Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mine is the Night

Liz Curtis Higgs is back! After this review after her last book I had my doubts about picking up this book. However, my love for Higgs and my desire for her to captivate me once more had me pushing through. She did not disappoint. This is the second of two and can absolutely stand alone, in fact I would recommend skipping the first and getting right to this one. It took me a whole first book and a few chapters into this one to realize this was an interpretation of the story of Ruth. Anyone else out there take as long as me to figure that out? Anyway, with that added twist I was hooked immediately. The language was still a bit challenging at times but I adjusted quickly and loved the story. The characters are full of depth and they'll feel like your closest friends before you're done. You always know a winner when you finish abook and keep thinking about the characters. Annoying, but a mark of a truly excellent story and storyteller.

Following the Jacobite rebellion Elizabeth and her mother-in-law, Marjory, flea penniless to Marjory's former hometown. Finding refuge with a distant cousin Elizabeth and Marjory begin to rebuild their lives in a way that looks nothing like their former existence. Beth takes up a needle and thread and Marjory begins cooking. Both begin to fall for two dashing men who capture their hearts and therein lies the tale.

This is one of those books that you just have to read to truly appreciate it. I promise you'll enjoy this one. Pick it up and be prepared to be transported to 1700's Scotland.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

Lonestar Angel

I am admittedly a big fan of Colleen Coble. I have reviewed quite a few of her books and have enjoyed all of them. When I started Lonestar Angel I kept turning back to check the copyright date. It read very much like a rookie's novel. No matter how often I checked it was still published in 2011. Perhaps if it had been a different author or a new one I wouldn't have been quite so confused.

Just as Eden is about to get engaged her ex-husband Clay shocks her with the news that not only are they not divorced but their child that had been kidnapped as a baby and considered dead was alive.In a whirlwind moment Eden and Clay set off for a camp in Texas for foster children where their now five year old child is one of the little girls on site. The story unfolds with intrigue and suspense as Clay and Eden try to figure out which child belongs to them someone is even more determined to stop them from being reunited. Insert Eden's Columbian drug-lord father and countless near death experiences and you've got a gripping tale. In the midst of it all Clay and Eden begin to fall in love all over again as God works in both of them.

This book just confused me and I couldn't seem to get past that! I'm still confused even writing a review about it. It is so different from Coble's usually well thought out plots and so far-fetched it is most definitely fiction.It will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens but for me personally I just couldn't get past the randomness of this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books (Thomas Nelson) book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Unexpected Dismounts

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy Rue
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: historical fiction
Publisher: David C Cook
Date: 2011

This is the second book in the Reluctant Prophet series. Allison Chamberlain is a prophet who receives
nudges from God. Her life has already made a 180 as she has followed the nudges and gone where God has sent her.

Taking place in St. Augustine, Florida Allison does battle on the streets to reform prostitutes and drug addicts and to show them the love of Jesus.  She is also in the process of adopting Desmond who is a precocious 12 year old boy who grew up on the streets. The adoption should be a for sure thing but trouble seems to follow Allison and she suddenly finds herself having to fight in court for her son. In the midst of all that she’s doing battle for her sisters at The Sacrament House and dealing with the rape of a recovering prostitute.

Motorcycle rides, hanging with the HOGS, prostitutes, court battles, endearing characters, and honest pain makes this book truly captivating. When you add in the handsome manly Chief with whom Allison has a magnetic attraction to I promise you’ll stay up late reading this one.

This book absolutely captured me. I was skeptical when I started reading about a prophet. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it or even be able to relate to it. However, I was mistaken. I found myself relating to Allison’s love for people in a very real way. I don’t ride a Harley but I love people and feel their pain deeply. If you’ve ever hurt for someone else, been angry at the injustice in the world, or ask God “why?” than you will relate to this book. Hats off to Nancy Rue for writing a deep, thought-provoking, and entertaining story.

Rated: PG-13

Thank you to David C Cook for providing me a copy of this book.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Souther Fried Sushi

Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Reviewed by Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc
Date: 2011

Shiloh Jacobs is loving her life! She’s an up and coming writer with the Associated Press. She’s living in Tokyo, Japan, a city that has become home to her. She has entertaining friends and it seems the world is her oyster. Her life takes a drastic turn when she learns of her distant mother’s death in Virginia. She suddenly finds herself immersed in a culture that is so foreign she can barely keep up. She’s overwhelmed by the people, the language, the food, and the lifestyle.

