Duty: a novel of Rhynan – Book Review

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Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.

Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?

Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.

Rachel Rossano is one of the authors that I have randomly discovered through social media. To this day I have no idea who first recommended her, but after reading and enjoying one of her novellas and a short story, I am glad that I found her work.

Duty is an adventurous fantasy story with danger, adventure, and romance. From the very first page I found myself drawn into this world, cheering for Brielle in the difficult circumstances in which she finds herself. What I liked most about this book was the level of description. All the senses are engages as you hear the sounds, see the sights, and smell the smells of Rhynan. And while this is a fantasy book set in a well-developed world, it does not include any of the magic elements that can be controversial for some readers.

The plot, the characters, and the setting were great. There were only a few minor things that I did not like about this novel. The main issue is that, with so many characters, it is hard to keep track of them – especially as the characters travel a lot and separate into different groups. Also, at the very beginning I wondered what direction the story was headed. (The book begins with the main character discovering that her hand has been given in marriage to a man she has never met, so you can imagine where that could go…) Thankfully, the author is careful in her descriptions and “fades to black” at the appropriate moments.

If you are looking for a new fantasy read with adventure and romance, Duty is a great beginning. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

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Wild Thing – Book Review

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Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don’t always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series’ vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie’s life with friendship and adventure.

In #1 Wild Thing, Winnie’s fearful heart finally begins to trust God again as she tries to gentle the horse of her dreams, Wild Thing.

I think that, at some point in their lives, all girls go through a horse-crazy stage. I know that I did. When I was about eight, I devoured every book I could find on horses. Now that I am an adult, I am still looking for good horse books to share with the special girls in my life, and that search led me to the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. Wild Thing is a great start to this series of horse books for girls. Winnie and her family have just moved to a new town – again. When she discovers a beautiful Arabian horse in need of gentling, she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her.

I enjoyed this book, and know that as an eight-year-old I would have loved it. The story is entertaining and includes topics such as fear and guilt, which are addressed in a method appropriate for the intended audience. A descriptive writing style and a cast of quirky characters make this an enjoyable read. As an added bonus, the back of the book includes a guide on horse behaviors and breeds.

If there is a horse-crazy girl in your life, this would be a perfect book to share with her!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

The Midwife – Book Review

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Since the day Rhoda Mummau was baptized into the Old Order Mennonite Church and became the head midwife of Hopen Haus, she’s been torn between the needs of the unwed mothers under her care and her desire to conceal the secrets of her past. Contact with the outside world could provide medical advantages, but remaining secluded in the community gives her the anonymity she craves.

Graduate student Beth Winslow is on a path she never would have chosen. Heartbroken after surrendering a baby to adoption, she devotes herself to her studies until she becomes pregnant again, this time as a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities, Beth is unprepared for the parents’ decision to end the pregnancy—and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen House.

Past and present collide when a young woman named Amelia arrives to the sweeping countryside bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia’s due date draws near, Rhoda must face her past and those she thought she had left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

I can count the number of Amish and Mennonite books that I have read on one hand. (Actually, I think the grand total before this book was two.) I’m just normally not a fan of the genre, so when I first saw the cover for The Midwife, I quickly glossed over it. But later, reading through descriptions of new releases, I was drawn to the story.

I have always found the concept of surrogate mothers to be interesting. What would it be like to shelter a baby in your womb, knowing that it wasn’t – and never would be – yours? The difficult situation that Beth finds herself in immediately drew me in, making me care about her character as I watched her struggle. At the same time, the pain and longing of Rhoda and Amelia’s situation encourage sympathy for their characters.

This was a beautifully written book with characters who were both well-developed and realistic. Choosing to write in the first person has allowed Jolina Petersheim a direct outlet between the emotions of the characters and her readers, and choosing not to wrap difficult subjects up in pretty bows lends realism to this story.

If I had judged this novel by its cover, I never would have read it. Now I’m glad that I didn’t let it stop me from discovering this journey. If you like Amish and Mennonite fiction or stories that make you think, I would recommend that you give The Midwife a chance.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

Claiming Mariah – Book Review

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After her father’s death, Mariah Malone sends a letter that will forever alter the lives of her family. When Slade Donovan, strong willed and eager for vengeance, shows up on her front porch, Mariah is not ready to hear his truths: her father’s farm, the only home she’s ever known, was bought with stolen gold. With Slade ready to collect his father’s rightful claim and force Mariah and her family out on the streets, Mariah must turn to God for guidance. Though Mr. Frederick Cooper, a local landowner, promises to answer her financial woes if she agrees to be his bride, Mariah finds herself drawn instead to the angry young man demanding her home.

With the ranch now under Slade’s careful eye, he unearths more than he ever imagined as a devious plot of thievery, betrayal, and murder threatens the well-being of the ranch, endangering those who hold it dear. As the days dwindle until the rest of the Donovan clan arrives at the Lazy M ranch, Mariah and Slade must rise above the resentment of their fathers and see their true feelings before greed changes their futures forever.

Honestly, I expected a bit more from this story. The books that I have read lately from Tyndale House have been so unique that I was looking forward to experiencing more of that creativity in Claiming Mariah.  However, rather than breaking new ground, this book fit comfortably into the western romance structure. Reading the synopsis basically allows you to figure out the entire plot of the book, and the subplots arrive exactly on time.

Despite the predictability of the story, I thought that this novel was very well written, and there were several things about it that I liked. The attraction between Mariah and Slade is vivid and immediate. Although I’m not really a fan of love at first sight stories, this instant attraction probably helped to keep the plot interesting – especially as neither of them trust the other. Their constant inner monologue also keeps you aware of this attraction. All of these are useful tools in progressing the story and relationship of the characters, but one of my favorite elements of this story was the use of the POV of one of the villains. Seeing the story from his perspective helped to add a hint of danger to a story that tended strongly toward the syrupy sweet.

