Audiobook Review: The Hiding Place

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom, John Sherill, Elizabeth Sherill Dunne
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: October 1974
Length: 242 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Christian

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.

Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp. The Hiding Place is their story.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Bernadette Dunn
Publisher: christianaudio.com
Release Date: July 2009
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins

The narration was beautiful. It was easy to follow and Dunn has a pleasing voice with a slightly husky tone.

Corrie ten Boom lives in Holland with her elderly father and spinster sister. Corrie herself is approaching 50, and all three of the ten Booms are watchmakers, working in the family store. They are kind and compassionate people with their lives steeped in their strong faith, which are the foundations of their life.

When the war breaks out, they soon find their Jewish friends in desperate need. The ten Booms do all in their power to assist them. They have a secret room in their house constructed to conceal a hiding space. They get connected with others out in the countryside to funnel Jews through and away from their oppression and imminent arrest. Soon the ten Boom’s storefront becomes Grand Central Station of the Underground in Holland. Not only do the ten Booms board and care for their friends, and soon complete strangers, they also find them safe passage, send messages on their behalf, obtain new identity papers for them, and set them up with ration books for when they are on their own in the future. Through their hard work and efforts smuggling Jews out of the country and Nazi occupation, the ten Booms save over 800 Jewish men, women, and children.

They stick their necks out, make their home a safe haven, and risk everything. Eventually, they are betrayed, and the ten Booms wind up in prison for a few months. She is separated from her father and her sister Betsy. Later she is transferred to the Vught Concentration Camp, and finally, lands in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She also falls quite ill during her imprisonment.

This is a recounting of Corrie’s of her days during the war. It is written decades afterward with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Corrie’s entrenchment in faith in the Lord is what she testifies her strength, deliverance, and life upon. It is a moving and heartfelt story. Despite the highly religious tones, it wasn’t preachy. However, I did listen to Corrie’s accounts with a grain of salt. While this is her first-hand accounting, it is 20 some-odd years later and written with the aid of two individuals not present at the time. Further, the logic of the book is that all of Corrie’s courage and bravery and strength are only gifts from God, which are later taken back and she is left without any strength of character. In times of great fear is when we falter and find it an insurmountable mountain to scrounge up strength, courage, or bravery. I don’t believe Corrie ever had hers “gifted” by God, but simply gave in to the natural depths of humanity.

A read everyone should share in, Corrie’s story of faith, forgiveness, humility, and loyalty are hallmarks the world is needing today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born: April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam
Died: April 15, 1983

Corrie ten Boom and her family were Christians who were active in social work in their home town of Haarlem, the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation, they chose to act out their faith through peaceful resistance to the Nazis by active participation in the Dutch underground. They were hiding, feeding and transporting Jews and underground members hunted by the Gestapo out of the country. It is estimated they were able to save the lives of 800 Jews, in addition to protecting underground workers.

On Feb. 28, 1944, they were betrayed and Corrie and several relatives were arrested. The four Jews and two underground workers in the house at the time of the arrest were not located by the Nazis and were extricated by the underground 47 hours after they fled to the tiny hiding place (located in Corrie’s room).

The ten Boom family members were separated and transferred to concentration camps. Corrie was allowed to stay with her precious sister, Betsy. Corrie’s father (Casper), her sister (Betsy) and one grandchild (Kik) perished. Corrie was released in December of 1944.

These acts of heroism and sacrifice became the foundation for Corrie ten Boom’s global writing and speaking career which began after she was released.

Ten Boom has received numerous awards for her writing and speaking. Notably, she was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people by being invited to plant a tree in the famous Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, near Jerusalem. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

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Review: On Lone Star Trail

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: On Lone Star Trail
Author: Amanda Cabot
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: February 2016
Length: 363 pages
Series?: Texas Crossroads #3
Genre: Christian, Contemporary, Romance

If there’s one thing Gillian Hodge never wants to see again, it’s a man on a motorcycle. Her last encounter with one left her right hand crushed, ending her promising career as a concert pianist. But as she heads to Rainbow’s End Resort, a sudden thunderstorm causes a motorcycle to crash in front of her.