When Shiloh wings her way to Virginia she would never have dreamed, in her worst nightmare, that she wouldn’t be returning to Tokyo. She was going to attend her mother’s funeral and then head right back to her demanding job, her handsome fiancé, and the culture she knows best. One poor decision finds her jobless, a series of poor decision finds her penniless, a bad choice in men finds her single, and a dysfunctional childhood finds her basically without friends. In short, she hits even further than the bottom.

To her surprise at the bottom she finds new friends who love her unconditionally and who have a faith she’s never encountered before. She also learns that the somewhat abusive mother of her childhood had drastically changed her life for the better. As she continues to learn more about the mom she didn’t know and come face to face with people who live out their faith in word and deed she begins to ask questions and seek the God of her friends. What she finds will warm your heart, surprise you, and touch your emotions.

LOVE! I loved this book. For a girl who typically prefers historical novels I was engrossed in this contemporary read immediately. Spinola writes with beautiful color and detail. You will find yourself transported to Japan and you’ll feel the culture shock that Shiloh feels upon her entry to Virginia. Staunton, VA is the setting and I had to laugh because I lived in that town for 3 years in my early teens. Our whole family moved from Wisconsin to Virginia and believe me we experienced the culture shock of the south. I could taste the food, hear the accents, and see the sights. For me that made this already special book even that much more special and real.

Whether you’re from Japan, Virginia, or Oregon you will love this book. It has all the components of a great book and they all come together to make a very special novel. Props to Spinola, she’s earned a new fan!

Rated PG-13 for adult content
Thanks to Babour Publishing for providing this book in exchange for my review!

The Muir House

The Muir House by Mary DeMuth
Reviewed by Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Zondervan
Date: 2011

The thing about secrets is they don’t provide any clarity. They keep things murky, give reason for mistaken assumptions, and can hold you hostage. Willa Muir understands the damage of secrets better than anyone. She desires to move past her past but it proves to be more challenging then she originally thought. She’s met the man of her dreams and with his proposal of marriage she knows she must first find answers to her past so she can move forward. Finding answers means she must leave the Pacific Northwest and head “home” to Texas.

The Muir House is the home Willa grew up in. During her growing up years it was a funeral home, now it is being remodeled to become a bed and breakfast. It is an iconic center point for the little town of Rockwall, Texas. Snatches of memories and fleeting dreams make up the sum total of a missing year of her childhood. Willa’s dying mother, the house’s caretaker, and town records provide confusing partial answers and even the Muir House hides its own share of secrets.

In Texas Willa faces considerable opposition as she searches for answers. An old flame may threaten her relationship with her distant boyfriend/almost fiancé. Turbulent emotions and ever developing secrets will keep you guessing in this book. DeMuth writes with rare transparency and she dives into troubling subjects head on. Willa is a wonderful mixture of strong, independent, lonely, and hurting. The depth of her character is stunning.

This was not one of my favorite books. It is written like a secret and with that comes a bit of a cold feeling. It’s not a warm and cozy book and the characters are not either. That makes it hard to relate and to really want to dig in and immerse yourself. DeMuth is an excellent storyteller and the conclusion of the book is really quite beautiful. If you wrap yourself in a warm blanket you may be able to ward off the chill of the initial start of the book and be able to persevere to the warmer ending.

Rated PG-13 for adult content

Thank you to Zondervan for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees

Arizona desert girl, Marielle, meets widower Carson online and they get married. Marielle suddenly finds herself step-mother to two children and living at Holly Oak, a plantation house in Virginia with Carson's grandmother-in-law. The house itself is rumored to be full of mystery, and if you believe the blue-haired ladies, it's full of ghosts. One of the ghosts is Susannah, a former resident of the house who is rumored to have been a civil war spy for the north.

History seeps through the very pores of the house down to the Civil War cannon ball lodging in the siding. Grandmother Adelaide holds all the history and stories close to herself. She's pretty sure the house is not haunted but is instead somehow stuck in sorrow and trying to make amends. Marielle isn't sure what to believe but she isn't entirely comfortable in a house filled with so many questions and stories from the past. 

