Friday, May 24, 2024

The Song of Sourwood Mountain by Ann H Gabhart - REVIEWED


 About the Book:

The doors she thought were closed forever are starting to open up . . . just a crack

Though the century began with such promise, it is 1910 when Mira Dean's hopes of being a wife and mother are dashed to pieces. Her fiancé dead from tuberculosis, Mira resigns herself to being a spinster schoolteacher--until Gordon Covington shows up.

 No longer the boy she knew from school, Gordon is now a preacher who is full of surprises. First, he asks Mira to come to Sourwood in Eastern Kentucky to teach at his mission school. Second, he asks her to marry him. Just like that. 

With much trepidation, Mira steps out in faith into a life she never imagined, in a place filled with its own special challenges, to serve a people who just might end up becoming the family she always yearned for.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes sorrow and joy could shoe up at the same time in a person’s life.” (p 282)

Ann Gabhart’s character, Mira Dean, gets introduces into your heart already struggling with this emotional dichotomy.  In 1910, if you weren’t married young, had a job you loved you were old-maid material still subject to second-class treatment by men.  Mira had suffered an untimely loss, was settled into her only life-choice, teaching  - until she wasn’t.  A series of events over a period of a few short days finds her seemingly impossible circumstances!

Mira finds herself taking marriage vows to a complete stranger in a town with a stranger name – Sourwood.  Just like that, she’s married to a preacher of a mission in the middle of the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  I have to say, right off the bat, that I’d never have been strong enough to make that move! After her wedding night, I’d have been on the first train or buggy out of there!!

However, Ann Gabhart’s characters are so believably real and brave, I found myself reading faster and faster to discover what would happen next!  Mira turns out to be one of a host of characters to open up your heart in this tender story.  Like the quote I opened with, these characters weave their days together through both joy and sorrow, and I experienced it all – right alongside them!

I’m pretty sure I loved Gordon long before Mira, and the folks of Sourwood won my heart soon after!  I love a book that literally takes me away for hours! If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love The Song of Sourwood Mountain!

About the Author:


Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of many novels, including In the Shadow of the RiverWhen the Meadow Blooms, Along a Storied TrailAn Appalachian SummerRiver to RedemptionThese Healing Hills, and Angel Sister. She and her husband live on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm's fields and woods with her grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley. Learn more at AnnHGabhart.com.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Warsaw Sisters by Amanda Barratt REVIEWED


 About the Book: 

A richly rendered portrait of courage, sacrifice, and resilience

On a golden August morning in 1939, sisters Antonina and Helena Dąbrowska send their father off to defend Poland against the looming threat of German invasion. The next day, the first bombs fall on Warsaw, decimating their beloved city and shattering the world of their youth.

When Antonina's beloved Marek is forced behind ghetto walls, along with the rest of Warsaw's Jewish population, Antonina knows she cannot stand by and soon becomes a key figure in a daring network of women risking their lives to shelter Jewish children. Meanwhile, Helena finds herself drawn into the ranks of Poland's secret army, joining the fight to free her homeland from occupation.

But the secrets both are forced to keep threaten to tear them apart--and the cost of resistance may prove greater than either ever imagined.

My Thoughts:

"So faith is all that is left to us, then."  (p. 321)

When I reached the end of this novel, I could feel the gut punch of trauma and loss in my heart and soul.  I could feel the lost desperation that Helena felt in that moment as her heart broke open under the weight of battle and loss and hopelessness.  This novel revealed a battle within a battle that I was unaware existed in the broader scope of WWII.  The author tells the story from the viewpoint of two sisters who, unaware of what the other chooses in the heat of battle, decide to fight for their home with the heroic bravery that breaks the reader's heart over and over again.

War makes heroes out of ordinary people, and rips heroes out of our hearts and into eternity before we are able to comprehend the loss. Antonina and Helena are very close as sisters before ward comes to their homeland.  Antonina chooses to become involved in the war effort for very different reasons that Helena, but, over time and as the war intensifies, their love for each other bears them up under excruciating circumstances.  That anyone survived this experience is a miracle, and the survival of these sisters is something very tenuous...and I won't reveal anything more.

