Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow/3 Stars

About the book:

Charlotte Farrow, maid in the wealthy Banning household on Chicago's opulent Prairie Avenue, has kept her baby boy a secret from her employers for nearly a year. But when the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child's fate. Can she face the truth of her own past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life's tragedies determine the future for her? 

This compelling story set against the glittering backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition captures the tension between the wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable. Author Olivia Newport expertly portays social classes while creating a story of courage, strength, and tender romance.

My thoughts:

After reading Olivia Newport's exceptional debut novel, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, I was oh-so-eager to return to Prairie Avenue to catch the latest happenings in the Banning household.  While Lucy's story had a definite taste of the rich and cultured "upstairs" life, Charlotte's story was all about the "downstairs" life of service.

The story started out great, but before too long, I grew bored.  Believe me, I didn't want to.  The arrival of Henry at the house, and the reasons why he was there, seemed contrived and not believable.  The lack of romance also played a factor in my disappointment.  Archie's attraction to Charlotte never appeared to be fully explored initially, and her reluctance to entertain a relationship with him lingered too long.  And like the first book, the spiritual elements were lacking again.

But on the flip side, the continuance of the Chicago World's Fair and the history of their mayor were thoroughly enjoyable.  The addition of the anarchist movement, while not mentioned at great detail, was a perfect element to include and showed the early beginnings of what we now know as the eight-hour workday.

I do wish to finish the series, and am curious as to which heroine will be the focus of the third and final book.

3 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CFBA Blog Tour: Grace Given by Beth Shriver

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Grace Given
Realms (January 8, 2013)
Beth Shriver


Childhood memories of her grandfather's ranch came alive as Beth wrote her first Amish story. Her parents grew up in the country, so she appreciates pastoral life and respects those who make a living off the land. She visits a nearby Amish community just south of Fort-Worth for an occasional church service or brunch with the bishop and his wife. And on the way home she stops at the community store to get some plum jam!

Beth received a degree in social work and psychology from the University of Nebraska. She worked as a caseworker for Boulder County Department of Social Services before starting a family. Beth and her husband, two children, along with two cats and a beagle live in Texas after moving from their first home in Colorado. She freelances for the local papers in her area and writes columns, devotionals for magazines, and novels in a variety of genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Beth is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Literary Agency.


“Never doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.” —Amish Proverb

Elsie Kline can’t forgive her sister for leaving the community. Gideon Lapp helps Elsie through her bitterness by studying the Martyr’s Mirror book that is centuries old, describing their ancestors’ sacrifice for their faith. But he feels there is something more. When the community moved to Texas, they were not welcomed by some of the locals. They have told Katie and Elsie that harm will come to their community if don’t go back up north where they came from. Gideon stays by Elsie’s side as she learns to give grace and to humble herself to accept grace as well. “Beth has a heart for helping others, whether through her nonfiction and fiction writing or in other capacities. It has been my pleasure to read and respond to her work during the past few years of knowing her.” —Leanna Ellis, Author of Facelift and Forsaken and winner of the National Readers Choice Award.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Grace Given, go HERE.

Monday, January 21, 2013

CFBA Blog Tour: Mystery of the Heart by Jillian Kent

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Mystery of the Heart
Realms (January 8, 2013)
Jillian Kent


Jillian Kent is a busy writer and the alter ego of Jill Nutter, a full-time counselor.

Jill spent the first semester of her senior year of college at Oxford studying British Literature, where she fell in love with England. During this season, she came to appreciate the written word, the rich imagery of romantic poetry like The Highwayman, and historical novels of many types, including Jane Austen and all things Regency.

Jill received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bethany College in West Virginia, and her Masters Degree in Social Work from WVU, and she brings her fascination with different cultures and societies into her writing.

Jill has always been a romantic at heart, so readers will find a good dose of romance woven through each of her novels. Jill, her husband Randy, and children Katie and Meghan are animal lovers. They currently own two dogs, Boo-Boo and Bandit and a menagerie of cats, Lucky, Yuma, Snow, and Holden. Critters of all assortments make their appearance in her stories.


Lord Eden is intrigued when he discovers Lady Mercy Grayson’s secret, but how can he hope to gain her heart when he is forced to betray her?

Lady Mercy Grayson longs be a physician like her big brother, Devlin, Lord Ravensmoore. However, society would never tolerate a female physician, let alone one who is a noblewoman. So Mercy takes matters into her own hands, disguising herself as a man to get through medical school. But then a male colleague discovers her secret, which is only the beginning of Mercy’s problems that could destroy her dreams forever.

The Prince Regent is awaiting the return of Vincent St. Lyons, Lord Eden, whom he sent on a secret voyage to locate and bring back a relic that some believe possesses the power to heal. St. Lyons discovers Mercy washed up on England’s shore upon his return and agrees to give her safe passage to London aboard a ship of men practicing African Vodun. Both must face treacherous circumstances, difficult decisions, and a growing attraction to one another that could forever change the course of their lives.

As the final installment in the series, the theme of this book is God’s plans for our lives. “Whatever the hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might” (Eccles. 9:10).

If you would like to read the first chapter of Mystery of the Heart, go HERE.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Bergren/4 Stars

About the book:

There are no second chances. Or are there? 

Krista Mueller is in a good place. She’s got a successful career as a professor of history; she’s respected and well-liked; and she lives hundreds of miles from her hometown and the distant mother she could never please. It’s been more than a decade since Alzheimer’s disease first claimed Charlotte Mueller’s mind, but Krista has dutifully kept her mother in a first-class nursing home.

