Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Full Steam Ahead" Review

Nicole Renard might be a smart young woman who has grown up around boats her entire life, but she is not what her father needs when it comes to taking over the helm of Renard Shipping. With her father’s health failing, Nicole sets off from Galveston to New Orleans with a controversial dowry to do the only thing she can do to remedy the situation – find a husband.

Darius Thornton has made it his life’s work to make steamboats safer for the many patrons who travel on them. After a boiler explosion on a steamboat almost took his life, Darius secluded himself on an estate in Texas to conduct experiments and testing to improve boilers and enhance safety aboard steamboats. Nothing can come between Darius and his experiments – that is until Nicole shows up on his doorstep looking for work.

When Nicole is prevented from making it to New Orleans because of interference from her father’s competitors, she has no recourse but to look for work in the small town of Liberty, Texas. Darius Thornton is not the best of employers, but it will buy her some time to make money to continue her journey and will provide some measure of safety from those who pursue her.

As Nicole and Darius begin to work on the boiler experiments together, their growing attraction for each other further complicates matters. Both of them have callings in their lives that leave no room for love. What will happen when they take a chance and learn to trust that God’s plans are always best?

Set near Galveston, Texas, in 1851, Full Steam Ahead is a romantic tale of love and trust against a backdrop of scientific discovery.

This novel literally starts off with a bang as the reader is taken immediately to Darius and his experience onboard the steamboat Louisiana as it sinks due to a boiler explosion. This way of introducing one of the main characters really draws you in and lets you get to know the character’s thoughts and feelings in a way that is immediate and personal. This first section was rough to read due to its graphic description of the steamboat accident, but, as I said, it really got you into the book all at once. The introduction to Nicole and her arrival at Oakhaven as Darius’s secretary was also interesting and fast-paced.

The main plot of this book about Darius and his experiments was really fascinating, and it made an excellent backdrop for the rest of the story. This was probably the most interesting thing to me historically and as a part of the story. And although the spiritual side of things could have gone much deeper, there were still times when the characters really did grow and change and learn to trust God even when it was hard.

As for the romantic aspect of the book, it started out really well. Their attraction to each other was based on so much more than just physical appearance. Darius was captivated by Nicole’s mind and by her fierce determination. Nicole was able to look past Darius’s eccentricities and see the passion and integrity that went into his work. But as their relationship progressed, this angle got lost and was replaced by romance-novel-type drivel. An example of this is when Darius kisses Nicole, and in his mind the kiss is described as “branding her as his.” It’s hard for me to describe when and how this shift occurred, but it just didn’t seem as if the same two people who were in the relationship at the beginning/middle of the book were the same ones more towards the end. The fact that this relationship took place over an unrealistic two-week period might have had something to do with it, but I’m not sure.

Aside from this romantic contradiction, the remainder of the novel was really fantastic. There is an adventure angle that has to do with Nicole’s dowry and inheritance that really puts a pirate-type twist on the ending. Although somewhat unrealistic, it was really fun and made for an exciting and satisfying novel overall.

Except for some of the romantic parts in the middle, Full Steam Ahead was an enjoyable escape with engaging characters and a plot that kept me turning pages right to the end.

I will give Full Steam Ahead ... 4 BookWorms.

Full Steam Ahead
by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: May 27, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"A Moment in Time" Review

Alice Chesterfield wonders if she will be hiding for the rest of her life. The man who killed her father and left her with a terrible facial scar will not cease harassing Alice for information of the whereabouts of the valuable papers her father supposedly left behind. Pursued by this horrible man and haunted by the memories of her attack, Alice hopes a move to Texas with her former employer and friend, Marty Wythe, will be just the escape she needs.

At first, being in Texas seems to be the best thing to ever happen to Alice. She finds that she enjoys ranch life, and she is surprisingly attracted to Marty’s nephew, Robert Barnett, who doesn’t seem to mind the terrible scar that mars her face. But when long-held secrets are revealed about her family, the truth is harder than Alice feels she can bear.