Meissner is one of my absolute favorite authors and I was beyond thrilled to be able to review this book. What's unique about this author is her ability to blend the past and the present in an incredibly effective way. I'm rather bummed to say that this book did not live up to my expectations. Almost two-thirds of it was taken up with the modern day story that I felt was a bit heavy on the haunting and a bit lacking in clarity. Once we were transported to the past through a series of letters the book was fascinating and I stayed up late to finish it. Unfortunately the first two-thirds dragged and were not, in my opinion, Meissner's best work. However, she does an excellent job with the story of Susannah in the Civil War and you will find yourself captivated.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Harvest of Grace

I must come clean at the very beginning of this review. At the risk of offending possibly the entire reading world I will openly admit that I am not a big fan of the Amish genre. Gasp! Wheeze! WHAT!?

Everyone still okay?

Look around any Christian bookstore and you will see Amish fiction is taking over the shelves. Yes, their lifestyle is fascinating and yes, learning about them is interesting, but come on! After your twelfth shunning they get a little predictable, right? Wrong. It's true, I was wrong. There is Amish fiction everywhere and many of them are predictable and down right boring but there are few standout authors that make this genre readable. Cindy Woodsmall is one such author. I will willingly pick up any book that she writes because I know I'll be surprised. Harvest of Grace did not disappoint.

Harvest of Grace  is the third installment in the Ada House Novels. Sylvia is a dairy farm girl through and through. She loves farming and wishes her Father and her boyfriend Ephriam would treat her as an equal when it comes to decisions about the farm. When Ephriam asks Sylvia to marry him she shocks him by asking for more time. In the the time she has asked for Ephriam manages to engage himself to Sylvia's sister Becky. Wounded beyond words Sylvia pours herself into her farm work. When a moment in the barn with Ephriam turns the wrong way Sylvia flees her home and finds work at a dairy barn some distance away. Hiding and ashamed she once again pours herself into work on the farm.

Aaron is a recovering alcoholic who returns to his father's farm intent on selling it for profit and moving his parents into town with him. He doesn't settle on meeting his father's hired hand Sylvia and having her undying love for the dairy farm play into the drama Aaron's return creates. Not to mention Aaron finds himself drawn to Sylvia and she to him.

With two completely opposite views on farm and family one wonders if Sylvia and Aaron can find a common ground. I would tell you, but that might ruin the story :)

Aaron and Sylvia both possess a depth that makes Woodsmall's writing so delightful. They are quite unlike any other characters you have read before. A smattering of returning characters makes you feel as if you are revisiting old friends, but if this is your first Woodsmall book you won't feel like you're missing out. This is an easy and engrossing read that is perfect for a plane ride or a cup of coffee.

It's true, Cindy Woodsmall has made the Amish genre delightful and completely worth diving into. You'll definitely enjoy this book and all of the Amish books she has authored.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wrapped in Rain- Charles Martin

Finally, finally, finally I get to review my most favorite of authors! For literally my whole life I have dreaded the question, "who is your favorite author?". As an avid reader I certainly should have a favorite, right? Wrong. I never had a favorite, that is until about two years ago when I picked up a book by Charles Martin. Honestly, amazing. Enough about me though, let's talk about Wrapped in Rain.

When Tucker and Matthew Mason were young, their father had two attitudes towards them. He either ignored them or beat them. Growing up motherless, they were raised in a small community in Alabama as the sons of a wealthy Rex Mason. The woman who raised them, Ella Rain, was their hired black maid. She put up with Mason only because of Tuck and Mutt (Matthew's nickname).

The story begins as the  boys are grown and Miss Ella having died seven years before. Rex Mason has Alzheimer's and lives in a long term care facility. Mutt was admitted to a mental institution after Miss Ella's funeral. Tuck is a world renown photographer who spends little time at home.

Tuck returns home from a photography trip to the Caribbean to receive a phone call telling him Mutt has escaped from his institution. As he returns to his roots a person from his past collides with his current life. His former ex-girlfriend arrives on the scene with her son in tow. As the three make an unlikely trio they manage to make a home out of a mansion and meanwhile Miss Ella keeps counseling Tuck, even though he'd sometimes rather ignore her.

I won't even go into more details about the book because you need to read it to experience it. A beautifully written story that will captivate you from the beginning. Believe me when I tell you, nobody writes quite like Charles Martin. I save his books for weekends at the lake, for snowed in winter days, for special trips. Because once you start you won't want to finish and yet you can't help but keep reading.  Wrapped in Rain is one of the best.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books (Thomas Nelson) book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dessert Gift

Jill Galloway has made a success of marriage. She has had a long standing syndicated radio talk show on marriage and now her first book is coming out. Just as she and her husband Jack are getting ready for a California book tour and long needed vacation, he tells her he is not going with her. He wants out. He wants a divorce. And then he puts her on a plane and sends her away. 