When TJ Benjamin’s wife died, he lost more than his best friend; he lost his faith. He’s spent the past year wandering the country on a motorcycle, trying not to think about his future. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God’s sense of humor.

Can this woman without a future and this man running from his past find romance in the present? Or are they too tied to the way life used to be?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

Gillian Hodges is left reeling and lost after a motorcycle accident that ended her career as an award-winning concert pianist. After months of therapy, there is no recovering what she once had. Struggling at this crossroads in her life with her fire-breathing father on her case, she travels to take refuge with her friend, Kate, at Rainbow’s End Resort in the Texas Hill Country town of Dupree.

On the windy country backroads to the small town of Dupree, Gillian’s worst fears are again realized as TJ Benjamin’s red motorcycle collides with her vehicle and runs off the roadway. She takes TJ to Rainbow’s End where Kate and her husband offer generous hospitality to TJ as he waits for repairs to his bike. In exchange, TJ is tasked with entertaining the kids living in Firefly Valley, victims of fire now living in an RV park. For TJ, the irony is obvious. A former teacher and “RV Reverand”, he has spent the year traveling and fulfilling his late wife’s bucket list after abandoning his faith. While forging bonds with the Firefly teens with Gillian’s help, they slowly develop their own friendship. Gillian teaches the girls about makeup and fashion, and TJ works with the boys. They become adult confidants and role models for this group of teens.

Gillian and TJ aren’t the only newcomers to town. Pete Darlington came to town with the construction crew helping build new apartments for the Firefly Valley residents. Mike Tarkett is a very influential man with strong family support and political aspirations from a nearby town. Both men have set their sights on two women in Dupree, creating two parallel love triangles. Firefly teens Todd and Brianna have a good thing going until Briana and Pete catch sight of one another. It’s infatuation for one. Mike takes to Gillian from the moment he steps foot onto Rainbow End and whisks her into the socialite life she led before. For TJ, both of these budding relationships proves troublesome. He’s grown to enjoy the companionship and discussions with Gillian, and he’s looking out for Brianna.

While she grapples with where to go from here, Gillian finds she is good at helping others: Brianna and the girls from Firefly Valley, the local bookstore owner needing additional help, and listening to the senior citizens of the town. Gillian decides to do something more permanent in Dupree by starting a senior center. TJ accepts the temporary teaching position at the high school. Mike sets his sights on becoming the mayor of his city. Things become more complicated as Gillian and Mike’s relationship progresses, and Gillian and TJ’s friendship hits the rocks.

Gillian and TJ are both in the same place, staggering to find their next step in life while staying around in Dupree. They’re taking the struggle together, neither knowing what they want, and both finding their faith. The characters are all relatable and I was on the edge needing to know who Gillian would pick. All of them have their own struggle, and they were realistic situations that made the characters more endearing and heartfelt. This is a great read for those who enjoy Christian faith novels. It is the third and final book in the series but can be read as a standalone, which I did.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With both parents avid readers, it’s no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she’s sold more than thirty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and – of course – reading.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter 

Review: Blue Like Elvis

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Blue Like Elvis
Author: Diane Moody
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Release Date: March 2012
Length: 370 pages
Series?: Moody Blue #2
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance

Do you remember where you were the day Elvis died?
I do. I know exactly where I was.
I was there.

In the spring of 1977, Shelby Colter moved back to Memphis, Tennessee hoping to make a fresh start after breaking off her engagement. Working as a patient representative hostess at Baptist Memorial Hospital–the world’s largest private hospital–she’s thrilled with her new job, assisting patients with their non-medical needs. She has to laugh at her colorful co-workers who constantly chat about Elvis-sightings. After all, Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital.”

Shelby hits the ground running, taking care of her patients, getting to know her new friends, and bumping into . . . Dr. Tucker Thompson? Who knew that annoying kid who used to hang out with her big brother was now a resident at Baptist Memorial Hospital? Little Chubby Tucker–a compassionate, handsome doctor?