Can Alice rely on God to give her the peace and love that she so desperately desires?

A Moment in Time is book two in the Lone Star Bride series by Tracie Peterson.

Books by Tracie Peterson always take me back to when I first started reading Christian historical fiction. What I like so much about the genre is its simplicity and its ability to deliver a sweet, clean, romantic story that might be a bit predictable but is still entertaining. I also really enjoy when a novel in this genre is easy to read and just has that extra touch of something in it that keeps it interesting throughout.
A Moment in Time delivered on all of these points.

Alice and Robert were easy characters to get to know, and I especially liked Robert right away. It was easy to see where the romance was going, in spite of a few entanglements, but it was still sweet to see how it all unfolded.

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me was the storyline of Alice’s mother and brother and how that whole situation was ultimately resolved. This part of the story was a difficult subject as far as forgiveness and moving on after a wrong has been done to you, and I thought it was handled reasonably well.  As for the other spiritual aspects, they were appropriate, but I thought they could have used a bit more depth.

While this novel is very easy to read and enjoyable, it is somewhat on the simplistic side. The characters do deal with things that are real, but sometimes their dialogue and their ability to move on so quickly seemed somewhat unrealistic. I actually like this type of book most of the time in Christian fiction, especially historical fiction. I like to have fun and be entertained while reading a book instead of reading one that purposefully tries to get you to cry. I realize that bad things do happen in life and in fiction, but I prefer to at least be able to read about a happy ending in a novel even if it doesn’t always happen in real life.

Another thing I liked about this novel was that the story of Marty and Jake continued from the first book, A Sensible Arrangement. I am looking forward to the next novel in the series where I can read a new story and hopefully continue to find out what happens to Marty & Jake and Alice & Robert in the future.
I will give A Moment in Time ... 3.5 BookWorms.

A Moment in Time
by Tracie Peterson
"Lone Star Brides" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: June 3, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Out of the Ruins" Review

Abby Fischer is praying for a miracle. Her beloved sister Cecilia has leukemia, and the usual treatments are no longer working. When Dr. Robert King arrives on the scene with an experimental treatment for cancer, it seems as if he is heaven-sent. But the new radiation treatments are risky, and things become even more complicated when Robert and Abby begin to realize their feelings for each other.

In the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, thoughts of romance are pushed aside as everyone in the city struggles for survival. Separated from her family and from Robert, Abby is frantic. Will she ever find her way out of the ruins of the city – and her own heart – to find the love and faith she so desperately desires?

Out of the Ruins is the first in the Golden Gate Chronicles series by Karen Barnett.

My first impression of this book as I started reading was how the author is so good at paying attention to detail. From the historical and spiritual parts of the book to the setting, everything was meticulous and yet also really drew you into the story emotionally. This book started off rather slowly, but it really gave you time to get to know the characters and the time and place so that you could be fully immersed in everything.

That being said, the feeling of this novel is that it is actually two shorter books in one. The book is broken up into Part 1 and Part 2, and as the reader, you definitely feel this break. The second half of the book ultimately does connect back to the first, but it still felt as if I was reading two separate books that were just about the same characters.

In Part 1, I was completely fascinated with the medical aspect of the story. The emergence of radiation as a treatment for cancer was an excellent backdrop to everything that was taking place. Obviously this was a new technology in 1905 – the hazards of radiation were not known – and I cringed each time the doctors would test the X-ray machine on themselves! The thing about this part of the story, however, was that I thought it was a bit long, which goes back to my statement earlier about the book feeling as if it was actually two in one. I knew what was coming – the ultimate fate of Abby’s sister and also the coming earthquake – so I felt as if I was just holding my breath and dreading what was ahead.

Even though the first section was long for my taste, it was still well-written (in spite of the excessive similes and metaphors) and really invoked many emotions as I was reading. This was also true for Part 2. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was devastating, and the author really paints the picture for the reader of the reality of those days. I felt as if I was right there with Abby as she searched for her family and dealt with the aftershocks of this historical event.