As her world crashes down around her, Jill flees to her parents' home in the California desert, wondering if everything she's built her career on- and everything she's built her life around- is a sham. She thought she'd done everything right. So how did her marriage slowly slip away? And will she ever get it back? 

I will fully admit that I am single and have never been married. I will also admit that I loved this book and was completely engrossed in it. John does an excellent job of weaving a story that grips you and makes feel alongside the characters. The depth of this story will amaze you. I walked away having learned something about relationships and about myself. It was truly a great read. I give it five stars :) 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Restless in Carolina

Dreadlock wearing, tree hugging, earthy Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is thirty-one and she's been a widow for four years. Unable to even say the words "happily ever after" her view of God and happy endings has been severely skewered. However, she's beginning to realize she needs to finally come to grips with her widowhood and move on with her life. In the midst of all of that she also needs to sell her family estate near her home in North Carolina, preferably to an eco-friendly developer. Bridget is determined to sell the estate to someone who will help preserve it's beauty and not turn it into a run of the mill housing developement.

Enter J.C. Dirk. He's a green developer from Atlanta who's extremely high energy and has a secret interest in the Pickwick estate. J.C. and Bridget meet face to face in Atlanta after J.C. doesn't return her calls. He's interested in Bridget's offer the minute her hears her family name. Sparks fly between these two as J.C.'s interest in the estate spreads further to interest in Bridget. Bridget finds her white knight but the secrets he's hiding just may break her heart.

This is a fun chick flick read with southern sass. Bridget is extremely likeable and well-developed. J.C. is a little bit of an irritant at first but he does grow on you. The "secret" part of the story could be seen coming a mile away but it did add intrigue to the story. Although not exceptionally well put together it's a light, enjoyable read. This is the third installment in the Southern Discomfort series but you can definitely read it as a standalone. It's such a cute easy read, why not read all of them? I think if I would have read the first two I would have completely fallen in love with the endearing Pickwick family.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books (Thomas Nelson) book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thunder Dog

This book is Mr. Hingson's  account of his experience as a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade center in September of 2001.  Blind and with only his guide dog Roselle to guide him this story is about his journey down the stairs from the 78th floor and the heroism of a remarkable four-legged creature. 

The author's relationships with guide dogs started at a very young age. Growing up blind, they helped him navigate school, college, and his jobs. Hingson learned early to rely on his guide dogs dedication, loyalty, and courage. This incredible read will captivate your attention from the very beginning. The first-hand account of Roselle and Hingson's descent down 78 floors and 1,463 steps is absolutely amazing. Interspersing the terror of the day with stories from the author's childhood makes this read all the more real and delightful. It will captivate you, move you, and enrich you. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Whisper on the Wind

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: historical Fiction
Publisher: Tyndale
Date: 2010

Whisper on the Wind takes the reader on an intriguing historical journey into Belgium during World War 1. Occupied by the Germans Belgium is no longer safe for its people and they are longing for escape. Against all odds Isabelle Lassone manages to sneak into Brussels in a desperate attempt to rescue the love of her life Edward Kirkland. Edward, however, has no desire to be rescued as he is busy running a very important underground newspaper that brings hope and revolution to his country.
Okay, let me pause for a moment. Don’t immediately dismiss this book because Isabelle and her
“daring” rescue into Belgium sounds simply ridiculous. I almost did and if I would have I would have missed out on an excellent historical read. At first Isa seems foolish and stupid and in many ways she is, she’s not even 18 yet and she’s from a wealthy family. Her heart is good but her methods are naïve. She soon realizes that she is not going to get her own way with Edward so she begins to work on his behalf.

Isa makes herself indispensible to the cause and to Edward’s family. She houses them in her Belgium mansion and eventually the entire printing of the illegal newspaper takes place in her secret basement. As the plot grows so does Isa’s maturity and faith. In the end she becomes quite likeable and admirable. Edward begins to find himself quite drawn to the brave beautiful young woman.
Danger lurks in Belgium in World War I and the plot twists will keep you guessing and cause you no small amount of anxiety. Germans invade the mansion and the woman Edward loves in suddenly in extreme danger.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you.
Lang writes with wonderful description and thoroughness. However, if you are looking for a light easy read this is not the book for you. The plot is a bit slow moving at times and the extremely descriptive war chronicles can get very long especially if you are not familiar with World War I. Isa is completely unlikeable at first but I promise she will grow on you. Edward is entirely intriguing either but he too becomes a character rich with depth. The plot is clever and will keep you guessing. As always, I appreciated the historical aspects but in many ways this was even a bit much for a history buff like myself. It’s definitely worth a read though, just be ready to sit down for awhile.  