As the summer rolls along, three people she loves face life-threatening situations, drawing Shelby back to her faith. And then one night, in a hospital prayer room, she pours out her heart to a most unexpected visitor . . .

Blue Like Elvis is loosely based on the author’s real-life experiences while working at Baptist Memorial Hospital in the summer of 1977. While most of the novel is fiction, the setting of Shelby’s adventures are based on the author’s memories of those days in Memphis leading up to that unforgettable day . . . the day Elvis died

Find the book: Goodreads Amazon

my review

The Skinny

After graduating college, Shelby moves back to Memphis to start over after breaking off her engagement. It’s the summer of 1977 and her college roommate helps her land a job at Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess.” The hostess team operates similarly to stewardesses. They attend to non-medical needs of the patients by visiting them, running errands, and anything else the patients may need. Shelby is particularly good at what she does and has a few constant patients whose stories impact her greatly.

The thing about BMH is that is the world’s largest private hospital. It is also Elvis’s hospital, Shelby soon learns. Whenever needed, Elvis takes over the 16th floor for one of his two-week “stays.” Shelby has had a few sightings of Elvis, but it isn’t until she grasps that he is in her hospital that she takes a particular interest in him, even sneaking her patient friend Donnie to see him, ending in a hilarous and heart-beating episode.

Her coworkers on the hostess team are young, Christian girls who like to chatter and flounder when the boss isn’t around. They are an interesting mix and fun-loving and playful. The contrast to their setting didn’t go unnoticed, and when Dr. Tucker Thompson takes an interest in striking a frienship with Shelby, there is nothing but talk. And confusion. This is Chubby Tucker – her brother’s best friend and boy from her childhood that picked on her. He was annoying and obnoxious. Now he’s handsome and kind. As all the girls try to push Shelby into a match, she must work things out on her own, take things slow, and focus on her faith.

 

The Players

Shelby Colter – a young girl fresh out of college; hired by Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess”

Tucker Thompson – the chubby kid who was friend to Shelby’s brother; he is now a doctor at BMH

 

Sandra Garcia – the feisty Puerto Rican in the hostess program with Shelby; they become friends and roommates

The Quote

 “That shy little girl I had to coax to sit on my knee? That was you?” His smile grew bigger.

The Highs and Lows

  • The Plot. The story is told as a flashback of memories. It opens with a young man seeking out the elderly Shelby to research the hostess program that was at Baptist Memorial Hospital, the largest private hospital in the world at its time. The hostess program worked very similar to attending stewardesses at the time. The young man wants to implement a similar program at his own hospital and gets swept up in Shelby’s stories that he wants to hear them all. Her past and Elvis’s final day unfold.
  • Elvis. You don’t have to be an Elvis fan to enjoy this story. I happen to be one thanks to the love my grandmother had for him. Growing up, when a certain aunt and uncle would come to visit, they would bring her an Elvis record. Elvis brought a change to the music industry and was an insane success. While the book never directly speaks to drug use, it only hints to that being rumors and what people said, and disregarded it as factual, but several times pointed out that Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital” for his “stays” to get back right with the world, like it is a retreat and not a hospital.  Elvis appeared a few times throughout the book, and I loved the way he would talk to the other characters. He wasn’t a big star, he was another person. It only increased my wish that I could have met Elvis, but that was another lifetime. Shelby really didn’t get the big Elvis draw, despite meeting him as a child and her father being “Cadillac Jack,” Elvis’s Caddy dealer. After working at the hospital for a time, she becomes interested in Elvis. His costumes to hide in plain sight were slightly comical, especially the final one toward the end.
  • Christian Overtones. I have made it a point before that I don’t read pushy religious material. While this is a very conscientious Christian book, it didn’t feel pushy. It just felt right for Shelby and her friends. Seeing the shaken foundation and the strength of their faith was rewarding and reassuring. The Singles Club is a group of young professionals at the church that host get-togethers and fellowship. There are some comedic moments with Pedro the Yellow Headed Amazon, the Killer Bs who are socially awkward, hit on all the girls, and have a spectacular fireworks display.
  • Quick and Fun. This is such a quick read. The writing immersed me in the stories Shelby told and I felt like I was there. The retelling of her memories was sweet, sentimental, funny, but they didn’t leave out the bad, either. It wasn’t a rose-colored glasses retelling, and I appreciated that.
  • Heavy. I won’t say it’s light. When Shelby comes up against some trials, they test her trust. This is how she first meets the Reverand. Later this is how she first meets a man wearing a turquoise bracelet in a hospital prayer room. It is none other than Elvis, and they are both there to pray for the same man. They share an incredible few moments wrapped in love and faith, and Elvis leaves a memento for Shelby. Shelby’s brother also finally comes home from Vietnam. He is not the same despite what he shows to his family. His behavior breaks her trust in Tucker, who only tries to help.
  • The Ending. This was such a twist! Even when retelling, the young man doesn’t believe Shelby’s story of her 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii. It isn’t until she shows him a stack of Christmas cards that he believes the unimaginable. The ending gave me hope that perhaps something like that did happen and no one is the wiser.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Diane Hale Moody is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. She lives with her husband Ken in the rolling hills just outside of Nashville. They are the proud parents of two grown and extraordinary children, Hannah and Ben.

