Friday, May 03, 2024

Mary’s Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne – Likeable Characters, Faith, Friendship and Hope

I was excited to read Anne Blackburne’s newest book Mary’s Calico Hope, the fifth book in The Heart of the Amish series. 

Mary Yoder’s life has not been easy.  Daily she deals with the injuries, pain, and mobility issues that she sustained at the age of four in a buggy accident.  Despite the daily challenges she faces, Mary has hope and faith and trusts God.  She works hard to supports herself.  She lives in her own place, yet she also has the support of her family whose home connects to her small dawdi haus. 

When the new doctor, Reuben King, meets Mary he investigates a surgical procedure that may help relieve her pain and help improve her mobility.  Mary has been down the surgery road one to many times with mixed results.  As they continue to interact and get to know one another, Reuben is attracted to Mary.  He appreciates not only her outward beauty but also her inward spirit.  Will their relationship be anything but friendship, since Mary is Amish and Reuben is a Mennonite?

I enjoyed reading this book and found the characters very likable.  Mary and her family and friends were caring, loving and supportive of one another. Reuben was a dedicated doctor, cared about his patients and developed friendships in the Amish community.  I appreciated that faith was foundational to Mary and the other characters.  They lived out their faith daily.  The author brought back some of the characters from earlier novels in this series. 

In every town there will always be that person who likes to stir up trouble.  Will Bishop Troyer see through Amelia’s critical eye and gossiping tongue?  Will he address the sin that is in her heart?  Or let her go unchecked? 

One thing I struggled with was the characters belief that God was speaking to their hearts, outside of Scripture, and telling them what to.  (A belief that is very prevalent today.)  As opposed to God speaking to believers through inerrant Scripture alone.  Absolutely I believe God directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). 

Some aspects of the Amish faith, I struggle to understand.  Like the Amish not being able to become doctors without leaving the faith.  I had never heard of the Beachy Amish and found that interesting.

If you enjoy Amish stories that incorporate faith into the storyline, I recommend reading Anne Blackburne’s newest book Mary’s Calico Hope.  Anne’s characters are well developed and seem to go deeper than other books.  I appreciate how the characters showed love and support to one another and had a reverent attitude towards God.

I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Mary’s Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne.  This book will be published on June 1, 2024.  I was provided a complimentary copy of the book, but was under no obligation to give a favorable review.  


Friday, April 19, 2024

The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay – Fascinating, Compelling, Filled with Intrigue


When I read the description about Katherine Reay’s new book, The Berlin Letters, I wanted to read it.  So glad I had the opportunity.  It was a great book.  


Monica Voekler loved her husband Haris and enjoyed their life together in East Berlin with their daughter Luisa.  But she did not share Haris’ appreciation for the GDR government.  The day came when the wall went up, guards would not let people pass through to West Berlin, and razor wire deterred citizens trying to escape.  That day Monica was desperate and would resort to the unthinkable to ensure her daughter would be safe.  She tossed her beloved daughter to her father on the other side of the wall.  Their lives changed that day, for Monica and Haris, and for three-year-old Luisa and her Grandparents who later moved to America.


The Berlin Letters is a wonderful read.  The novel takes place during the Cold War and spans 28 years, from 1961 to 1989.  It tells the story about a family divided and torn apart by the oppressive German Democratic Republic and the Berlin Wall.  It is filled with mystery, intrigue, secrets, spies, snitches, encrypted letters, and code breaking.  It tells the story of people who risked their lives to get the truth out the world with the hope of change and freedom. 


As fascinating as the intrigue is the story was made even more compelling by the characters and their relationships.  The characters came across as very real as we learn about their experiences and what they are thinking and feeling.  The characters grew and changed over the years.


I enjoyed reading historical fiction and Katherine Reay did a fabulous job making the characters come to life during the fascinating time of the Cold War.  The Berlin Letters is a is compelling, thoughtful novel, and filled with intrigue. 


The Berlin Letters is the first novel I have read by Katherine Reay and I am so glad I discovered her work.  I was reminded when reading this book, what an incredible time we lived through when we saw the Berlin Wall come down and freedom come to those who were oppressed.  I look forward to reading more of her books. 


I would like to thank Publisher Harper Muse and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complementary copy of The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Sandcastle Inn by Irene Hannon – Scenic Beachside Town and Likeable Characters


Sandcastle Inn is Irene Hannon’s tenth novel in the Hope Harbor series.  It was lovely to return to this beautiful, scenic, and welcoming small town.