Rated: Pg-13 for war violence

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Billy Graham in Quotes

Sigh....I absolutely love this book. Billy Graham has recently become my hero (for reasons I will explain in a later post) so when I had the chance to review this book I jumped at it. I'll also fully admit that I haven't read every single little quote yet because I'm still mulling them all over. Anyway, enough about that.

Billy Graham in Quotes is a unique collection of the thoughts of the most well known evangelist and pastors of our time. The authors have gleaned material from Graham’s seven decades of ministry, drawing from both his published and personal works. The material is then arranged topically for easy reference, covering subjects from A – Y, abortion to young people. Each quote is footnoted so you can find the source of the quotation.

A full 387 pages long this book will keep you reading and learning for days. There is nothing particularly profound about any of the quotes. They clearly reflect their author as they are straight shooting, down to earth, and easy to understand. Quotes such as, "once you have been to the foot of the cross, you will never be the same." and "God welcomes our prayers. He is much more concerned about our hearts than our eloquence." are absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

This is a book you will want for your library. I've been using it as part of my devotion time and I am loving it. Graham is a man of integrity and a man who has walked with God steadfastly though his life. He continually points to Jesus and therefore I can read this and enjoy what God can do in a single willing soul.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck

Charlotte Beck is young, impetuous, and she has big dreams. Alex Hambly likes looking at the stars and has no room for Miss Beck in his life. Quite unexpectedly Charlotte falls literally into his arms one evening. Sparks fly, and not the good kind. Charlotte is an American heiress on the verge of becoming a lady of society and Alex finds her both disarming and annoying all at the same time. Through a series of predictable events Charlotte and Alex are thrust into each others lives over and over again.  When Alex's father dies and he learns his family estate is almost in ruins Charlotte's father steps in to save the day. Promising Charlotte to him with a handsome dowry attached Alex and Charlotte agree to marry. Their marriage of inconvenience starts out as a sham but as you would expect it grows into something much more.

I'll be honest, Y'Barbo is not my favorite author. Her stories always sound enticing and fun and the covers always look amazing and yet I am always left wanting when I'm done reading. She's published a number of books so I can't say it's lack of experience but she almost writes that way. The characters are not well developed and in many cases she adds unnecessary characters to prove a point and it just gets messy. For instance, Alex's older brother who is troubled after war and is not able to take over the estate. He's brought in so the reader knows why Alex has to take over and then we never hear about him again. It's just a little messy and unnecessary in my eyes. However, this was an easy cute read. The Beck family is good friends with Buffalo Bill Cody and I enjoyed reading more about his Wild West Show. Alex's commitment to his marriage is admirable and ultimately the book ends just as you would want and expect.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ten Beach Road

Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: beach fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Date: 2011

Three women, complete strangers, have one thing in common, they’ve been duped by a Ponzi scheme. They  have lost everything and they unite to rehab the only asset they now own, third shares in a large but neglected mansion on Pass-a-Grill Beach, Florida. As they work to bring Bella Flora back to its former glory so that they can sell it and hopefully recoup at least some of their catastrophic losses, the women become friends. But the secrets they are hiding from each other could prove more devastating and hard to overcome than the massive work needed on the decaying house.

Madeline is a homemaker who is coping nicely with empty-nest syndrome. Content, if not sometimes bored, with her life she is completely shaken when she finds out her husband has not had a job for months. As he falls into depression she has to hold the family together….which also means taking care of her adult daughter who is pregnant by a married movie star.

Nikki is a renowned successful matchmaker to the stars . Her world crumbles as her money slowly but surely completely disappears. She’s particularly affected by the Ponzi scheme because the maker of the scheme, the one who has run off with billions of dollars, is none other than her brother. Her younger brother whom she raised.

Avery is a beautiful and feisty architect whose skills have somehow become less appreciated over her other….ahem, assets. A co-host with her ex-husband on a popular HGTV show she’s recently been fired and has no money and nowhere to go.