Just after moving to Tennessee in 1999, Diane felt the tug of a long-neglected passion to write again. Since then, she’s written a column for her local newspaper, feature articles for various magazines and curriculum, and several novels with a dozen more stories eagerly vying for her attention.

When she’s not reading or writing, Diane enjoys an eclectic taste in music and movies, great coffee, the company of good friends, and the adoration of a peculiar little pooch named Darby.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Review: The Lady and the Mountain Man

Title: The Lady and the Mountain Man
Author: Misty M. Beller
Publisher: Misty M. Beller Books
Release Date: September 2014
Length: 310 pages
Series?: Mountain Dreams #1
Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction, Romance

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Leah is a very wealthy Richmond woman recently left orphaned after her oil baron father passes. Although he tried to set up Leah with a prominent husband, he did nothing more than place a contract on her life. Leah overhears her fiancé’s plans to off her after their wedding.

Leah finds herself on the run, and decides to not only answer but accept a marriage proposal from an “intelligent, young God-fearing” rancher with red hair and green eyes. After several months’ journey to Helena, Leah is rocked when she discovers her intended, Abel, was killed. Left behind on the Bryant ranch are Abel’s bitter brother Gideon and his sister Miriam.

To Gideon, Leah is nothing but a lecherous city girl looking to bank in on the Bryant money. He wants nothing but to send her back to Virginia, or anywhere else. He doesn’t want the responsibility of one more person to take care of after all the loss he’s suffered in the mountains.

Unfortunately, God has different plans for Gideon, and he has sent Leah to the place where she needs to be. Can the two of them follow God’s will, or take matters into their own hands?

The Players

Leah – a rich, orphaned heiress with a big heart

Emily – Leah’s nanny and long-time companion; she is the only family Leah has

Simon – Leah’s menacing fiancé; his reach extends beyond the long arm of the law

Miriam – Abel and Gideon’s younger sister; she is a spunky but lonely young lady

Gideon – Abel’s older brother; he is a very bitter man

Ol’ Mose – a wagoner who transports Leah to the Bryant ranch; he is a good friend of the Bryants

The Quote

“Aaah!” It was all she could say. Her leg hurt so badly, she couldn’t think or speak. At least her breath was coming a little easier now. 

“Easy now. Don’t move just yet.” A voice crooned above her, while big hands gently rolled Leah onto her back. Was that God? The voice didn’t boom like she’d always imagined God’s would, but was a mixture of strength and honey, both manly and gentle.