The overall spiritual aspect of the book was something that I thought was written well also. The author does not shy away from the gospel and the name of Christ, but even though it is a major plot point, you don’t feel as if she is beating you over the head with it. There are so many spiritual issues that are dealt with in this novel – some of them very difficult ones – and I think they were handled very well. I also really liked the references to old hymns. I found myself singing them throughout the days that I was reading the book.

The romance between Robert and Abby obviously takes somewhat of a backseat after the earthquake, since they are basically just trying to survive. I think their relationship could have been given more substance. Their romance seemed a bit flat, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.

Even though the novel was not presented in a way that I would not consider completely cohesive, it was still a good story overall. This is not a light, entertaining read but one that sends the reader through a range of emotions. There is tragedy upon tragedy which sometimes made it really difficult to read. Ultimately, however, the message is one of hope and faith in the God who never leaves us or forsakes us.

I will give Out of the Ruins ... 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Silenced" Review

Kayden McKenna has experienced some exciting and adventurous things during her years of rock climbing in her home state of Alaska. But she never expected her rock climbing to lead her to the discovery of a body. Did the dead climber meet with a terrible accident, or is there something more sinister at work?

Now that everyone knows of Jake Westin’s past as a detective, the overworked sheriff of Yancey asks Jake to handle the case. At first Jake is reluctant, but he then realizes that it would be good to get back into the job. And the fact that Kayden will be part of the investigation is even more of a motivating factor.

As Jake and Kayden race to find out what really happened to the climber, they discover a threat that hits even closer to home – a threat that puts their own lives in danger.

Silenced is book number four in the Alaskan Courage series.

The story in this book starts off very well. I was interested in the story right from the beginning, and it didn’t take me as long this time to get reacquainted with the characters. This novel is fast-paced and has a sense of adventure to it right from the start.

Jake and Kayden are good main characters, their relationship is interesting, and the time the two spend together is appropriate for the development of the romance. I thought it was cute that they wanted to spend time together conducting the investigation but that they didn’t want to admit their growing feelings for each other. I liked Jake as a character, and even though I thought Kayden was sometimes impulsive, she wasn’t the fainting female in constant need of rescuing who couldn’t do anything for herself. Her character was just the opposite – she never wanted to admit when she needed help. This aspect of her character made her more relatable but also unique.

The time Jake and Kayden spent together trying to find out who killed the rock climber was interesting and developed their relationship, but I thought it was odd that the police would let a non-police person (Kayden) question suspects and collect evidence during an investigation. Maybe I’ve just watched too much Law & Order in my life, but I thought it was pretty unrealistic.

The mystery in this book, however, was a little confusing to me. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD) There were technically two mysteries in this novel, and I kept waiting for them to be connected in some way. The “bad guy” in the Jake part of the mystery was clich├ęd, and I didn’t understand the motivation at all. I could see the conclusion coming a mile away. It also seemed as if we never got back to the original investigation with the rock climber and that it was never completely concluded. (SPOILERS OVER)

Even though the mystery wasn’t what I was expecting, I actually liked this book more than some of the previous ones in the series. I also thought there was a nice balance with the spiritual parts of this story. It blended in well in the plot without going overboard, and this part of Reef’s story was set up nicely to be continued in the next book.

I definitely think that you need to read the other books in the series prior to this one. Jake and Kayden’s relationship weaves through the first three novels as well, and if you haven’t read them, their relationship in this book will be confusing and not fleshed out very well.

Silenced is a fast-paced story that kept me interested in spite of the lack of an intriguing mystery plot. The secondary storylines made me interested to read the next installment in the series as well.

I will give Silenced ... 3.5 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Bridge to Haven" Review

Left under a bridge to die as an infant, Abra Matthews knows what it is to be abandoned. As if that wasn’t bad enough, at the age of five, when a tragedy occurs, the family who rescued her as a baby decides to give her away to another family.