Veterinarian Matt Quinn has come to town to help his sister Kay for a month.  She is heading to Idaho to help a friend who is having surgery.  Kay desperately needs help with her recent acquisition of a bed and breakfast.  The B&B has a great view, but the insides need a lot of work before it will be ready for customers.  Help may be close at hand with Vienna Price, a hotel marketing expert, who is in town following a job change.  But can the work be completed in a short period of time and within budget? 


Also passing through town are Andrew and Paige who are going through a rough season in their life.  They have responded with honesty and integrity, but cannot seem to get a break.  Thankfully, they are committed to one another, for better or for worse.  Readers will be happy to see some of their favorite characters from earlier novels return.  Especially Charley who has the best tacos in town.  He is always there with kind and caring words, and wise counsel for friends and strangers alike.  Hope Harbor would not be the same without the resident seagulls Floyd and Gladys. 


I loved the characters in this book and enjoyed seeing how they were supported and encouraged by family and friends.  In Hope Harbor, you can expect a little romance.  While the town is lovely, the people are going through challenging times which can stir up emotional and relational issues.  There were some gems of insight shared by characters.  Characters dealt with issues including grief, forgiveness, patience, love, divine providence, and trusting God.  Faith is a part of the story.  I would like to have seen it go even deeper. 


Sandcastle Inn is part of the Hope Harbor series, but works well as a stand alone book too.  I enjoyed reading this book and liked the characters.  With all the bad things going on in this world, sometimes you just want to read a feel-good story, with likeable people in a beautiful setting like Hope Harbor.  I recommend Sandcastle Inn by Irene Hannon.  The story has people you would like to meet, in a place you would like to visit, and leaves you feeling hopeful. 


I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Sandcastle Inn by Irene Hannon.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.  Sandcastle Inn will be published April 2, 2024.


Saturday, March 16, 2024

Fatal Witness by Patricia Bradley – Interesting Plot, But the Story Got Bogged Down


I enjoy suspense and mystery novels and was excited to read Patricia Bradley’s newest book Fatal Witness, the second book in the Pearl River Novel series.  A cold case, family secrets, a repressed memory, and a family seeking justice makes for an interesting mystery. 


At age nine, Danielle witnessed her parents’ murders and was whisked away by her uncle Keith.  It has been twenty-five years and Dani has no memory of the events that changed her life.  Her uncle has protected and insulated her from all possible danger.  While she has no memory of her family, she inherited the natural artistic talents of her grandmother Mae.  The subject of a recent magazine article, Dani has been invited to attend an artist workshop in Cincinnati.  Though Dani has no memory of her early life, her grandmother has never forgotten her, nor stopped looking for her.  Seeing the article in the pottery magazine, Mae is certain that Dani may be her long-lost granddaughter. 


I found the storyline intriguing.  I liked Dani and was curious about her uncle Keith and how he would react to Dani venturing out on her own.  I liked her grandmother Mae who was willing to press law enforcement to investigate this cold case and find her granddaughter.  Law enforcement officers in the remote area of Tennessee were stretched thin and had a lot of area to cover.  But Mark Lassiter with his K-9 companion Gem, along with Alex Stone and her team would do what they could investigate this cold case and protect those in danger. 


Once Dani is back in Tennessee, things heat up and it appears the murderer will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.  At this point in the story, it seemed to get bogged down.  I struggled with the last half of the story. There were a lot of characters and potential suspects to weed through.  There were some strategic errors made by law enforcement several times.  Some risks and decisions that were made were not logical.  As a former military sharp shooter, I found it interesting that Mark allowed himself to be distracted. 


Faith was a small part of the story and a Bible verse was focused on in times of danger.  I would like to have seen Mark’s faith more fully developed and part of the story. 


I liked the storyline and characters in Fatal Witness, but found the story dragged in the last half of the novel. 


I would to thank NetGalley and Revell Publishing for the opportunity to read Patricia Bradley’s book Fatal Witness.  If you enjoy Patricia Bradley’s writing and like mysteries and intrigue, you may enjoy this book.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of Fatal Witness.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Friday, March 01, 2024

Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne – Enjoyable Story with Likeable Characters

Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise is the first book I have read by author Anne Blackburne.  I found this book very enjoyable.  It was a nice change of pace and filled with some likeable characters.