This book is a beautiful tribute to heroes that I never knew existed. My hopes and dreams for the future was and is strengthened after reading this story. I can't encourage you strongly enough to add this to your reading list!  You won't regret it, and you'll probably feel compelled to share it with others!  I did! 


About the Author:


Amanda Barratt is the bestselling author of numerous historical novels and novellas, including The White Rose Resists (a 2021 Christy Award winner) and Within These Walls of Sorrow. She is passionate about illuminating oft-forgotten facets of history through a fictional narrative. Amanda lives in Michigan. Learn more at AmandaBarratt.net.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

On Moonberry Lake by Holly Varni REVIEWED


 About the Book:

Cora Matthews's life is a mess. A broken engagement and the unexpected death of her mother have left her wondering if things will ever return to normal. Whatever "normal" is.

It certainly isn't what she finds at Moonberry Lake. After she receives her family's dilapidated lakefront lodge as an inheritance--with a surprising condition attached--Cora finds her life overrun by a parade of eccentric neighbors who all have something to say and something to teach her.

As Cora works to put her life back together, she must decide if she is willing to let go of the past, open her heart to love, and embrace the craziest version of family and home she could ever have imagined.

My Thoughts:

"It was amazing how, in stepping out of her comfort zone and getting to know people who live a bit "outside the box," she was discovering a new self.  A better self." (p 229)

This book was such a delight in so many ways, because it took ME outside my box, and helped me reach out to others in a new way!  It was such an unexpected experience!  Cora Matthews' go to answer when life because overwhelming was to leave the situation.  Life intervened in a very unusual way, and brought Cora into a community and circumstance that was almost more overwhelming than the situation she was running from!  Confused?  Don't be!

Instead, pick up this delightful, thoughtfully written book - a book filled with the most eclectic bunch of characters - and enjoy the story as it unfolds!   The character development is believable, the circumstances difficult at times, and the growth you'll experience right along with the characters in the story will surprise and satisfy you!  I had a hard time putting this book down, because I came to care about Cora and her community.  

This is not unlike some of my own life experiences, and I left these pages encouraged to embrace my own unique friendships and circumstances and lean into them for all of the hope, strength and joy they bring to my life!  Moonberry Lake exists in each of our lives in some manner, and I challenge you to enjoy this story and use it as a doorway to enter fully into your own life in with a deeper sense of gratitude and purpose! 


About the Author:

Holly Varni is a native Minnesotan of strong Norwegian descent, who was raised in the Lutheran Church that Garrison Keillor made a career depicting. Between the lutefisk, grumpy grandparents, and crazy neighbors who mowed their lawn wearing pajamas, the seed to becoming a storyteller was planted. Though she, her husband, and their three sons live along the Central Coast of California, her beloved Midwest roots continue to haunt everything she writes. She hosts the Moments from Moonberry Lake podcast where she shares more stories of her beloved characters. Learn more at www.hollyvarni.com.


Monday, September 4, 2023

He Should Have Told the Bees by Amanda Cox REVIEWED


About the Book: 

Beekeeper Beckett Walsh was living her dream, until her father's death sent her world into a tailspin. She suddenly finds she must deal with a new part owner of the family apiary--one who is looking to sell the property--and she cannot fathom why her father would put her in the position to lose everything they built together.

When Callie Peterson is named in the trust of a man she's never heard of, she's not sure what to do. Her fledgling business has just taken wing and her mother has reentered her life asking for help, making Callie's financial situation rather . . . precarious. She's sure she has no right to someone else's farm, but the money from the sale could solve her problems and give her the stability she's always craved.

With an entangled past behind them and an uncertain future ahead, Beckett and Callie must discover why they've been thrown together before all is lost. 