Pastor Ezekiel Freeman regrets every day that he had to allow Abra to live with the Matthews family after his beloved wife passed away. Since finding her under that bridge in Haven as a newborn, he knew she was something special. He and his son, Joshua, watch from afar as Abra grows into a beautiful young woman – but still a girl who feels as if everyone and everything in her life has disappointed her, including God.

Following a bad boy to Hollywood, Abra thinks she has found her escape from Haven. But what she finds in the alluring world of movies, glamour, and the rich and famous turns out to be a prison like she never imagined. Will she ever be able to find that bridge back to Haven – to those who love her and to the One who has loved her from the start?

I have read a few Francine Rivers novels over the years, starting with the popular Redeeming Love several years ago. I have enjoyed her novels, but I haven’t been able to read as many as I would like. When I saw that she was coming out with a new one, though, I jumped at the chance to review it. My book club is reading this one later in the year, too, so it will be neat to hear what they think about it as well.

To me this novel seemed like a blend between Redeeming Love and Her Mother’s Hope. Most of Francine Rivers’s books focus on the same themes of forgiveness, love, and redemption, and these themes are woven seamlessly throughout the novel. She is so talented at working the gospel and God into the story and into the characters’ lives without it coming across as pushy or unrealistic. The best example of this in Bridge to Haven was when Abra encountered Murray and Mary Ellen during her time in Hollywood. Both of these characters were able to connect with Abra and be that light for God in her dark world, and they were able to do it without being pushy or fake. They loved Jesus, and they showed it in their daily interactions. I think this was almost my favorite part of the novel, even though it wasn’t a huge part in the book.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters in this novel. The residents of Haven were real and made the small town come alive. I especially liked Mitzi, Abra’s friend who encouraged her to play the piano. As a girl who grew up playing hymns almost from day one of piano lessons, I absolutely loved that part of the story. I so appreciated and identified with how those old hymns would just pop into Abra’s mind when times were hard to give her comfort and peace.

The overall plot in this book is not necessarily surprising. You can see where it is going the whole time, but with these sweeping saga-type novels, the story is really in the journey. You might be able to see where it is going to end up, but the path that the characters take to get there is what makes the story. And this is where Francine Rivers excels. I did think this one got to be a little long, especially towards the end. I was ready for Abra to hurry up and get there, but that, of course, would not have been as realistic.

The romance in this book is part of the story, but it is definitely not the main plot. Abra’s story of grace and redemption is the main focus. It’s kind of refreshing to read a Christian fiction book every once in a while that isn’t so wrapped up in the romantic plot. That being said, the romance in this story was not quite as good as I had hoped. [SPOILER ALERT] The story was fine, but I just could not get over the fact that the romance was between two characters who had been raised for five years as brother and sister. Now, I understand that they were not actually blood relatives and that for those five years Abra was a baby and small child. But Joshua was not. He was five when Abra came to live with them and was ten when she went to live with the Matthews family. I just found it too much of a stretch that he could ever think of her as anything other than a little sister. [SPOILER OVER]

I also feel I should warn readers that this is not a light Christian story. It is real and brutally honest in its portrayal of war, sexuality, and abusive relationships. If Redeeming Love is PG-13, this one is even more so. I especially thought the last sexual scene was way too descriptive for a Christian book, even though it was within the boundary of a marriage.
Even though there were things about this novel that I had trouble with, the story as a whole was completely engrossing. At times I just wanted to yell at Abra to run back to Haven. It was so interesting to see from Abra’s perspective how she didn’t feel that anyone loved her, even though so many people did. It is a true representation of how we too often run from God when we should be running to Him with open arms to receive His grace and mercy and forgiveness.

I will give Bridge to Haven … 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 30, 2014

"The Heart's Pursuit" Blog Tour

A jilted bride desperate to save her family from ruin.

A bounty hunter seeking vengeance for a ravaged past.