Somehow these three women must work together to get what money they can out of their only asset.  Described as a “perfect beach read” you will most definitely feel yourself transported to the beaches of Florida as you read this story. Bella Flora is described in detail and you’ll find yourself wanting to walk through the house and watch the renovation unfold. The three women have their own quirks and together they are often hilarious. As the story progresses so does a real-life storm and you will find yourself dashing through the last few chapters to find out what happens.

A very pleasant story that is almost, but not completely, ruined by very strong language. I was quite surprised that the author chose to sully a cute story with language you would only find in an R-rated movie. Instead of referring to strong language she wrote every word out and I found it quite distasteful.  Other than that, the story line is intriguing, the characters fun, and the setting idyllic.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for providing a copy of this book for review.
Rated: R- for content and strong language

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch

A Cowboy’s Touch by Denise Hunter
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: modern fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Date: 2011

Forced to go on sabbatical in Montana, Abigail Jones is less than thrilled to find herself leaving the city far behind to spend the summer with her aging aunt. Abigail finds herself surprised at how quickly she adapts to a slower pace of life. Her blood pressure drops, she’s finding God again, but this investigative reporter just can’t get a possible story out of her head!

Abigail’s neighbor is the handsome Wade Ryan. He’s got a precocious daughter and did we mention he’s handsome. When Wade’s daughter loses her nanny Abigail is more than happy to step in. Wade can’t help but find himself drawn to attractive Abigail. With Abigail’s care both daughter and dad begin to thrive. However, Wade is hiding a secret of monumental proportions and Abigail smells a story.

Who isn’t a sucker for a good cowboy romance? I mean, honestly! City girl goes to the country and meets a handsome cowboy…sigh. The setting is perfect ,set in Montana where western cowboys still exist and still steal women’s hearts. I found Abigail completely annoying at first. She isn’t very well developed at the beginning and you might find yourself annoyed with her desire to find a story and then to keep digging. Wade has his own issues and isn’t as well developed as I would have liked either.  Maddy (the daughter) is a delight and you’ll thoroughly enjoy her. As the story develops you’ll like all of the characters more and you’ll find layers that you weren’t expecting. The story has a bit of a twist that I won’t reveal and the book ends exactly like you would want it to.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t have the sudden desire to go see a rodeo, buy some cowboy boots, or take a trip to Montana. Denise Hunter transports you and I think you’re going to like it.

Rated: Pg- for adult situations

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Lightkeeper's Ball

The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble

First of all I have to say that the cover of this book is absolutely amazing. I know you can't judge a book by it's cover but I couldn't help but find myself staring at the beautiful color and dress. I know, I know, that has nothing to do with the book.

Olivia Stewart is an heiress and from the famed Four Hundred (those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America). However, not all is well in paradise. Her father has died and her once engaged sister has been found dead as well. The family' security rests in Olivia marrying well. Olivia wants to find out what happen to her sister Eleanor. She travels to Mercy Falls, California to find out what really happened. Travel under an old family title she "sneaks" into Mercy Falls and begins her investigation of Eleanor's former fiance Harrison Bennett.

From the beginning Olivia's visit is met with peril. She's thrown overboard before even landing. Harrison rescues her...or did he push her overboard in the first place? Harrison and Olivia's paths continue to cross and Olivia begins to think he may not be the man she originally thought him to be. A plane crash, an attack, and more keep Olivia guessing throughout the whole book.

As always Coble does an excellent job of waving mystery and intrigue into beautiful period stories. I have always loved her depth of historical references and her characters are charming. I will admit I was a bit lost in this book. It's the third in a series but I've read the one previous to this and I was still lost. It's a bit confusing for the reader to have Olivia have a different name in Mercy Falls. I also felt the whole incognito thing to be extremely far fetched. If you can get beyond that, and try to follow the names, you'll find a good read.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Daughter's Walk

The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick

Absolutely and totally fascinating!

In 1896 Helga Etsby accepted a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City. Her prize: $10,000 for doing the walk within 7 months while wearing the new shorter hemline skirts. She brought her 18 year old daughter, Clara, along and the two of them start on a journey with the hope that they could save the family farm. That is where the story begins and by no means is it where it ends.

A non-fiction story written with fiction elements I found myself completely captivated. Let's be honest, who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea to walk 3500 miles especially in a time where much of the western US was still very much frontier. Crazy!  The story is told by Clara and you will find yourself loving her, hating her, angry with her, crying for her, and immersed with her.This is one of those books that while you want to turn the pages quickly to see what happens you also want to savor each word, paragraph, and moment.