Ruth Helmuth has been a widow for a year and is childless.  She lives on a property that has been a part of her family for many years.  She is hard working, industrious, and provides for herself by raising goats, using their fiber and milk to earn income.  That is why Ruth was taken aback by the proposal from Bishop Troyer that she sell her family’s farm to someone who he deems more deserving.  Ruth knows of widower Jonas Hershberger and his young daughter Abigail.  But it is not until he has a business proposition to use the upstairs of Ruth’s large barn for his basket weaving business that they get to know one another.  Will their business relationship develop into something more?


The main characters in this book, Ruth, Jonas, and Abigail, as well as their friends are pleasant, kind, and caring.  They are very supportive of one another.  The only exception is Bishop Troyer and his rude granddaughter Evelyn. It seemed like the bishop was not very discerning and has turned a blind eye to his ill-behaved granddaughter.


I enjoyed reading Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise and felt like I was stepping into a different world.  A slower pace of life and with nice characters, the kind of people I would like to know.  Faith is a part of the storyline. 


If you enjoy Amish fiction with a little romance, I recommend reading Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne.  This is the second book in the Heart of the Amish series.  This book is an enjoyable read with likeable characters.  I look forward to reading more books by this author. 


I would like to thank Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise by Anne Blackburne.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Saturday, February 17, 2024

One Wrong Move by Dani Pettrey – Interesting Storyline, Likeable Characters, But Too Many Characters and Subplots


I enjoy reading mystery and suspense books and was excited to read Dani Pettrey’s newest novel One Wrong Move, the first book in the Jeopardy Falls series. 


Christian O’Brady’s received a frantic phone call from his client Tad Gaiman about a break-in and theft at his art gallery in Jeopardy Falls.  Christian had installed state of the art security system at all three of Gaiman’s art galleries.  When Christian arrived on the scene, he learned that the impenetrable system was compromised by his client and a mystery-women he had met the night before.  Christian will be working with Sheriff Brunswick and insurance investigator Andi Forester to find out what happened.  When news comes out about break-ins at Tad’s other art galleries, this case just got a lot more complicated.


The premise of this storyline is interesting and many characters were likeable.  There was a lot going on in this story.  There were a lot of characters, Christian’s brother and sister worked with him, along with a work associate.  Christian’s brother Deckard knew of Andi, but under a different name, and what he knew about her was not good.  Andi had a lot of baggage and had left her last job with the FBI under a cloud of suspicion.  Not a lot of people believed in her innocence, except for friend Harper. 


Andi was not the only person with personal baggage.  Christian, Deckard, and their sister Riley had a rough start and had battled putting their past and the memories behind them.  It seems like everyone’s past was coming back to haunt them.


I had some problems with this book from the start.  At the beginning there are two brutal murders that take place and were told from the point of view of the bad guys.  It seemed over the top and especially ugly which surprised me in a book from a Christian writer and publisher.  It did not make the story better and I thought about putting the book down.  There were multiple bad guys and keeping track of them was challenging. 


There was a whole lot of past baggage with the main characters, almost everyone of them.  They were likeable, but it was a lot of issues to get through.  Perhaps the volume of issues took away from the storyline. 


The Christian faith was somewhat included, but was not deeply developed.  The physical attraction between some of the character could have been toned down some.  There were some illogical decisions or risks that were taken that did not make sense.  I didn’t quite believe the ending.  With two brutal murders and other violence in addition to major high end art theft, it did not seem logical that law enforcement would be on site to get the bad guys. 


There were elements that I liked in One Wrong Move, likeable characters, and an interesting storyline.  But it was overwhelmed by the number of characters with lots of baggage and details.  I like Dani Pettrey’s writing, but this story kind of detracted from itself by the volume of characters and subplots. 


I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of One Wrong Move by Dani Pettrey.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Year Full of Pots by Sarah Raven – Filled with Helpful Garden Design Ideas, Information and Spectacular Photographs


I listen and learn from Sarah Raven’s podcast and was eager to read her newest book A Year Full of Pots.  What a tremendous resource this book is for gardeners.


Sarah specifically focuses on plants in pots throughout the year, month by month.  She starts out by giving some rules of thumb for designing combinations of plants that work well together. 