The Highs and Lows

  • Time period. Set in 1874, this is the Reconstruction era for the Southern United States. Transportation and communication are delayed, and it adds to the unknown element of Leah’s journey.
  • Leah. She’s not the traditional Southern socialite heiress you’d expect. She doesn’t have the stuffy, snobbish traits that Gideon originally thinks she does. She is kind, strong, compassionate and resilient.
  • The Accident. Leah’s accident is perfect in timing and the nature of her accident forces her to remain at the Bryant ranch for quite some time until she is fully healed.
  • Gideon’s loss. Gideon has lost his parents, his wife, and now his little brother. He has become a bitter man who wants nothing to do with anyone. At times I wondered if having Miriam around was too much for him, but he clearly loves his sister.
  • The slow simmer. There was no instalove. There was no immediate “soulmate” connection. There was nothing forced or sudden about the sweet and steady romance that is carefully built over the course of the novel. It is so gradual that no one but Miriam seems to notice it.
  • Christian overtones. Usually I am very iffy about Christian books because many are very preachy. There were a few moments I was worried some of the religious commentary was too much, so I skimmed the couple of parts that were preachy. Overall, it wasn’t too much or all at once. It was sprinkled throughout in small amounts.
  • Poor Miriam. She is stuck all day at the cabin, cooking and cleaning for Gideon. She is almost starved for attention being so isolated in the mountains. I felt bad for her, and I was glad she had Leah to share the burdens and the conversations with.

The Take-Away

Everything about Leah seemed to flow. She took everything in stride. She was a charming character who wanted to learn the life of a rancher. I loved that she made everything she touched better, valued and loved. There were several occasions she could have had negative reactions, but she didn’t ever seem to let anything change her mannerisms.

The Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I do recommend this book. It has a great cast of characters with some interesting stories themselves. It is a great read for winter, but I’m not sure if I’d say buy it. My suggestion is to borrow.

 

***** About the Author *****

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Bread of the Dead


BreadOfTheDead_Banner

Welcome to the my stop for Bread of the Dead, the first book in the Santa Fe Cafe series by Ann Myers! This is a cozy mystery series and the tour runs September 28-October 23 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. To check out all of the Dia de los Muertos fun, check out the tour page.

BreadOfTheDead_CoverTitle: Bread of the Dead
Author: Ann Myers
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 368 pages
Series?: Santa Fe Cafe Mystery#1
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

The Day of the Dead is approaching in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and cook Rita Lafitte is busy decorating sugar skulls, taste-testing pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and refashioning her post-divorce life. She loves her job at Tres Amigas Cafe and feels like she’s found a good home for herself and her teenage daughter…until her kindly landlord is found dead next door, seemingly from suicide. Although Rita discovers evidence of murder, the police aren’t convinced, especially one of the lead detectives who’s also Rita’s ex-husband. To uncover the truth behind her friend’s death, Rita teams up with her octogenarian boss Flori, the town’s most celebrated snoop. Soon, their investigation encompasses other crimes, including break-ins and the murder of their number-one suspect. Rita won’t feel safe until the killer is caught. But when she unearths a long-buried secret, will she become the next victim?

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Rita is trying to manage her life post-divorce in Santa Fe. She is a chef at Tres Amigas Cafe, where she has made great friends with her boss and also with her landlord. Despite those positive influences, she is struggling with her teenage daughter and her ex’s egotistical and condescending remarks. When her landlord turns up dead, Rita doesn’t believe it was suicide. Her bloss Flori masterminds a not-so top-secret investigation. Rita is slightly on edge as they dig deeper and uncover other crimes…and another murder.

The Players

Rita – she is a slightly scatterbrained chef and mother to Celia

Celia – Rita’s angsty teenage daughter

Victor – Rita’s landlord; runs a non-profit for artists

Gabriel – Victor’s brother; shares a divided house with him

Flori – Rita’s octogenarian boss at Tres Amigas Cafe; she is also the town snoop

Linda – Flori’s sweet daughter

Cass – Rita’s best friend; a prominent jewelry maker; mother of Celia’s best friend

Manny – Rita’s short, egotistical cop ex-husband; works Victor’s case

Gloria – Flori’s nemesis in the Day of the Dead baking contest

Jay-Jay – Victor’s gaudy ex-wife; looking to make a profit

Jake – Rita’s “hot lawyer”…and everyone else’s too

First Impressions

Based on the cover and artwork I assumed this would correlate to the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead.