My Review:

"While there are some pungent smells, it smells like life here.  I don't know how to explain it, but it's different."  (p. 149)

When Callie spoke these words to Beckett, she never dreamed how truth laden those words would turn out to be!  I came to love and appreciate both young women in this novel, as well as the cast of characters that Amanda Cox uses to tell their story.  I never dreamed that this novel would tell the story that it did, and that it would impact my own life story is such a meaningful way!

Both Callie and Beckett struggle with having to share their lives with someone suddenly thrust into it by Samuel Walsh's untimely death.  As the story unfolds, each character presents her own unique circumstances that pull at your heart strings.  Neither of these young women have had an easy life experience, and when sorting through grief and loss - from very different standpoints - it was hard to imagine that any of this would or could end well.

Amanda Cox threw a few red herrings along the way that kept me guessing, and, once revealed, keep me reading!  There are many layers to this story, and if you skip any of it, you'll be so sorry you missed the journey!  Callie and Beckett couldn't be more different, but the similarities of what they long for in life are beautifully and almost prophetically captured in Callie's fist impression of Walsh Farm.  It did smell like life to her, but she could have never dreamed how much healing those sights and sounds would bring to her life!

I encourage you to make time for this story in your life!  The novel is beautifully written, and you'll be thinking of the characters long after you read the final words!  You'll learn a lot about bees, the human heart, and how God weaves it all together in unimaginable ways!  Happy reading!

About the Author:


Amanda Cox is the author of The Edge of Belonging and The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, both of which were the Christy Award Book of the Year in 2021 and 2022, respectively. She holds a bachelor's degree in Bible and theology and a master's degree in professional counseling, but her first love is communicating through story. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their three children. Learn more at AmandaCoxWrites.com.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee REVIEWED


 About the Book:

Inspired by true stories, The Long March Home is a gripping coming-of-age tale of friendship, sacrifice, and the power of unrelenting hope.

Jimmy Propfield joined the army for two reasons: to get out of Mobile, Alabama, with his best friends Hank and Billy and to forget his high school sweetheart, Claire.

Life in the Philippines seems like paradise--until the morning of December 8, 1941, when news comes from Manila: Imperial Japan has bombed Pearl Harbor. Within hours, the teenage friends are plunged into war as enemy warplanes attack Luzon, beginning a battle for control of the Pacific theater that will culminate with a last stand on the Bataan Peninsula and end with the largest surrender of American troops in history.

What follows will become known as one of the worst atrocities in modern warfare: the Bataan Death March. With no hope of rescue, the three friends vow to make it back home together. But the ordeal is only the beginning of their nearly four-year fight to survive.

My Thoughts:

"If we have to run - if we have to swim off this island - we're getting through this.  The three of us - all home alive.  that's our only aim from here on out"  (p. 131)

The Philippines is not a typical location that comes to mind when you think of WW II.  Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee have made sure I will never forget the price many men paid to defend our country - to bravely defend each other - and fight for years to survive the most horrific circumstances imaginable.  Yes, I said years.  Prisoners of war were captured and held for years in the Philippines!

The Bataan Death March has been carefully woven throughout the life story of three young me - Jimmy, Hank and Billy - all from Mobile, Alabama.  This is a coming of age story like none I've ever read, and, I must be honest, it was a hard read. This story brought to lives of these three young men to vivid reality - their hearts filled with such life despite many personal challenges!  They did what so many did during the early 40's and served their country - never imagining what horror war would hold.

Honestly, it was only because the life experiences were interwoven so skillfully between the brutality of war, that I was able to keep reading.  This story wrapped my heart around the three main characters and then ripped it out! This is an unforgettable story in every sense of the word!  You will laugh, you will cry, and you will leave its pages forever changed! I am happy to recommend this book to everyone who reads!! 

About the Authors:


Marcus Brotherton is the New York TimesUSA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books that have been called "fascinating," "brilliantly arranged," "magical," and "refreshingly frank."





Tosca Lee is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 novels, including The Line Between, The Progeny, The Legend of Sheba, and Iscariot. Lee's work has been praised as "deeply human," "powerful," and "mind-bending historical fiction."




