Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where Lilacs Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick

One woman, an impossible dream, and the faith it took to see it through.

German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager possesses only an eighth-grade education—and a burning desire to create something beautiful. What begins as a hobby to create an easy-peeling apple for her pies becomes Hulda’s driving purpose: a time-consuming interest in plant hybridization that puts her at odds with family and community, as she challenges the early twentieth-century expectations for a simple housewife.

Through the years, seasonal floods continually threaten to erase her Woodland, Washington garden and a series of family tragedies cause even Hulda to question her focus. In a time of practicality, can one person’s simple gifts of beauty make a difference?

Based on the life of Hulda Klager, Where Lilacs Still Bloom is a story of triumph over an impossible dream and the power of a generous heart.

“Beauty matters… it does. God gave us flowers for a reason. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment, have a piece of paradise right here on earth.”

Where Lilacs Bloom was a beautiful story based on true events that occurred in Hulda Klager's life. This fact made the story come even more alive for me as I read it. The plotline of this book was well written and flowed smoothly throughout the book. The tone of the book varied, with sweet and sad moments. The perseverance and strong character of Hulda shown out in the book and made me want to practice some of the same characteristics. The characters of Where Lilacs Bloom were well developed and very realistic, which was truly important since it was based on a true story.

Overall, I enjoyed Where Lilacs Bloom and would highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eyes of Justice by Lis Wiehl

The Eyes of Justice, the fourth installment of the Triple Threat Series, was a wonderful and suspenseful tale of mystery and friendship.

The Triple Threat Club has solved intense murder mysteries before…but this time it’s personal.
Cassidy, Allison, and Nicole fight for justice every day—Cassidy as a crime reporter, Nicole as an FBI agent, and Allison as a federal prosecutor. Together they’re a Triple Threat to be reckoned with.
But when a ruthless murderer kills one of their number—and the authorities seem intent on keeping them out of the investigation of the crime—their desire for justice goes into overdrive. They find an unexpected ally in a quirky private investigator named Ophelia whose methods confound the wise.
Yet just when it seems police have the killer in custody and justice is within sight, he somehow strikes again. Not knowing whom to trust, the team engage in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the killer. Nothing can be taken at face value…and nothing will ever be the same.

The Eyes of Justice was a well written novel that wove suspense and mystery together with incredible skill. The plot was well written and kept me guessing throughout. In many of Lis Wiehl's mystery novels she gives the readers clues that the characters do not have. However, in this novel the reader is left as much in the dark as the main characters so that it really does feel like a race against time before all three of the Triple Threat are killed. The characters of the Eyes of Justice were also well developed. The main characters were given realistic strengths and flaws, and the author continued to add to their characteristics from the previous three books in the series. Other minor characters from previous Triple Threat novel had larger roles in this book, and some new characters were added to the mix. While Eyes of Justice is an absolutely excellent, spell-binding read, be prepared that there are several deaths of important characters in this book, and it creates an extremely sad tone throughout the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Eyes of Justice, and I would highly recommend reading the entire Triple Threat series by Lis Wiehl to anyone.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Heart Echoes by Sally John

Only an earthquake could shatter the wall that she has built....

In the aftermath of a massive LA earthquake, the perfect existence that Teal Morgan-Adams has built begins to crumble. Teal's daughter, Maiya, is determined to learn the identity of her biological father, despite the loving devotion of her stepdad, River Adams. However, that is a secret that Teal had hoped to leave buried forever. She has never shared the truth with anyone -not her family, not River, not even Maiya's father.

As Maiya's prying reopens old wounds, Teal receives tragic news from her sister and decides she must travel home to Cedar Pointe, Oregon -a place she has avoided most of her adult life. Will her already strained marriage survive the distance and the secrets that Teal will be forced to face there?

Heart Echoes is heart wrenching story of the power of forgiveness and the importance of honesty and trust. The plotline of the novel is wonderfully well written and was easy to follow yet still held my interest completely. The characters were developed into realistic and flawed individuals that I could relate to and understand their problems. I really liked River, Teal's husband. His honesty, openness, and tenderness for his family were sweet and extremely admirable.

The themes of Heart Echoes were very stirring and important. The story clearly showed the need to be honest with your loved ones and trust God to take care of the issues. The plot line also revealed the importance of abstinence before marriage and the heartbreak and problems that arise with broken and divided families. However, the story also showed the redeeming that only God can bring to those relationships and the good He can brings out of the mistakes we make in our families.