Second Thoughts

The setting is quite ripe to have murder rise to the top! The Mexican holidays for Day of the Dead are celebrated over the course of a few days at the end of October and beginning of November. I thought I was pretty well-versed in this custom (thank you Mrs. Ramirez, 7th and 8th grade Spanish), but the way the characters talk about the altar gifts and those being honored, as well as talking about poor Victor in death brought more meaning to me as a reader and made the custom’s presence in the book more sincere and purposeful.

I thought Rita was a little scatterbrained as a character. She’s working hard both at work and at home, trying to keep her daughter Celia on an even keel. It’s not easy either, with an ex-husband like Manny. Rita’s descriptions of people and events also added a flair of humor to the increasingly complex investigation.

I felt awful. Here I was, surely failing another friend test. A good person would have bounded right into the nice-old-man/psycho killer’s hut to support her friend, right?

Flori is absolutely hilarious! There is no filter with her character, and given her age, personality and demeanor as the center of the quintessential gossip mill (thanks to her friend with the police scanner) she can get away with these things.

“Rita’s loosening up,” Flori replied with her usual knack for sounding inadvertently inappropriate. 

“I see that.” Jake’s smile, accompanied by a wink, didn’t help my composure.

Flori is one of the incredible draws of the book. The more I read, the more I wanted to know what crazy and outlandish thing she would do next, and what was going to come out of her mouth next! I can say I want to be more like her! Flori is obsessed with the Day of the Dead baking contest and has it down to an art.

She probably heard as soon as the police call went out. The keystone of her gossip network was a ninety-year-old wheelchair-bound man with a police scanner. He had chronic insomnia and spread news faster than high-speed Internet.

There were so many scenes in the book that I loved. One of the best scenes was when Rita, Cass and Flori discovered one another hiding out in someone else’s pantry while at a party. They all were scoping out for their investigations.

I was pleasantly impressed with the character growth in Rita’s daughter, Celia. She started out as a loathsome, angsty, ungrateful teenage girl who did nothing but give her mother grief, and by the end of the novel she is a completely different person.

This is a wonderful read filled with interesting characters with their own little issues to handle, but the ultimate goal is solving Victor’s murder. The characters are relatable with real vices, and their individual voices ring with honesty as a testament to their personalities. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for a fall reading, and I am looking forward to what Rita and Flori encounter next.

***** About the Author *****

Ann Myers, her husband, and extra-large housecat live in Colorado but, like Rita, feel most at home in Santa Fe.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

Three (3) copies of Bread of the Dead by Ann Myers (US)

Ends Oct. 28

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Review + Giveaway: Robin’s Reward

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Title: Robin’s Reward
Author: June McCrary Jacobs
Release Date: April 2015
Length: 290 pages
Series?: Bonita Creek Trilogy #1
Genre: Romance, Religion

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

Bonita Creek’s librarian Robin Bennett is heartbroken after being abandoned by her husband, Thomas. The mysterious and handsome Jeff Clarke arrives unexpectedly and touches Robin’s life with his wit and warmth. Then, without warning, Jeff’s harsh words and abrasive actions scare her off, and Robin’s hope of finding true love withers again.

Just when it seems Robin and Jeff might have a future, Susan Stinson, whose cruel taunting has plagued Robin since they met as young teens, decides Jeff should be hers, not Robin’s. Susan’s anger and jealousy escalate dangerously. Her vindictiveness threatens the foundation of Jeff and Robin’s young relationship.

Robin’s journey through the peaks and valleys of her life meanders along the twists and turns of new challenges. Is a relationship which began with both parties harboring secrets destined to survive? Can they move past their troubles and the obstacles in their path to find love and happiness together? When their pasts rear their ugly heads, Jeff and Robin must use their faith to remain strong and true. But will it be enough for them to embrace a life of love, trials, and blessings . . . together?

***** Review *****

I’ve discussed before how I do not like religious, preachy reads. After a ways into the book, I thought that was were it was headed and I got a little frustrated. I liked this book, and I felt it was going to be ruined with the preacher soapbox.

Not quite. Yes, there are religious tones to this book and the two main characters. In dialogue they converse about their faith. It was not enough to put me off completely. I found some of these instances a little forced in terms of the writing, in an eyeroll kind of way.

