times. Some of the characters are meant to be ridiculous and you can’t help but laugh at them because they don’t seem to notice their faults.
Again, the beginning tripped me up. I liked the way they opened the movie by introducing the characters. But even then, I found it to be a lot of info to try to soak up and I was still lost for the first thirty minutes or so. But I’ve learned over the years that sometimes you just need to watch a period drama more than once to fully understand it.
Watching the movie first had helped me to grasp the story when I listened to it later that week. And I must say that this was probably the closest adaptation I think I’ve ever seen. The characters were not altered from Austen’s vision in any way that I could tell. And I can’t think of any real plot point that was altered. The original story was told through letters and the movie was acted out without the use of letters so some of the characters conversed in the same room instead of reading correspondence. But the point and the purpose was always one and the same. In that regard, this was extremely well done.

Rating and Recommendation: 
I think my first impression of either the book or movie was to give it 4 stars. But it has that sort of endearing quality to it that grows on you with time and it has already been moved above a 4-star rating in my opinion. I plan to add the movie to my collection and I’ll reread Lady Susan again someday.
I recommend it all Austen fans. I think you’ll find something worth enjoying here, even if it never becomes your new favorite Austen movie/story.


Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Finding Margo by Jen Turano

151Off the charts and on the run.

International pop star Margo Hartman could use a night off. A grueling tour and overbearing entourage have sent her over the edge. It’s time for this diva to disappear. And who would think to look for the superstar in a small Dutch town in Ohio?

Sheriff’s deputy Brock Moore is undercover as well. He knows Margo isn’t who she appears to be, but her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish woman is raising all sorts of questions… the kind that make her a target for a killer.

Both are determined to find answers, but their mutual attraction stands in the way of either of them doing it alone.

Is finding Margo the solution to Brock’s problems or just the beginning…?

What I Loved: Everything. Ok, I know that’s not a great review so I’ll try harder:
I read Finding Margo in one day and stayed up way too late. I almost didn’t feed my kids dinner. And I gave up on trying to get any real work done.
I’m not a big Amish fan, but I enjoy a story where both worlds collide. You’ll find a bit of that here in Finding Margo, although it mostly stays contemporary. There’s a mystery involved here and while part of it is easy to figure out from the very beginning, other aspects will surprise you along the way. The chemistry was spot on between Margo and Brock. There’s an entire cast of memorable secondary characters. You’ll also find action, a duck, and some of that Turano humor sprinkled throughout the novel. I loved every minute of it, and can’t wait for the next book of the series.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend Finding Margo to those who enjoy Christian mystery/suspense or an Amish/Contemporary blend. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Freedom’s Price by Christine Johnson

149When Englishwoman Catherine Haynes loses both her parents and her home in 1856, she decides to cross the Atlantic to find her American mother’s family in Louisiana. She enlists the help of Tom Worthington, a dashing Key West man who makes his living salvaging wrecked ships, but whose real goal in life is to bring to justice the man who stole his father’s ship and caused his untimely death.

When Catherine finally arrives at her family’s plantation, she finds it in disarray and her family absent landowners. Torn between returning to Key West with Tom or beginning the hard work of restoring the plantation, Catherine soon finds herself snared in a plot to steal her inheritance. When an incredible secret comes to light, both she and Tom will face a choice. Can they relinquish the dreams that have been holding them captive in order to step forward in faith–even if it costs them everything?

My Thoughts: There is much to praise here in Johnson’s latest release. It’s an intriguing story from the very start and one that I could hardly put down. As the mystery unfolds, the suspense increases. For me, the only drawback were the characters. While I liked and sympathized with them both, they never felt very consistent to me and they often swung from being too naive to being too astute. But even this couldn’t keep me from turning pages long after I should have been asleep. Freedom’s Price was an exciting conclusion to the Keys of Promise series. I look forward to more Christine Johnson in the future.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Freedom’s Price 4 stars and highly recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical fiction or a light Christian mystery/ suspense.