Now Charlotte is dying of heart failure and, surprised by her own emotions, Krista rushes to Taos, New Mexico, to sit at her estranged mother’s side as she slips away. Battling feelings of loss, abandonment, and relief, Krista is also unsettled by her proximity to Dane McConnell, director of the nursing home—and, once upon a time, her first love. Dane’s kind and gentle spirit—and a surprising discovery about her mother—make Krista wonder if she can at last close the distance between her and her mother … and open the part of her heart she thought was lost forever.

My thoughts:

As far as contemporary novels go, Lisa Bergren has always been one of my favorite authors. I love her laid-back, yet interesting, style of writing that has just enough romantic tension to fulfill my occasional romance novel fix. Mercy Come Morning was such a book, and while it was originally released as Christmas Every Morning (a title I'd read long ago, but had forgotten), I was glad to have had the opportunity to reread it.

This is not a novel for everyone...let me just say that up front. The main character, Krista, has some deep emotional scars as a result of her relationship with her mother, and as her mother is reaching death's door after a long Alzheimer's illness, she struggles to find a way to set everything to rights before it's too late. If not for a book full of Christmas carols filled with hastily scratched notes from her mother, Krista might have never known why the relationship between her and her mother failed.

I found the imagery of "Christmas every morning" the perfect backdrop for this story. Sometimes, during the Christmas season, we hear so many of the same songs over and over again, but may not allow the words to penetrate our hearts. I know I'm certainly guilty of that. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Oh, Holy Night" now have a new meaning to me personally because of their inclusion in this story.

For those wanting to read Mercy Come Morning, be sure to have a box of tissues handy. Lisa penned some truly beautiful scenes between Krista and her mother that had me tearing up more than once. I have no doubt that this novel has ministered to many people both in the original release and the re-release--those dealing with a family member with Alzheimer's, or even those dealing with a recent death. It was a difficult story to begin, but one that has a bittersweet, yet joyous, conclusion.

4 Stars

Southern?  No
Sass?  No

**Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

**For more information about Lisa and her books, please visit

**To read an interview I did with Lisa, click here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

 Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock scheduled to release March 2013.

About the book:

Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on local homicides.

When she finds a threatening note warning her that she’s about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief … until her brother is caught in the middle of a murder investigation—the victim is his ex-wife. As her brother is tried and convicted in the media, and bloggers and commentators like her have a field day, Cathy wonders if she should have taken the threat more seriously.

Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators, working to solve their brother’s ex-wife’s murder. Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne’er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear and lack of confidence to learn the art of investigation. But will it be too late to save their brother from a murder conviction, or his five-year-old son who’s the killer’s next target?


Click here to read a fun interview I did with Terri last year.  :o)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book Review: The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury/4 Stars

About the book:

Number one New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury delivers an instant classic with this heartwarming Christmas story about a hundred-year flood, lost love, and the beauty of enduring friendships. 

Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, but she left her heart back in Tennessee with a man she walked away from five years ago. They had a rare sort of love she hasn’t found since.

Ryan Kelly lives in Nashville after a broken engagement and several years on the road touring with a country music duo. He can still hear Molly’s voice encouraging him to follow his dreams; Molly, whose memory stays with him. At least he can visit The Bridge—the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin—and remember the hours he and Molly once spent there.

For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books—even through dismal book sales and the rise of digital books. Then in May, the hundred-year flood swept through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store.

Now the bank is pulling the lease on The Bridge. Despondent and without answers, Charlie considers the unthinkable. Then tragedy strikes, and suddenly, everything changes. In the face of desperate brokenness and lost opportunities, could the miracle of a second chance actually unfold?

The Bridge is a love story set against the struggle of the American bookstore, a love story you will never forget.

My thoughts:

In the past few years, I have shied away from reading books by Karen Kingsbury.  To me, it seems as though she has been churning out books left and right, which has left much to be desired in the content of her stories.  But on a whim, I decided to give her latest book, The Bridge, a try after seeing it featured on the new releases shelf at my library.  Honestly, I'm very glad that I did.

I'm not sure why I connected so much with this particular story, but I think most of it had to do with the setting being in my home state of Tennessee.  I remember the 100-year flooding events that occurred in my area of the state--Memphis--two years in a row.  One of those years, it also affected Nashville.  Truly, both years were horrible.  There were so many people forced out of their homes, losing all they had in the world, not to mention the large amounts of damage that affected so much of downtown Memphis.

Maybe it was that remembrance of so many real people losing everything that helped me connect with Charlie, the owner of a small-town bookstore, The Bridge.  His character was so kind and helpful, causing many of his customers to think of him fondly for months and years.  But after the flood hit Nashville, he lost everything.  With creditors breathing down his neck for rent payments and no stock for the bookshelves, the end of The Bridge was surely coming soon.

Paralleled with Charlie's story was Molly and Ryan's story--a tale of love lost.  For two years, they met every day at The Bridge, mostly for studying and occasionally to discuss books.  Slowly, feelings of friendship turned into something more, but each one was promised to another.  It would take many years full of questions before either of them realized how they started down separate paths away from each other.

There were many times that I could've reached for the tissue box because of the feelings of despair, distrust, and loss woven throughout this story.  Yes, there were moments of happiness, too, but this was a soul-searching journey that connected three people together through a small-town bookstore.  In the end, I could honestly say that I was happy that I'd picked up this particular Karen Kingsbury novel.  Here's hoping for many more tales from her just as good as this one.

4 Stars

Southern?  Yes
Sass?  No

**For more information about The Bridge, click here.

**For more information about Karen Kingsbury and her books, visit