In terms of plot, I thought the book was well planned and it flowed nicely. There weren’t any strange breaks or weird transitions. I know after reading the synopsis, it’s like, what? He was mean, and now they have a future together???

Robin Bennett has lived in Bonita Creek since she was a teen, after the untimely death of her mother. Her father just could not handle life without his wife, or raising a child. Robin was left in the care of her grandparents, and inherited from them. She now resides in their cottage and has put a lot of time and love into the gardens her grandfather loved.

Everything Robin touches flourishes. All of the gardens at the cottage produce food or flowers that she shares with the community and church. The town’s library is almost functioning fully on it’s on budget solely through fundraisers, donations and grants.

Bonita Creek is a located in the picturesque coastal mountains of Northern California, and is a small town. Walk everywhere. Everybody knows everybody kind of thing. Gossip through the grapevine. The church and barber shop are focal points. Community is highly promoted in this town. This novel spans an entire year in time, from start to finish.

March. Spring break. The library is closed for two weeks, so Robin is working hard in her yard and gardens. Cue newcomer Jeff Clarke. He’s handsome and mysterious. Anytime conversation takes a turn toward anything related to him, he steers it off and away. He does not want to reveal to anyone why he is in town, and he slowly becomes immersed in the life of Bonita Creek. After discovering Robin’s identity, he cranks up the asshole moves and leaves Robin baffled and hurt.

The barber shop. Oh, how I love barber shops and little old men gossiping. Let me tell you, there are some men (ahem, Dad!) who are so nosy and gossip more than a woman! The barber shop is where Jeff goes to gather vital information he needs for his work after  things just don’t add up right and he’s left with quite a few unanswered questions. There are only two scenes in the barbershop, and in both Robin was highly promoted and discussed. I thought this was a little unrealistic, but whatever. I loved the barber shop scenes anyway.

Nobody bothers to question Jeff or ask why he’s moved to town. They just make their own small town assumptions that he’s there in good faith, and for good reasons. Until he’s presented at a city council meeting meant to destroy one vital part of the town. Unfortunately, things do not go according to the city manager’s plans. Now Jeff is free to pursue Robin and see if she’s really the woman for him.

There are just two problems.

Robin has serious trust issues after the dissolution of her first marriage.

And there’s this crazy lady who is living in a warped reality. Susan Stinson. She is seriously whacko. After one date right after he move to town, and Jeff adamantly making it clear he did not want to go out with her ever again, she thinks they’re about to get engaged. A lot of bizaare things start happening to Robin, and they get progressively worse…especially the mysterious present that is delivered by courier for her wedding shower.

Overall, I thought Robin’s Reward was a great start to this trilogy. Gee, I wonder who the next two books could be about. 😉 The setting is wonderful, and filled with enough description and focus that it’s not overbearing or underdone. There is a fairly large cast of characters and they all serve a purpose. I enjoyed the book and the characters, and even the inspirational religious portion, but at certain times (particularly toward the end) I felt that there were some things that were a little contrived, especially in the dialogue between characters. I felt there were sometimes unnecessary things said to aid the reader, when it wasn’t needed at all.

I liked Robin’s character the best, besides perhaps Pastor White. The world needs more Pastor Whites. I felt multiple connections to Robin’s character. I could identify how she felt about keeping a connection to her grandparents, and keeping the gardens up. I also fully understand the vulnerability and insecurities that Robin still carries with her after her first marriage, and how all of that went down. Been there, experienced that, except without the being married part. Reading Robin’s character as a woman, this is spot-on. Jacobs did an exceptional job developing Robin’s character and creating the internal dialogue Robin has with herself.

However, there was one major thing that really rankled me about this book. Susan Stinson. Susan’s everything is just way over the top. We’re talking requires serious medical mental health attention. First, if she was such a bully all through high school to three people in particular in the town (Robin and her two best friends), how come it didn’t arise to anyone’s attention? Especially the attention of those within the church? Second, how could she go on this long – nearly ten years after high school ended – doing things to this degree to others (in a small town!) and nothing happened before? Nobody noticed her behavior, nobody pressed charges, nobody interfered? Third, Susan’s confessions to her crimes was just too easy. If she was as crazy as her antics suggest, there’s no way she would have confessed, from a mental stand point. These particular things about Susan’s character and place in Bonita Creek really did not jive well with me. It’s obvious she is the villain and the antagonist, but there were a few areas where she was underdeveloped.