~I received a copy from Revell. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Seven Brides for Seven Mail-order Husbands Romance Collection

147Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Abigail’s Proposal by Cynthia Hickey
When her father never returned from the war, Abigail Melton stepped into his role as town mayor. The town needs men, and she needs a husband—and she has a big idea how to find both—but her first duty is to hire a sheriff. And drifter Josiah Ingram will do just fine.

The Kidnapped Groom by Susan Page Davis
Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own.

A Clean Slate by Susanne Dietze
Schoolmarm Roberta “Birdy” Green won’t marry any of the prospective grooms flocking to town. After losing her fiancé in the war, the only love her broken heart can bear is for her students. But then she takes on a new pupil—Drew Cooper, one of the gentlemen drawn to Kansas by the advertisement for grooms.

Sunshine of My Heart by Darlene Franklin
Debbie Barker longs to bring beauty to her new home on the prairie, where her family moved after the war, and seeks a husband to help her father run the ranch. Zack Gage returned home from the war to a life in ruins—family dead and business bankrupted. He answers the mail-order husband ad to seek a fresh start. But neither Debbie nor Zeke know what they are doing when it comes to ranching. . .or love.

Come What May by Patty Smith Hall
Chardy Stevens is at the end of her rope. Between running her late father’s store and tending to her four younger brothers, she barely has time to breathe, much less look for a husband to help her. The boys scare off most of her prospects and throw Chardy together with her childhood friend Luke, a disabled veteran who seeks her happiness above his own.

Dime Novel Suitor by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Widow Caroline Kane is the proprietor of a restaurant and inn—and responsible for her five teenaged siblings. But she has no plans of finding a mail-order groom. Britisher Barden Granville IV is on a “cowboy holiday” when he finds himself flat broke in Kansas.  When he answers an old “help wanted” ad, Caroline misconstrues Barden is there as a potential husband. Will the beautiful and fiesty widow cause the new vicar to make Kansas his home?

Louder than Words by Gina Welborn
After years of writing abolitionist pamphlets and chronicling soldier life during the war, J.R. Lockhart is bored and jumps at the opportunity to investigate an advertisement for husbands for an article in Godey’s Lady’s Book. Jane Ransome would like to help the charming-but-oblivious-to-life-out-West man chronicle the courtships developing in town, but she has her own husband to find—one who will fit perfectly in her picket-fenced Kansas home.

My Thoughts: I was smitten with this collection from the moment I had first heard about it. The concept behind it was well thought out. You can tell the authors collaborated together because the entire collection took place in the same town, over the same time frame, and the characters crossed over in each of the stories. And they did a really great job with this.
The problem we often see with novellas is that they tend to lack the depth that we usually find in a full-sized novel. This was no exception. In some way or another, each of the stories lacked tension or depth of character. But at the end of the day, this was an entertaining read. It’s a lighthearted collection with a solid spiritual message attached to each one of the stories. And each of the stories was set in a charming town with equally charming couples.


Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian novellas.

~ I received a copy from Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Bracelet by Dorothy Love

148“There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” 

Savannah, Georgia – 1858

Celia Browning dreams of the day when her childhood sweetheart Sutton Mackay comes home to Savannah after two years in Jamaica managing his family’s shipping interests. Sutton has all but proposed, and their marriage will unite two of the city’s most prominent families. But just as Sutton returns, a newspaper reporter arrives in town, determined to pry into twin tragedies that took place at the Browning mansion on Madison Square when Celia was a child.
While the journalist pursues his story, someone is trying to frighten Celia. When she receives a series of anonymous notes, and a bracelet imbued with a chilling message, Celia realizes that her family’s past has the power to destroy her future.
As the clouds of war gather over Savannah, and her beloved father’s health worsens, Celia determines to uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago.
Inspired by actual events in one of Savannah’s most prominent 19th-century families, The Bracelet is the story of a young southern woman whose dreams fracture under the weight of her family’s tragic past.