Overall, I really enjoyed Heart Echoes, and I highly recommend it. I cannot wait to read other books by Sally John, especially other books in her Side Road series.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Heart of the Country by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward

Faith and Luke Carraway have it all. Faith is a beautiful singer turned socialite while Luke is an up-and-coming successful businessman. After taking his inheritance from his father’s stable, lucrative business to invest in a successful hedge fund with the Michov Brothers, he’s on the fast track as a rising young executive, and Faith is settling comfortably into her role as his wife.

When rumors of the Michovs' involvement in a Ponzi scheme reach Faith, she turns to Luke for confirmation, and he assures her that all is well. But when Luke is arrested, Faith can’t understand why he would lie to her, and she runs home to the farm and the family she turned her back on years ago. Meanwhile, Luke is forced to turn to his own family for help as he desperately tries to untangle himself from his mistakes. Can two prodigals return to families they abandoned, and will those families find the grace to forgive and forget? Will a marriage survive betrayal when there is nowhere else to run but home?

The novel Heart of The Country by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward is a beautiful and heart wrenching tale of redemption and forgiveness. I was blown away by the plot of the novel, with its twists and turns and the desperate need of the two prodigals for forgiveness and God. Because the novel was based on a screenplay, it took me awhile to get used to the structure and begin to understand what was happening. The flashbacks of Faith's mother were interesting, but they sometimes were distracting and took away from the story. However, despite this, I do not think the story would have been complete without them. The quick movement of time through the first few chapters also threw me as sometimes it would be a couple months between two chapters, and then it would be a few years between the next couple chapters. However, once the story settled and time slowed down to a normal pace, I really began to enjoy the unfolding of the plot.

I particularly appreciated the change of first person character perspectives from Faith to Luke to Olivia. It was definitely the best way for the reader to understand and glimpse the feelings and thoughts that defined the characters. I also felt it was appropriate to end on the perspective of Faith's father. The characters themselves were well written and extremely well developed considering they were based out of a screenplay. The growth in Faith, Luke, and even Olivia was incredible to see, and there several times where I found myself relating to different aspects of their thoughts and lives.

Probably my favorite character was Faith and Olivia's father because of his incredible love for his daughters, his desire for their happiness, and his never ending trust and faith in God. The way he orchestrated some of the final events of the book brought tears to my eyes. I was also blown away by the great love that Luke's father extended to Luke in the midst of his darkest hour even when it meant losing a great deal of money. The love shown by the fathers in this novel is such a great reminder of the expansive love that God our Father shows to us.

Overall, this novel was an incredible read and a beautiful parallel to Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and the great love of God the Father and Jesus.

I received this novel for free from Tyndale Publishers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Dawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley

Disgraced dime novelist Kate Tenney fled the city that banned her latest book for a new start at a cattle ranch in the Arizona Territory. She hopes that ranching turns out to be as romantic as she portrayed it in her novels.

But what awaits Kate is a much harder life than she ever imagined. There is no room for mistakes on a working cattle ranch in 1895, and Kate is ill-prepared for her new life. She quickly learns that dawn comes early...every day. However, Kate has always been tenacious, and she is determined to stick it out at the ranch.

Having been abandoned by her father and her mother's string of lovers, Kate has no intention of ever marrying. However, she did not expect to meet Luke Adams either. Luke awakens feelings inside Kate that she doesn't recognize, and his steady presence is a constant distraction. She has only written about love -she has never known it herself. But her feelings for Luke stand in the way of all she has to gain if she is chosen as the heir to Miss Walker's cattle ranch. Perhaps God has brought Kate to the barrenness of the desert to give new life to her jaded heart.

Dawn Comes Early was a really sweet and enjoyable read. The novel was written with a slightly whimsical tone, and its structure resembled the structure of the dime novels that Kate wrote. This parallel structure helped the reader see Kate's perspective and view the story as if Kate herself was writing it. There were several portions of the novel that were particularly comical and made me laugh, especially when Kate is trying to learn to be a ranch hand. The last couple of scenes of the novel, however, were my absolute favorite. They were so sweet that I was almost brought to tears.

The characters of Dawn Comes Early were also memorable and well written. Luke Adam was my favorite character, as he was incredibly sweet, handsome, and loyal even when Kate was confused and pushed him away. Ruckus, one of the old cattle hands, was also a great character who really explained to Kate the some of the characteristics of God and His great love of His creation. I also enjoyed seeing Kate's transformation through the book as she began to understand the love of God and others for her.

Overall, Dawn Comes Early was a well written novel in terms of plot, tone, and characters, and I truly enjoyed the afternoon I spend reading it. I cannot wait to read the next installment, Waiting for Morning when it comes out in January 2013.

I received this novel for free from Booksneeze.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.