***** About the Author *****

June McCrary Jacobs

Award-winning author, June McCrary Jacobs, was the winner of Cedar Fort Publishing’s 2013 Holiday Tale Contest for her debut novella, ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’. ‘Robin’s Reward’ is her first full-length novel, and is set in her favorite location in California—the Mendocino coastal region. This book is the first installment of the ‘Bonita Creek Trilogy’.

June’s original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred books, magazines, and blogs in the past few years. When she’s not writing, reading, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, and visiting art and history museums. She also enjoys touring historic homes and gardens and strolling around the many historic Gold Rush towns in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In the summertime you can find June at a variety of county fairs and the California State Fair admiring the sewing projects, quilts, and handiwork other inspired seamstresses, quilters, craftspeople, and artists have created.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

*****GIVEAWAY*****

TWO signed copies of ‘Robin’s Reward’

Contest ends May 31. US only.

Click here to enter!

Review: Candle in the Darkness

9457986Title: Candle in the Darkness
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 2002
Length: 394 pages
Series?: Refiner’s Fire #1
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

The daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family from Richmond, Virginia, Caroline Fletcher is raised in a culture that believes slavery is God-ordained and biblically acceptable. But upon awakening to the cruelty and injustice it encompasses, Caroline’s eyes are opened for the first time to the men and women who have cared tirelessly for her. Her journey of maturity and faith will draw her into the abolitionist movement, where she is confronted with the risks and sacrifices her beliefs entail.

***** Review *****

Caroline is like many children of the time – raised by slaves who support and run the Southern plantations and households. She has forged a bond with the people she sees day in and day out, who seem closer to her than her own parents.

Daddy was kind to me and brought me all sorts of treats…If I needed a man’s strong arms to hold me close and comfort me when I was upset, I ran to Eli.

Her mother is always cloistered away, upset and in moods. Caroline grows up hoping she doesn’t become what her mother has, and a burden to her future husband.

I once heard Ruby say that Mother had “lost” her baby, and I worried for the longest time that Mother would lose me, too.

Caroline doesn’t see the institution and nuances of slavery as Southerners do. She sees it through the eyes of a humanitarian: what is wrong and right, simply based on human feeling and emotion. She sees the injustices of slavery, and even though she is Southern, she doesn’t support it, but she can’t outright deny or criticize it, either.

After a series of events, Caroline is sent to live with relatives in the North, where she becomes involved in abolitionist movements. She spends two years of her life in the North while her father is away. She returns to the South and struggles with the life she must continue to lead. Things start changing drastically as events lead up to cession and the Civil War.

I enjoyed how Caroline’s life after returning to the South followed and focused on the events leading up to the Civil War, with accuracy and detail.

This novel is written is such a unique way. It is Caroline’s accounting of the story, that is one day given to her fiance. It is the last bit that she has to hold on to a drastically changing life, and one she cannot see the future of.

I need to explain why I’ve done what I have done, to tell my story in my own words before it’s told by those who won’t understand. They will surely call me a traitor and a murderer, and I suppose I am both of those things. I have betrayed people who trusted me. My involvement with certain events in Libby Prison has led to accusations of moral improprieties, but as God is my witness, I am innocent of those charges. Even so, people will believe what they choose to believe. And when a host of vicious rumors is added to the list of my misdeeds, I’m not sure anyone will ever understand why I’ve acted the way I have.

What Caroline survives on is Eli’s encouragement and her faith. Eli repeatedly helps Caroline see that it’s not her way, but God’s way…and God’s time. I generally do not like preachy books, but this one wasn’t so bad. I didn’t feel preached to – I clearly felt Eli was mentoring and nurturing Caroline.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War time period.

***** About the Author *****

39788For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads