Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: After All by Deborah Raney

After All is the third book in the Hanover Falls trilogy by Deborah Raney. I have read and reviewed the second one and, although I didn't give it a five-star rating (I gave it four), I still recommended it. I would do the same with this one. It is a satisfying end to the series and I think most readers of this type of fiction will enjoy it.

I liked how Mrs. Raney wrote about characters who seemed very real and who struggled with real issues, not just things like "should I ask her out?" or "could I ever love again?". There could have been more fullness to the plot (such as background on the characters - it helps if you haven't read the first two books), but I know you can't put in everything and stay within the word count of your book. Perhaps writers should try writing more single ("stand-alone") books so that readers can get the full story at once and not have to wait for all the books of the series to come out. It is rather frustrating!

I give After All 4 out of 5 stars.

Description of the book from the publisher:

"Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband, David, and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal.

But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave.

A secret that changes everything she thought their marriage had been.

For the sake of their sons, can Susan forgive the unforgivable?

Andrea Morley lost her closest friend in the fire. But she has no right to mourn him. Instead, she must forever grieve in silence—because her dearest friend was someone else’s husband. Peter Brennan carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Hanover Falls’ fire chief, he was responsible for the brave firefighters who lost their lives that awful November night.

Can he ever shake the feeling that he should have somehow prevented the tragedy?

As he tries to rebuild the team at Clemens County’s Station 2, it seems he might find comfort in the arms of the woman he least expected."


DEBORAH RANEY is bestselling novelist whose books have garnered multiple industry awards including the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel from Excellence in Media, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. The novel inspired the highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer's families and caregivers. Deborah is on faculty for several national writers' conferences and serves on the advisory board of the 2500-member American Christian Fiction Writers organization. She has written more than 20 novels, and her recent Hanover Falls Novels series is published by Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas.

(I received this book from Glass Road Media for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

From the publisher's website:

When the Smoke Clears, Lynette Eason, 978-0-8007-2007-0After a brush with death due to equipment failure, smokejumper Alexia Allen is ordered to take time off while the incident is under investigation. She makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother's home and attend her high school reunion. Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she is confronted with murder, arson--and a handsome detective.

But the conflicts ahead are nothing compared to the ghosts of her past. As she struggles to accept and forgive her family's past, she must also decide if the secret she's been guarding for the last ten years must finally come to light.

Chock-full of the suspense and romantic tension you've come to expect from Lynette Eason, When the Smoke Clears is the explosive first book in the Deadly Reunions series.

My thoughts: I have loved every book that I have read by Lynette Eason. She really knows how to engage a reader and build suspense throughout her stories. When I get one of her books, I wnat uninterrupted time to read it all the way through (although I never get that chance!).

When the Smoke Clears is a great read for anyone who loves clean, well-written suspense novels that you wouldn't mind your teen reading. I'm sure my copy will find its way into the hands of my 17-year-old daughter soon!

I give When the Smoke Clears 5 out of 5 stars!

(I received this book from Revell for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Book Review: Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr

 Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr is the fourth book in the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, medieval surgeon and detective. 

Although this is part of a series, I didn't feel like I missed anything by not having read the first three. However, it did make me want to read the others so I could get more of the story of Hugh and his wife. I am also looking forward to reading the fifth so I can find out what happens next (especially to the baby that Hugh's wife, Kate, is carrying).

Synopsis of the book from the publisher's website:

Thomas atte Bridge, a man no one likes, is found hanging from a tree near Cow-leys Corner. All assume he has taken his own life, but Master Hugh and Kate find evidence that this may not be so. Many of the town had been harmed by Thomas, and Hugh is not eager to send one of them to the gallows. Then he discovers that the priest John Kellet, atte Bridge's partner in crime in A CORPSE AT ST. ANDREW'S CHAPEL, was covertly in Bampton at the time atte Bridge died. Master Hugh is convinced that Kellet has murdered atte Bridge - one rogue slaughtering another. He sets out for Exeter, where Kellet now works. But there he discovers that the priest is an emaciated skeleton of a man, who mourns the folly of his past life. Hugh must return to Bampton and discover which of his friends has murdered his enemy ...

ISBN: 9780857210586
Published: 21st October 2011
Format: Paperback

Unhallowed Ground is a delightful mystery set in 14th century England. The main character, Hugh de Singleton, is a surgeon who is caught up in a murder mystery when the death of a rogue is discovered near Hugh's hometown. I enjoyed learning many medieval terms and the culture of this area during that time. I found the book a little hard to get into at the beginning, but I soon became swept into the story and didn't want to put the book down until I was finished.

I give Unhallowed Ground 4 1/2 out of 5 stars!

(I received this book from Kregel for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: Far From Here by Nicole Baart

I love to fly. Ever since I flew on a plane for the first time when I was 27, I have wanted to go everywhere by plane. The feeling of soaring above the clouds and the beautiful views of sunrises and sunsets have been such amazing experiences for me. It's funny to think that I am afraid of heights, yet I enjoy flying so much.

That's why I couldn't identify with the main character of this book, Far From Here, when it tells of how she is petrified of flying and doesn't want anything to do with her husband's airplanes or his dream of being a bush pilot in the wilds of Alaska.

After her husband, Etsell, goes on a trip to Alaska, Danica Greene receives a phone call telling her that her husband is missing. His plane disappears shortly after takeoff when he is on his last flight before going back home. For weeks, Danica doesn't know whether she is a widow or a wife abandoned by her husband.

Dani eventually learns that Etsell was not alone when he left the Alaskan airport. A woman had been with him and has also vanished.

The rest of the book is about how Dani struggles with the idea that her husband may have been unfaithful to her. The more she learns about what happened in the Alaskan wilderness, the more she must come to grips with who she really is and what she is going to do with the rest of her life.

The book also portrays her family as highly disfunctional, which adds a lot of color to the tale. I love her mother, even though I would probably want to strangle her even more than Dani does. And her sisters are women you just love to hate, yet at the same time I felt much pity for the whole bunch.

I enjoyed the book, but I felt like it had a weak ending. I would have liked to have a little more detail about what happened to Dani, her family, and her neighbor.

I give Far From Here 4 out of 5 stars!

(I received this book for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski

I wish I had The Gospel Story Bible when my children were younger. This book is helpful for those parents who want to give their children (and themselves!) a rich reading experience of the stories of God's holy plan of redemption found in the pages of Scripture.

When you read through this book, you will find the accounts of all the major characters of the Bible, including Daniel, Job, Samuel, etc. Each story is only one to two pages long, ideal for young (i.e., short!) attention spans. This book would be great to use for family devotions as well as individual reading pleasure.

The illustrations are vivid and the page backgrounds are comprised of different colors, making it visually appealing to children.

I think the only thing I do not like about this book is that they used the word "Bible" in the title, making it confusing for consumers to understand what this book actually is. It is not a Bible, but a book of Bible stories. The entire text of the Bible is not contained in this book. But that is a minor thing, and can be overlooked.

Over all, I really like this book of biblical stories. They follow the text of the Bible without commentary (which I think is important for young children to learn the truth of God's Word). And best of all, the gospel is mentioned in every one! What a way for the author to tie it all together.

I give The Gospel Story Bible 5 out of 5 stars!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

Chasing Mona Lisa is a new novel set in the time of the Second World War. It contains interesting history of that period in which the Nazis stole thousands of paintings and other works of art from the countries that they invaded. In order to protect their valuable artwork, the curators of the Louvre packed up many of them and hid them away in chateaux across the country.

An interesting article describes what happened to the Mona Lisa during this time: "On the eve of World War II, curators at the Louvre swathed the museum's most priceless painting — the Mona Lisa— in layers of waterproof paper, boxed it up and spirited it to the French countryside for safekeeping. Leonardo da Vinci's smiling maiden moved another five times during the war before she was brought, safe and sound, back to the Louvre."

The novel picks up in 1942, telling the fictional account of the attempt to steal the Mona Lisa from the chateau where it had been taken. The main characters, Eric Hofstadler and Gabi Mueller, are Swiss citizens who are working as secret agents for the OSS, sent to help the citizens of Paris after the Liberation. They meet Bernard Rousseau, a member of the French Resistance, and Colette Perriard, a curator at the Louvre. After much confusion and danger, together the foursome go to the chateau and recover the Mona Lisa and return it to its rightful place. 
Although that is the basic plot of the book, many other subplots occur and keep Chasing Mona Lisa from becoming stale. On the contrary, this is a fast-paced book which holds the attention of the reader and makes for a very enjoyable read. I didn't want it to end. 
One piece of history that I discovered while reading this book is that much of the artwork "remained sealed in their boxes, but curators worried about the conditions of the Mona Lisa and took the painting out of its box.