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Saturday, April 1, 2023

After The Shadows by Amada Cabot REVIEWED

About the Book:

A brighter future awaits--if she can escape the shadows of the past

Emily Leland sheds no tears when her abusive husband is killed in a bar fight, but what awaits her back home in Sweetwater Crossing is far from the welcome and comfort she expected. First she discovers her father has died under mysterious circumstances. Then the house where the handsome new schoolteacher, Craig Ferguson, and his son are supposed to board burns, leaving them homeless. When Emily proposes turning the family home into a boardinghouse, her sister is so incensed that she leaves town.

Alone and broke, her family name sullied by controversy, Emily is determined to solve the mystery of her father's death--and to aid Craig, despite her fears of men. The widowed schoolmaster proves to be a devoted father, an innovative teacher, and an unexpected ally. As they work to uncover the truth, they just may find the key to unlock a future neither could have imagined.

My Thoughts:

"I'm trying to protect you," she said.  (p. 289)

This one, five-word sentence, encapsulates so much about the nuances of this story!  Amanda Cabot is one of my favorite authors simply because she seamlessly weaves multiple story lines together that it takes your breath away when everything comes together!  

When I first started to read this novel, I thought I knew the direction it would take based solely on the relationships with the main family -  Emily Leland and her sisters - and their relationship with the community of Sweetwater Crossing.  That, in itself, was going to be a great read. However, Cabot takes that one thread and weaves in in and out among the life of a grieving widower and his son, the drama of mysterious circumstances around the death of Emily's father, a new pastor coming to town to name just a few!  Everyone in this town is keeping secrets, and that fact alone keeps them blind to a very dangerous presence in their midst!

I could not put this book down!  Every time I thought I was close to figuring out what was going on, Cabot would throw something else in and I'd go off in another direction!  The bottom line is that this novel kept me entertained from first page to last, dealt realistically with timeless issues that need never be hidden, and weaves everything together in a believable and heart-tugging way that will cause you to pause and remember the folks in your own life that are real and truly life-giving.

Thank you, Amanda Cabot, for such a GREAT novel!  I anxiously await the next! 


About the Author: 


Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of After the Shadows, as well as several historical and contemporary romance series, including Mesquite Springs, Cimarron Creek Trilogy, Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers' Best. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at www.amandacabot.com.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz REVIEWED


About the Book:

In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Blythe quietly awaits the crowning of a new king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.

No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with her maid in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.

In this whirlwind of intrigue, ambitions, and shifting alliances, Blythe yearns for someone she can trust. But the same forces that draw her and Everard together also threaten to tear them apart.

My Thoughts:

"Lady Hedley would nae more agree to wed me than she would the pirate Blackbeard" (p. 186)

Everard Hume becomes Lord Welderburn upon the death of his father, but Lady Blythe Headley sees naught but a prison guard keeping her locked away from life and liberty.  However, the fact that her own father has placed her in hiding for her safety keeps her willing to stay on in a Scottsman's castle. She remains in willful denial that a war between Catholic Jacobites and Protestants bode ill for all that brush up against its growing tumult - up until it explodes into her own life!

Lady Blythe's world is abruptly upended, so I found it easy to believe she would barely tolerate being hidden away from the world for long.  A learned scholar in her own right, her mind is quick to intuit ways to break out of her imposed solitude.  Once she does, she wins the hearts of all she meets - with the lone exception of the traitor among the family.

This novel moves believably and rapidly from scene to scene - chapter to chapter! Lovers of historic fiction/romance will literally devour this book!  Everard and Blythe are the perfect focal point of the story, and their relationship unfolds as tempestuously as the rebellion building in the world around them.  Orin, one of Everard's many brothers, makes a sweet counterpoint to all the mystery and intrigue that swirls about him!  Laura Franz never ceases to amaze me!! Bravo!!


About the Author:


Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Lacemaker, and A Heart Adrift. She is a proud mom of an American soldier and a career firefighter. A direct descendent of George Hume of Wedderburn Castle, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion, Laura lives with her husband in Washington State. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.