Then month by month, Sarah shares what plants she puts in containers.  January and February bring color into the new year.  In March and transition from winter to spring and using bulbs.  In April learning to do a bulb lasagna and how to do it.  May is working with tender perennials.  June, summer begins with making plant supports and fertilizer.  July the garden flourishes.  August looks at flowering plants.  September when tender perennial climbers are at their peak performance.  As autumn comes having perennials and those plants that will perform late into the season.  In November and December there are still some hardy flowering plants to take center stage as wells as bulbs.  Worked into each chapter are tasks that need to be done.


I appreciated the helpful information and details about different varieties that Sarah uses in her garden pots, what she likes about the different plants.  The book is chock full of pictures, gorgeous photos that you will want to look back on for design ideas for your own garden, in pots or perhaps worked into landscape.


Even though I live in a very different area than Sarah, I can take the ideas and designs work them into our home garden.  I loved this book and was on sensory overload looking at the spectacular photographs.  So many beautiful photos, ideas and information to enjoy and learn from.


I highly recommend A Year Full of Pots by Sarah Raven.  I plan on purchasing a copy of this book when it is published on April 9, 2024.  I want to use it as a reference guide filled with helpful information and design inspiration.


I would like to thank Bloomsbury USA Publishers and NetGalley for an opportunity to read a complimentary copy of A Year Full of Pots by Sarah Raven. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

All the Presidents’ Gardens by Marta McDowell – A Refreshing and Lovely Read


Maybe it was the winter season that piqued my interest in reading Marta McDowell’s book All the Presidents’ Gardens.  With our garden at rest, it was a lovely time to read about the history of the Presidents’ gardens at the White House over the last 235 years.


I absolutely loved reading this book.  It was a combination of history, gardening, with a little bit of biographies mixed-together.  It was refreshing to see the love of gardening from our Presidents, their wives, and families, and how they enjoyed the fruits of the labor of those who executed design plans.  What a huge task for the men and women who designed the gardens over the years.  I found it interesting to learn how everyone’s background, education, and experience influenced the designs, selection of plants, and the additions of other elements to make the gardens what they wanted. 


As a gardener, I found I connected with the Presidents and their families that had a love for gardening.  I appreciated their desire for seed and plant preservation.  I came away from reading this book with a new appreciation for how gardening is passed down from one generation to another.


If you love gardening, history, biographies, or design, I highly recommend All the Presidents’ Gardens by Marta McDowell.  This was a lovely and refreshing book to read. 


I would like to thank Timber Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of All the Presidents’ Gardens by Marta McDowell.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Monday, January 15, 2024

The Strike of the Sailfish by Stephen L Moore – Fascinating World War II History


In recent years, I have been interested in reading World War II history books and wanted to read Stephen L Moore’s book The Strike of the Sailfish, Two Sister Submarines and the Sinking of a Japanese Aircraft Carrier.


The sister submarines, the Squalus and Sculpin, seemed to be ill-fated.  In 1939, off the coast of New Hampshire, the Squalus sunk.  Twenty-six of officers and men drowned, and thirty-two men remained alive.  Thanks to the help from the men on their sistership, the Sculpin and other ships, the men were rescued.  Amazingly, the Squalus was raised, decommissioned, and overhauled.  In 1940, she was recommissioned as the USS Sailfish.  Three of the Squalus survivors went on to serve on the Sailfish during WWII in the Pacific.  Their sistership, the Sculpin was also in the battle in the Pacific fighting against Japan. 


What happened to officers and men who served on those submarines and what they encountered during WWII is hard to imagine.  This book was well researched and is filled with a lot of details about the men who served, operation of the submarines, problems encountered with equipment, weapons, and the challenges of fighting a war in a submarine. 


The difference an effective leader can make as he leads his men in the battle was amazing to read about.  What these men endured in the submarines, the battles they fought, facing storms, disasters, being taken rescued, only to be taken captive as prisoners of war is almost beyond comprehension.  The drive to survive and commitment to fight and win the battle was awe inspiring.


There were times, it was hard to read what about what these men experienced.  But I am glad I finished it.  In many ways, these men were part of the greatest generation who fought evil and won.  So very grateful for their service and sacrifice. 


If you are interested in World War II history, or appreciate the military, you may wand read The Strike of the Sailfish by Stephen L Moore.  It was challenging, and at times a hard read, but it was well worth it. 