What I Loved: I enjoyed everything about this novel. It was historically rich and the setting really came to life. The suspense was just right for someone like myself who likes the thrill but scares easily. The mystery kept my mind working. I was intrigued from page 1 and she kept my attention until the very end. Love had outdone herself with this one.
I started off listening to the audio version, which I can also recommend. It was a treat to hear the deep southern accents. I believe the narrator nailed her interpretation of the characters. And it wasn’t long before I had to pick up the ebook version so I could continue reading even when I couldn’t listen.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Historical or Christian mystery.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Love so True by Melissa Jagears

145Jagears Delivers a Wonderfully Romantic Read with a Hero and Heroine to Cheer For

Evelyn Wisely has a heart for the orphans of Teaville and works at a local mansion that rescues children out of the town’s red-light district and gives them a place to live. But her desire to help isn’t limited to orphans. The owner of the mansion, Nicholas Lowe, is willing to help her try to get the women working in prostitution out of the district as well–if she can gain the cooperation and support of local businessmen to go against the rest of the community.

David Kingsman has recently arrived in Teaville from Kansas City to help with one of his father’s companies in town. While he plans on staying only long enough to prove his business merit to his father, he’s shown interest in Evelyn’s work and is intrigued enough by her to lend his support to her cause.

They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David’s dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them?

My Thoughts: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Teaville (and not just for its name!) and the cast of characters I meet here each time I visit. I’d like to tour this stunning mansion, visit these neighbors, and work alongside these tender-hearted folks. There’s something comforting about settling down into a fictional town. I’ll be sorry to see it end, but I’m looking forward to the next installment all the same.
One of the biggest highlights for me in A Love so True, which was also true of book 1, is the spiritual message. I was always convicted about ways that I might have been too quick to judge someone as I read this novel. Through David and Evelyn’s actions, Jagears, doesn’t excuse sin so much as she shows compassion for those caught up in it as well as practical ways we can love and witness to them.
My one drawback was how the tension lagged a bit in the middle. I still greatly enjoyed the novel. And I commend her for the way she handled a sticky situation toward the end of the novel. The characters were truly inspiring during this phase of the story.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Love so True 5 stars and recommending it to anyone who enjoys Christian Historical Fiction.

~I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: The Secret Slipper by Amanda Tero

146Being a cripple is only the beginning of Lia’s troubles. It seems as if Bioti’s goal in life is to make Lia as miserable as possible. If Lia’s purpose is to be a slave, then why did God make her a cripple? How can He make something beautiful out of her deformity?

Raoul never questioned the death of his daughter until someone reports her whereabouts. If Ellia is still alive, how has she survived these ten years with her deformity? When Raoul doesn’t know who to trust, can he trust God to keep Ellia safe when evidence reveals Bioti’s dangerous character?

As time brings more hindrances, will Raoul find Ellia, or will she forever be lost to the father she doesn’t even know is searching for her?

What I Loved: I appreciate knowing that when I pick up a Tero story, I’ll find something with a strong Christian message. This young lady has much respect for the gospel and presents it well within her work and The Secret Slipper was no exception.
Tero brings a new and creative take on the classic Cinderella story. She strips it of all magic and, instead of a common romance, it’s a love story between father and daughter. I admire the creativity that went into this novella as well as the series.
The setting comes to life with authentic names. And among the rich setting was a timeless message about God turning the difficult things of life into blessings.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Secret Slipper 5 stars and I recommend it to those who enjoy fairy tale retellings and especially to the younger audience. This a series mothers can feel confident about handing to their daughters.

~ I received a copy from the author. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own. 

Pick up your copy of The Secret Slipper

Giveaway Details: 


U.S. Giveaway: Enter to win the set of “Befriending the Beast” and “The Secret Slipper”

International Giveaway: Enter to win the eBook set of “Befriending the Beast” and “The Secret Slipper”

Giveaway winners will be announced on Amanda’s blog May 5, 2017.