An arduous trek toward justice---or redemption.
Silver Matlock and Jared Newman know traveling together is a bad idea. Bad for Silver's already tarnished reputation in her small Colorado town. Bad for bounty hunter Jared's secret, single-minded mission for revenge. But Silver is determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father's fortune. And Jared's in a hurry to hunt down the murderer who destroyed his family---even if Silver is too distractingly beautiful for comfort.
The pair takes off over mountain and desert, past bleak homesteads and raw mining towns, hot on the trail of the two villains who took what wasn't theirs to take. Soon supplies dwindle, secrets emerge, and suspicion leave Silver and Jared at odds when they need each other most. To confront an enemy deadlier than desert rattlesnakes and rocky cliffs, Silver and Jared must learn to forgive and trust and face the question they haven't dared voice: What happens next?

Purchase a copy:

About the author: Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over sixty novels.

Robin can be found at: website, Facebook, Twitter

My Take:

I’ve enjoyed books by Robin Lee Hatcher in the past, and when I read the summary for this novel, I was hooked immediately. One thing that Robin Lee Hatcher does well is to just tell a great story without a lot of other stuff getting in the way, and with The Heart’s Pursuit, this was definitely the case.

I really enjoyed the adventure as Silver and Jared pursued the two outlaws. The story never seemed to slow down too much, and I liked Silver and Jared as main characters. The development of their relationship happens quickly and is predictable, but this is more understandable when two people spend so many harrowing days together.

There were some parts of this book that I thought were pretty unrealistic – Silver and Jared traveling together alone for one – but for some reason it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the story. Also, even though I liked Silver and Jared overall as characters, Silver sometimes got on my nerves. She was made out to be so strong and independent, but so many times she instead came off as impetuous and, therefore, even more of a damsel in distress. Again, I still enjoyed the story and characters overall, but sometimes Silver was just too much.

I thought the faith aspect of this book was done very well. The spiritual themes are clear, but they are woven throughout the story and in the characters’ lives in a way that made it realistic. It was interesting to see how easily the characters turned from wanting to seek justice to wanting to seek revenge. It really made me think about how easily anyone can slip into revenge-seeking mode, even over little things, which definitely was not the case here.

There are some intense plot points in this book – one of the outlaws is being pursued because of rape and murder – so some parts of the book are fairly heavy and somewhat disturbing. The overall feeling of the book, however, is not without hope. The novel clearly makes the point that there is a distinct difference between seeking justice and seeking revenge, and that ultimately, forgiveness and redemption rest in God alone.

I will give The Heart's Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.

Robin Lee Hatcher's latest novel, The Heart's Pursuit, is receiving critical praise:
"The Old West lives again in this inspirational romantic adventure. . . . Themes of forgiveness, justice and mercy dominate the story and add to the characters' depth. Hatcher treats readers to a rich sensory experience—you can taste the desert dust and smell the smoke and stench of a crowded gambling hall." (Publishers Weekly)

Robin is celebrating the release of her novel by giving away a $200 "Romantic Weekend Getaway."

  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (Get away for the weekend with that special someone!)
  • The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 8th. Winner will be announced June 9th on Robin's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on June 8th to see if you won.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers through LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"A Beauty So Rare" Review

Eleanor Braddick arrives in Nashville, Tennessee, under less than ideal circumstances. After serving as a nurse in the Civil War and losing her brother to the conflict, Eleanor must now place her father in an institution in Nashville due to his dementia. Even though she is welcomed at the Belmont Estate by her charitable but demanding Aunt Adelicia, Eleanor is determined to make her own way in the world. Eleanor has always known that she is no Southern beauty, and she is content to live a life without a husband, no matter what Aunt Adelicia says.

Marcus Geoffrey is in Nashville where he, too, is determined to make his own way in the world. Marcus is actually Archduke Marcus Gottfried from Austria, and he is hiding his true identity in order to work on his two passions in life: botany and architecture.

Eleanor and Marcus are from two completely different worlds, but when Eleanor and Marcus begin to work together on building a home for widows and orphans, they realize that they might have more in common than they initially thought.