I would like to thank the Publisher Dutton Caliber and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of The Strike of the Sailfish by Stephen L Moore.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Double Take by Lynette Eason – Action Packed Suspense

I enjoy mystery and suspense novels and was excited to read Lynette Eason’s newest book Double Take.  This is the first book in her new Lake City Hero series.  This book will grab your attention from the get go. 


Lainie Jackson is a physician’s assistant at a hospital in Lake City, NC.  After stopping to check on a friend, Lainie headed to work on a rainy day.  A driver behind her was intent on passing and clipped her car which sent her car over the side of the mountain.  After calling 911, Lainie noticed a man peering over the edge of the road.  A man that looked like Adam, her former fiancĂ© who was dead.  Or was he?


Detective James Cross and his partner, Cole Garrison responded to a domestic violence call.  James wants to do whatever it will take to get the children out of a very dangerous situation, including putting himself in the line of fire.  After sustaining injuries, James was taken to the hospital where he was treated by Lainie, his sister’s best friend.  Perhaps they can reconnect and help each other.


There was a lot going on in this story.  Lots of characters and relationships that were intertwined.  Some healthy and some not so good.  Both Lainie and James had a lot of baggage from their past, from family issues and PTSD that had left emotional scars.  It seemed like there some “blame the imperfect parents” that caused their children to have issues going on.  I don’t know any perfect families and life sure can be messy. 


Yet, I liked how Lainie was honest, straight forward, and respectful.  I appreciated how James evaluated how he had erred in his response to his father and how his father was willing to look at his own actions.  I liked the main characters, they seemed like decent, kind, and caring people.  They had good friends who were supportive and tried to be there for them, people they could trust.  I appreciated that Lainie did not do stupid things that unnecessarily put herself at risk and she was open to receiving help. 


The characters were likeable.  The storyline was a bit of a stretch on believability.  But I wanted to know whodunnit and why.  I liked how the characters grew and developed during the story.  There were some twists and turns, intense situations, and serious subject matters.  Topics like domestic violence, attempted murder, suicide, and dysfunctional families.  Faith was a small part of the story.  I would have like to have seen faith, trust and dependance upon God, and prayer more fully developed in the characters. 


If you like suspense and mystery, you may want to read Double Take by Lynette Eason.  I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading future books in the Lake City Hero series. 


I would like to thank Revell Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Double Take by Lynette Eason.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Wonderful World of James Herriot – by James Herriot – Enjoyable, Interesting, Memorable and Lovable Characters


When I saw that The Wonderful World of James Herriot audio book was available to listen to on NetGalley I was excited at this opportunity.  As the subtitle says this book truly is A Charming Collection of Classic Stories by James Herriot.


I remember discovering James Herriot novels back in the 1970’s when I was in high school and reading All Creatures Great and Small.  More recently watching the beloved PBS television show of the same name. 


The audio book was quite lovely.  It was made more special with the narration by Anna Madeley, Nicholas Ralph, and Rosie Page.  You will recognize the voices of Anna and Nicholas who play characters on the PBS show All Creatures Great and Small.  They do a fantastic job in bringing these stories to life.  Dr. Rosie Page is the daughter of Alf Wight, better known by his penname James Herriot. 


You know a book is good when you are interested from the get go as Rosie narrates the book’s introduction.  It was fascinating to learn how Alf came to write his stories and the books that have become a treasure to so many.


This book made me laugh and cry.  I appreciated the love and compassion that James (Alf) showed to the animals he cared for and the people who owned them.  People from all walks of life, interesting and memorable characters, and animals. 


Some of the stories go into detail about the ailments and treatment of the animals.  You may not want to have young children listen to or read the book, but wait until they are a little older.


I greatly enjoyed The Wonderful World of James Herriot.  It was delightful as an audio book and one I would like to listen to or read again.  It is the kind of book I would want to come back and listen to or read all over again, and share with others.


The Wonderful World of James Herriot would make a perfect Christmas or birthday gift for family and friends, or even for yourself.  If you are familiar with the James Herriot books, it will likely make you want to go back reread his novels. 


I would like to thank Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the opportunity to listen to the audio book The Wonderful World of James Herriot by James Herriot.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of this audio book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 


Mary’s Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne – Likeable Characters, Faith, Friendship and Hope

I was excited to read  Anne Blackburne’s   newest book   Mary’s Calico Hope , the fifth book in   The Heart of the Amish   series.   Mary Yo...