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Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: True to You by Becky Wade

142Exciting Start of a Brand-New Series by a Contemporary Romance Fan Favorite

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

What I Loved: One of the first things that struck me when I finished reading, was how invested I had become with this family. I felt like I really knew them, and more than that, I really liked them in the same way you might feel about an old family friend. I can’t wait to revisit the Bradford family in the rest of the series!
I was able to start my Bradford journey with Wade’s novella, Then Came You.  While it’s not necessary to read the novella to understand the novel, if you’re planning to read it, I’d recommend reading the novella first since the novel spoils the novella. The novella is an epistolary, meaning that the entire story is told through letters, journals, and such. I adored how True to You carried on this theme by ending each chapter with a series of text messages or emails. It was a unique touch that paid off.
But above all the wonder, fun, charming characters, and moving plot is a solid Biblical message about finding your identity in Christ ALONE. I appreciated Wade’s efforts to bring these broken, and often self-reliant, characters to a deeper understanding of Christ and our relationship with Him.

A note to the conservative readers: Both the novella and the novel feature a rape. The details are handled in a tasteful way and never experienced through a point of view character, so the harsh realities are kept to a minimum. Because it wasn’t experienced through the point of view character, I wasn’t bothered by it, but you’ll have to judge for yourself.
The kissing scenes were also tastefully handled, but I’ll be honest and say that I found some of the lingo Wade used to be tasteless for a Christian novel. While I’m on board with characters showing and even thinking about their desires to some degree, I found it strange to have these desires so blatantly labeled with the terms “sexual desires” and low or high “libido.” It’s just not what I expected to find. It wasn’t to the degree that it ruined the story for me, but I could have done without it and been happier for it. Not everyone will agree with me. My comments here are meant for other readers who lean on the more conservative side in their fiction reading.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving True to You 5 stars and recommending it to anyone who enjoys Christian Romance.

~I received a copy from Litfuse. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.


 Do opposites really attract? John and Nora might just be the perfect match. Find out in True to You, book one in Becky Wade’s new series! Genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now. Former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Celebrate the launch of Becky Wade’s new series by entering to win a fabulous prize pack and $100 cash card!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of True to You
  • A $100 Visa cash card
  • A prize pack hand-picked by Becky

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 30. The winner will be announced May 31 on the Litfuse blog.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: What Hope Remembers by Johnnie Alexander

143When Amy Somers loses her job as a lobbyist, she moves to Misty Willow, well aware that she’s crossing bridges she’d burned years before. With all the mistakes she’s made and the uncaring things she’s done–even to her own family–she can hardly believe that happiness will find her, especially when Gabe Kendall, her first crush and her first kiss, rides back into her life atop a buckskin mare.

A former Marine, Gabe is at loose ends after serving a prison sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees beyond Amy’s hard exterior to the girl he once knew and loved, and he longs to see her open her heart. Yet with his vision clouded by shame for his past and fears about the future, he finds it difficult to see the path ahead.

But the memory of that long-ago kiss just may have the power to reignite a romance that brings out the best in both of them.

My Thoughts: There’s something gratifying about reading the redemption story of a previous bad boy or in this case a bad girl. What Hope Remembers is a satisfying conclusion to the Misty Willow series. I only wish I had found time to read the first book of the series. While you can understand the stories easily enough if you read them out of order, there is a family drama that is building and evolving through out each of the three novels. Readers will appreciate Amy’s happy ending more if they had more experience with her devious history.
For me, the story took too long to really take off. The characters are wonderfully flawed and you can’t help but feel for them as they navigate their fresh starts, but I would have liked more tension throughout the story. Aside from that, it’s a beautifully written story. I appreciate the way Alexander was able to craft characters who felt, responded, and appeared to be real and not fictionalized.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving What Hope Remembers 4 stars and recommending it, and the entire series, to anyone who enjoys Christian Contemporary or Christian Fiction with real-to-life characters.

~I received a copy from Revell. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.