Aunt Adelicia is not a woman who is easily crossed, and Marcus is not who she has in mind for her niece. But if family secrets come to light, it might be more than just Aunt Adelicia keeping them apart.

A Beauty So Rare returns to the lavish Belmont Mansion with a sweeping story of love, compassion, and the definition of true beauty.

The Belmont Mansion immediately after the Civil War is an interesting setting for this novel. There was so much going on in American history at that time, and that’s exactly what this book portrays – so much going on.

The main story between Eleanor and Marcus is interesting, and their friendship/romance has a lot of twists and turns. Some of the circumstances that surround their relationship – misunderstandings about the other person, people trying to keep them apart – are not my favorite plot points in a romance novel, but, overall, their rapport was good and was written well. The best part of the novel for me was the building of the home for orphans and widows, so it was interesting to see how Marcus and Eleanor related to each other during that process.

As I said earlier, there is a lot going on in this novel. Marcus is in the process of working on new varieties of flowers and even disease-resistant potato plants. Eleanor is working on the home for orphans and widows, trying to dodge the match-making Aunt Adelicia, and worrying about her father who is suffering from dementia. The brutal effects of the Civil War are lingering, including financial issues and racial tensions. Even though there is a lot going on, the plots are not extremely complex, and the flow of the novel is easy to follow. I especially enjoyed the overall theme of beauty and what makes a person truly beautiful is not what is on the outside.

The main thing about this novel that kept me from enjoying it completely was that it was just too long. It was very repetitious at times and even seemed to need some editing. The descriptions of the surroundings and the inner monologues of the main characters really distracted from the flow of the story, especially during the first half of the book. In the second half of the novel, the story picked up quite a bit, but the length overall was still too much.

I also wish that the spiritual parts of the story had more depth. The characters talked and thought about God sometimes, and they had compassion for those around them, but I feel as if their faith could have been better developed.

At 480 pages, A Beauty So Rare is a long one, but the setting and characters help to make up for the excessive length.

I will give A Beauty So Rare … 3.5 BookWorms.

A Beauty So Rare
by Tamara Alexander
Belmont Mansion #2
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: March 24, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Murder Simply Brewed" Review

Amber Wright, manager of the Amish artisan shops in Middlebury, Indiana, loves her job and her quiet, peaceful town. When the owner of the local coffee place, Ethan Gray, is discovered dead in his shop, the peacefulness of this small community – where Amish and English work together – is shattered.

When Amber assigns a young Amish girl, Hannah, to take over the coffee shop, the two soon come to believe that Ethan’s death may not have been accidental. Ethan was not a well-liked person in the
Village, and a series of vandalisms begin pointing to something more sinister lurking about.

Messages taken from the Old Testament, secret letters, and suspects with many things to hide lead the two women on a search to solve the mystery that has rocked their little community. Will they be able to restore some type of order to this peaceful place, or will their searching lead to a dangerous end?

I read all three of the previous novels in the Shipshewana mystery series by this author, and I enjoyed the feel of a Murder She Wrote-type mystery along with the unique setting. Both of those elements are present in this new mystery novel as well.

The setting of a small community where Amish and English work side-by-side was once again unique, and it set up the mystery part of the novel very well. It was neat to read about the descriptions of life in this small community and how this death touched so many people. The mystery was also good. There were enough twists and turns to keep the mystery interesting without it becoming ridiculously complicated. It’s a true whodunit, which is my favorite type of mystery.

Even though the setting was interesting and the mystery was compelling, the rest of the novel didn’t keep my interest. It was nice to see the relationship develop between Amber and her neighbor, Tate, but I wasn’t very invested in their romance. The same was true for the interest that Hannah had in Jesse. It was nice, but that was it. The romances helped to fill out the novel some but not quite enough.