When the two women return home from their walk everything has changed. Life takes an interesting twist and Clara sets out on her own. Just when I think I've read it all in the story world this woman decides to try her hand at trapping animals for fur. Kirkpatrick is a master storyteller and she weaves this tale with finesse. Rich with period history and research about the actual Etsby family and Clara herself this story will amaze you. Prepare to dive in and not come out until you put the book down. Believe me, it will be a trip worth taking!

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Freedom's Stand

Freedom’s Stand by J.M. Windle
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: fiction
Publisher: Tyndale
Date: June 2011

Jamil was a jihadist until he met Jesus Christ. He turned his life around and went  from a life of violence to being a peace lover. In Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Jamil becomes a itinerant health worker trying to help those most impoverished. However, not all believe a former jihadist terrorist would turn into a caring healer and he finds himself in danger. Suspicion runs rampant in Afghanistan and mixed with traditions that date back thousands of years it’s a very delicate tightrope to walk.

New Hope relief worker Amy Mallory returns to Afghanistan after being home in the States to find her organization in what she regards as disarray. She has broken the cardinal rule of any relief worker she has started to form relationships with the people. No longer simply operating by systems  Amy fears for the dependents under her care as well as for her assistant Jamil.

In Kabul, contractor security expert Steve Wilson tries to protect his assignment while also keep the peace inside the city as the upcoming elections divides and frightens the residents. Rioting and officialdom corruption has made the capital a dangerous place for a Special Forces soldier, but more so for an American female with little to no protection. He’s looking for something, anything, that will give meaning to his life.

This book kept me up at nights! I have read extensively about the culture of Afghanistan and its’ neighbors and I found this fiction look at the politics and the people to be fascinating. From my readings I can say I found Windle to be extremely accurate, knowledgeable, and profound. The depth with which she describes the complex society is immense. This book is loaded with action and yet has a soft side that will appeal to both men and women alike. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Rating: pg-13 for adult content and graphic descriptions 

You can watch the video teaser for Freedom's Stand on YOUTUBE. 

Lilies in the Moonlight

Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: historical fiction
Publisher: Multnomah
Date: 2011

Set in the roaring twenties with a crazy daring main character this book grabbed my attention from the beginning. Always a sucker for historical aspects I loved that fun-loving Lilly Margolis was a door to door salesman who basically fails in the first week of her job. Lilly has run just about as far away from her very strict, religious mama as she can and she finds herself in Florida. She is a true flapper girl who enjoys parties, men, and pushing limits. Unfortunately, one crazy night leads to a morning of waking up in an almost stranger’s yard with a sprained ankle. Completely destitute Lilly is taken in by Betty Ruth Burnside and her reluctant son Cullen.

Cullen Burnside has his own issues to deal with. Disfigured in the war and wealthy with no sense of purpose he is valiantly caring for his forgetful mother. He’s also nursing his own wounds. He finds Lilly to be annoying, confusing, and obnoxious. When he makes the decision to return Lilly to her mother up north a journey begins that will keep you guessing and chuckling at every turn.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing of all in this book is the transformation that happens in both Lilly and Cullen. You truly see Lilly have an encounter with Jesus and her life changes as a result. Cullen too grows and changes in the most unique ways.

I found this book to be engrossing. I loved the era, I loved the baseball aspect (yep, you’ll have to read to find that out), I thought Betty Ruth was precious, and I loved how Jesus’ transforming work was evident throughout. You’ll love this one!

Rating: pg-13 for adult content

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Foolish Heart

My Foolish Heart
By: Susan May Warren

After the last Susan May Warren book I read I have to admit I was not as excited to receive this book in order to review. However, I had no need to worry. Warren is back and she's better than ever!

Isadora Presley runs a late night talk radio show called “Miss Foolish Heart” and dishes out sage advice on falling in love and dating. The only problem? She’s never actually done either. Traumatized by a tragic accident two years before that left her mother dead in her arms and her football coach father in a nursing home, Issy is bound by fear and is trapped in her own home and garden. She’s afraid to push her boundaries and venture out into the world. Her best friend Lucy (the local donut shop girl), who always does the right thing, helps to take care of her. Lucy’s own life is predictable and slightly monotonous, until the boy who broke her heart in high school comes back to town to try to earn his right to coach the hometown football team. With Seb’s reappearance, Lucy’s life becomes a little more complicated as she battles regrets from the past with her hope to rekindle a relationship with Seb in the future.