While this was not my favorite read of the year, it was a fun western romance. If you’re looking for something light to pass the time, this might be your ticket!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

All For a Sister – Book Review

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In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance?

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.

All for a Sister is the second book by Allison Pittman that I have read. Both books have confirmed that she is an author with a unique voice and storytelling techniques that are far different from most other Christian authors.

Other than the unique premise, which grabbed me instantly, the thing that really stood out to me about this novel was the way that it was told. The books spans twenty years but is not told in chronological order. Rather, the story is told in fragments from three different perspectives: Celeste’s perspective, Dana’s perspective, and Marguerite’s written confession. This allows the author to feed the reader pieces of information and tease clues that will not be revealed until another character’s perspective reveals it. Sometimes I find this fragmented style to be distracting, but for this book it helped to hold my attention and added to the mystery.

Ms. Pittman is not afraid to deal with dark subjects or to give her characters genuine hardships – even to the point of sending a character to prison and leaving her accuser to deal with her guilt. And because she is such a talented writer, she is able to breathe life into the characters, making you care about them even as you watch them suffer. Her descriptions of their physical appearances also subtly re-enforces the character traits and struggles that define them.

Hollywood in the 1920’s is a fascinating setting, and I enjoyed reading a book that was set in this period. It definitely added interest to have a book with a setting not often portrayed in Christian fiction. Having studied American film, I also found it interesting to see how she included several celebrities of the time.

I enjoyed this book, mostly because of the way that the plot was told. If you love unique Christian fiction, this might be the book for you!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!

Annie’s Stories – Book Review

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The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

Okay, the first thing that I have to say about this book is…. look at that cover! Now, most of the time I buy the Kindle version of books to save money, but sometimes I just have to have the paperback copy sitting on my shelf. I took one look at this gorgeous cover and fell in love with the colors, the setting of the photo, the model’s hairstyle… basically everything about it! Yep, this one is now sitting on my shelf.

So, now that I have elaborated on the cover, let’s get into what’s inside it! Basically this is the story of two very different people from different backgrounds who are trying to prove themselves in their own strength – one through establishing a library and the other through financial security. Both Annie and Stephen, the friendly postman, are orphans looking for love, acceptance, and a home. While Annie is an immigrant from Ireland who wants to start her life over and forget the horrible things that she endured in her native country, Stephen is an American who worries that he will turn out just like his father.

This was a sweet story that I found easy to get lost in. There were several things that I felt set it apart from other books of the period. First of all, I loved that so much of it was tied into The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. One of the very first conversations that the couple has is about the book, and as they are both avid readers I found it easy to connect with them. (How could you not like a guy who spends his spare cash on books?) And while this story does include a romance, it is not of the highly emotional variety. The two characters have only brief meetings, and it takes a while for them to forget the mistakes and hurts of their past enough to face the future. Personally, I found it refreshing to read a love story that, while sweet, was also more realistic that most. I also liked how much Irish culture was included. The author obviously put a lot of work into researching this story, and it definitely payed off.

If you love Christian historical fiction, Ireland, or learning about the conditions faced by immigrants definitely give this one a read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

30 Days to a More Beautiful You – Book Review

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Despite what the world leads us to believe, true beauty has nothing to do with outward appearances. The more we focus on what we look like on the outside, the more insecure we become.

Fortunately, God doesn’t measure our worth by how we look. We have value simply because we are His children. The more we focus on getting our hearts right with the Lord and honoring Him, the more secure and confident we will become—and the more we will exude true beauty.

In 30 Days to a More Beautiful You, former Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel Kylie Bisutti gives a complete inner-beauty makeover with succinct devotional readings designed to transform your heart, body, mind, and soul and put you on the path to becoming a happier, healthier, more beautiful you.

I wasn’t a pre-teen or a teenager that long ago, (Not saying how long ago!) and I am well aware of the pressures that are put on girls to look their best. Even today, with high school far behind me, I still find myself comparing my physical beauty with that of those around me and finding myself falling woefully short of perfect. And that’s where this little devotional comes in. Although I originally intended to read it to determine whether or not it would be good to pass on to some of the girls in my life, I found myself challenged to think about my own attitudes and what I perceive as true beauty.

This is a beautiful little book. (It’s nearly pocket sized and only sixty-three pages). The cover is a fabulous pink, and it does feel girly, yet trendy.

As the title suggests, this booklet is made up of thirty daily readings. Each one begins with a section title, followed by a verse. The main body of the devotional is thoughts by Kylie Bisutti with examples from her own life. Then she asks several questions, and each reading ends with a “True Beauty Tip” – basically a quick summary of what has been discussed on that day.

Even if some of the ideas presented in this book may be common knowledge to readers, especially those  raised in Christian environments, I did think that it was good to have a daily time to think about them. But what I liked most about this book was the author. (Kylie is a former Victoria Secret model who walked away from her career after realizing the damage that she was doing, and I am looking forward to reading her autobiography I’m No Angel.) In a world that has glamorized the Victoria Secret Angels as the ultimate in beauty and sexiness, she has a unique platform to point the girls of this world to the source of true beauty.

This book would be a great gift for a teen girl who is struggling with seeing herself as less than perfect. And you can’t beat the price. Both the Kindle and the paperback versions are less than a dollar on Amazon, and that includes shipping if you have Prime!

I’m glad that I purchased this book, and yes, I will be sharing it with the girls in my life!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from all purchases made through these links, which allows me to buy more books and keep blogging!