'It was stored in a bedroom so that there would always be someone with her," said Fonkenell. "There were people who slept with Mona Lisa in their bedroom.'"

I love to learn history through the reading of fiction! (As long as I know which is which! :))

Authors Goyer and Yorkey are a talented duo. I highly recommend this book.
I give Chasing Mona Lisa 4 1/2 out of 5 stars!
(Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Small Space Organizing by Kathryn Bechen

I have struggled for almost 11 years to organize my home here in Tennessee. We have had seven people living in a 1500 sq. ft. house. I know that's a lot of space for many people in this world, but when you are used to having more space per person, it can be difficult finding room for everyone and all their "stuff".

I have been amazed at how some of my friends have managed to live in such small spaces. For example, I visited one of my husband's cousins once and she and her husband and daughter live in an RV. She showed me how she puts a lot of her things in plastic containers and simply doesn't buy much because she doesn't have room for anything "extra". She cannot buy books (YIKES!) and goes to the grocery store almost daily because she can't store much food at one time.

This book, Small Space Organizing, is an extremely helpful one for people like me and my husband's cousin. It is chock full of useful tips for organizing small spaces such as loft and basement apartments, beach cottages and high-rise condos, and even includes tips for those who live in one room. There are ideas for how to use furniture for multiple needs and what to do when you have overnight guests in order to make them feel at home without stressing yourself out. 

I have found many ideas in this book that I can implement right away. I think it will be a good tool to have handy whenever I need more help with my little home. I will be using this book for a long while!

This book is great for people who are downsizing their living spaces as well as those who, like me, simply need to learn to live in the small spaces we already have.
(There are many other tips plus photos at the author's blog.)

I give Small Space Organizing 5 out of 5 stars!

(I received this book from Revell for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Kathryn Bechen is an award-winning professional writer whose articles have appeared in popular national and regional magazines and newspapers. She specializes in lifestyle feature articles and has also published several organizing and decorating e-books. The lifestyle companies she founded, Organized with Ease and Kathryn Bechen Designs, have served clients worldwide. Kathryn has organized and decorated 13 personal small space residences together with her husband Steve, and they currently live in their favorite small space ever: a 1,200-square-foot high-rise apartment in beautiful San Diego, California. She blogs about timely lifestyle topics at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Keeper by Suzanne Woods Fisher (and an iPad giveaway!)

This is a new series from Suzanne Woods Fisher. I like how she writes about the Amish people in a way that is believable as well as entertaining. I'm sure the next books in the series will be as good.

About The Keeper:

Can Julia secure the future she’s always dreamed of? Or does God have something else in mind? 4 Stars from Romantic Times, “The Stoney Ridge Season starts off with characters who are trying to make the right choices, but sometimes with unexpected results. Fisher always brings freshness to her Amish novels. The Amish culture is interesting to read and learn about, but there is also a message: God has plans and those plans may vary greatly from the plans you have”.

I can identify with Julia, the main character in this book. When I read how she was rejected by her soon-to-be husband, Paul, I remembered the day I was hurt by an old boyfriend I had one summer many years ago. I, too, began to think of ways I could win him back. I soon realized, however, that I was better off without him. And, as in Julia's case, I learned many lessons about love along the way.

There's more to this book than your usual romance and sweet family life. There's also tragedy, life-changing struggles, and redemption. The plot is a good one because of these many facets. Mrs. Fisher's books keep getting better and better.

I give The Keeper 4 1/2 stars!

(By the way, just like Julia, my story has a happy ending: after accepting the fact that my former boyfriend was not the one for me, I met and eventually married my husband of 30 years!)

(I received this book from Revell for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

About the author:

Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles—simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily— into your life.

When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne’s way of thinking, you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth. Suzanne can be found on-line at:


The Keeper is in stores now and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting a “Honey” of a Giveaway and a fabulous FB Party (1/17).

*During the giveaway one Grand Prize Winner will receive a Prize Pack (valued at $600):

* A brand new 16 KB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
* A $25 gift certificate to iTunes
* A copy of The Keeper

Then on 1/17 join Suzanne for The Keeper FB Party at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST, 8:00 EST)!

During the party Suzanne will announce the winner of the “Honey” of an iPad Giveaway and host a fun book chat and give away some fun “honey” inspired prizes – It’ll be ’sweet"! RSVP early and tell your friends!

The iPad giveaway:
Running now until January 17th

The Facebook Party:
Party is on January 17th, and the winner of the prize package will be announced there.
Be sure and enter today!