Enter BoyNextDoor, a caller on Issy's show and coincidentally enough her new neighbor. Caleb is the new football coach in town and he's also hiding a secret of his own. His visible scars don't begin to show the extent of his inner scars. Bonding over a naughty dog, a fence, and spaghetti Caleb begins to reach out to Issy. Unbeknownst to Issy the advice she's giving to caller BoyNextDoor is all intended for her. 

Caleb and Seb are both given a chance at coaching the football team, all leading up to a scrimmage. The football side of the story is just as fun as the romantic side. Who will end up coaching? Will Issy ever be able to break free? And what's going to happen to World's Best Donuts? So many questions that you'll just have to read the book to answer. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Warren writes with the charm that first won me over years ago. Her idyllic setting in a lake town in northern Minnesota will almost make you forget the massive mosquitoes, the eight months of winter, and the cold in July that is authentic Minnesota.  The characters are engaging and relateable. At times the story seems a bit contrived but let's face it, sometimes that's exactly what makes a story oh so good. 

Thank you to Tyndale Publishing House for sending me a copy of this book for review purposes. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads- Dr. Kenneth Ryan

Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: non-fiction, family & relationships, love & romance
Publisher: WinePress Publishing
Date: 2011

Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads. If a title like that doesn’t catch your attention than I don’t know what will! When I first received my copy of this book I was immediately intrigued. I have taught Bible studies for years  to junior high and high school girls about staying sexually pure. Beyond that I’ve counseled girls for years that just do not seem to be able to get it when it comes to finding a quality guy to date and eventually marry. I opened the book with great anticipation.

The book has an astounding 86 chapters, some only a page long. Dr. Ryan writes with a very upfront attitude. He starts out by defining what a prince is and what a toad is. The interspersed drawings of said toad made me laugh out loud. Ryan says it like it is which I thoroughly appreciated it. At times the books seems a bit choppy as he jumps from one subject to the next.

Ryan does a great job of promoting the use of logic and rationale in making a future mate decision. The book is clearly written for a general audience so if you are looking for Biblical backing for those decisions you won’t find it. However, there is a wonderful grain of God’s truth throughout.

Quite a bit of the book focuses on sex and Ryan speaks very bluntly about it. He does a great job of portraying the distinct differences between how men and women view sex. It is one of the best I have read. He also does a good job of spelling out the slippery slope that can quickly be fallen down when one starts dancing around sexual activity. His guidelines for guarding against that slope are excellent. 

Ryan does a great job of laying out facts and practical ideas for finding a prince. However, once he starts helping with dating the book goes downhill. His guidelines are quite subjective and in many cases I found them to be misleading. I would read that part of the book with a grain of salt.

All in all this was really an excellent book. An easy read with humor sprinkled throughout. I could definitely see myself using this book for a Bible study, although I would need to gather Biblical facts to coincide with the book. Practical and a must-read for the girl who has spent too much time chasing those nasty toads.

Rated: PG-13  for blunt sexual content

Angel Sister- Ann Gabhart

Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart
Review by: Melissa J. MacDonald
Genre: historical fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date: February 2011

Middle daughter Kate Merrit is doing her best to keep her family together. Growing up in Kentucky in  1936, life is hard. Her father is struggling with alcoholism, her mother is just trying to keep going, and her sisters seem oblivious to everything. In one quiet yet shocking moment an abandoned little girl changes everything. Lorena Birdsong is left on the doorsteps of the local church by a destitute family. Kate finds her and takes her home to mama. Slowly but surely Lorena and her story changes the Merrit family.

Perspectives switch throughout the book. We get gritty Kate’s perspective as she deals with all of the changes in her family. Kate’s father Victor lets us into his world of pain as he deals with a painful past and his current struggle with alcoholism. Kate’s mother Nadine’s  perspective shows us a wife who’s heart is breaking with both love and pain for her husband.

This is one of those books that you just have to read to truly enjoy. It starts out slowly but if you stick with it you will find it has a wonderful depth to it. The slowness is needed in order for you to fully enter into the story. Lorena is completely charming and she’ll steal your heart away. Gabhart writes with unbridled emotion and as the reader you truly feel all that the characters are feeling.

Rampant with the theme of love and forgiveness this book will slowly but surely steal you away. Take the time to immerse yourself in it and walk away change for the better.

Thank you to Revell Publishing for providing a copy of this book for review.
Rated: PG- for content
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