I also thought that there was a lot of filler in this novel that just didn’t make any difference in the outcome of the mystery or in the characters’ lives. There was a lot of repetitive dialogue and descriptions, and I found my mind wandering at times. Maybe these sections were supposed to try to throw me off of the mystery or to give the novel a more realistic feel. All it did was cause me to be somewhat bored until the next mystery element took place.

This was a nice mystery novel, and I would be interested to see what might happen in subsequent novels in this series, but it didn’t enjoy it as much as the Shipshewana series. The setting of the novel and the small town mystery are both really good. Unfortunately, there was not enough in between the mystery elements to flesh out an entire novel and keep it interesting throughout.

I will give Murder Simply Brewed … 3 BookWorms.

Murder Simply Brewed
by Vannetta Chapman
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: March 25, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"101 Color and Sing Bible Stories" Review

Bible stories, coloring pages, and children’s songs go hand-in-hand. Every week when we pick up my daughter from her class at church, she has pages that she has colored that correspond to that week’s Bible lesson, and she is humming the songs that they sang.

101 Color and Sing Bible Stories combines all three of these things into one versatile book/CD set. Each Bible story has a corresponding coloring page that can be printed using the provided CD-ROMs as well as a song that you can listen to right from your computer. There are also scripture references for each Bible story as well as a “fun fact.”

The songs that go along with the book are upbeat and will appeal to young children. My five-year-old daughter loved them. I like that you can go online and find all of the lyrics to the songs. This is good, especially since the book only contains a couple of lines of lyrics to each of the songs. The songs are also a good mix of hymns, Sunday School songs, and newer music.

My one critique would be that the Bible stories are not very long. The entire story of Ruth, for example, is told in just a few sentences. While I understand that this presentation should facilitate further Bible study, it would have been nice for the actual Bible stories to be more comprehensive.

My daughter has been a music lover since before birth, so her favorite part of this collection is definitely the songs. My favorite is the complete online lyric sheets. I really like to learn the correct words to any songs that I sing!

Overall, this collection is a nice addition to our Bible storybook library.

I will give 101 Color and Sing Bible Stories ... 4 BookWorms.

101 Color and Sing Bible Stories
by Stephen Elkins
Tyndale Kids
Publication date: February 21, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Kids. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"The Pelican Bride" Blog Tour

Genevieve Gaillain and her sister are headed to the New World on the journey of their lives. To escape religious persecution in France, the sisters find themselves on board the Pelican to become wives to the French Canadian men who are settling in the colony of Louisiana.

Tristan Lanier just wants to be able to live peacefully and work his land. Even though he is French Canadian, he is currently at odds with the French leaders in the Louisiana area due to his stance on the native people and his opinions on where the French people should be settling.

When Genevieve and the other Pelican Brides arrive on the shores of Louisiana, they are shocked at what they discover. The men in the colony are nothing like what was advertised, and the unrest in the area is a real concern. But when Genevieve and Tristan meet, there is an instant connection.

As the days go by, the political struggles in the area intensify, and everyone is affected. After leaving her native France in the midst of similar circumstances, Genevieve wonders if there is anywhere that she might be able to find the peace and love she longs for.

Set in 1704, The Pelican Bride is the first book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series by Beth White.

For more information, click here.

About the Author: Beth White's day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, her passion is writing historical romance with a southern drawl. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers' Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award. Learn more at

My Take:

Admittedly, this time period and setting is not one that I read often. I was intrigued, though, by the story of women coming to the New World as brides and not necessarily getting what they bargained for. As far as that plotline goes, this book was really interesting. It was neat to see early America through the eyes of the newcomers and to experience what life was like in the colonies at that time, especially since there were so many people vying for the land.

I have to say, however, that this novel was very heavy on the historical side of things. I like historical fiction, of course – it is my favorite genre to read. But this one had so many historical facts and details that the fiction part of it often got lost. The author actually admits in her note at the end of the book that this might be the case: “I’m pretty much the ultimate history geek, so I found myself loading the story with way too much information for the average fiction reader (I suspect I’ll have critics on both ends of the spectrum). At my editor’s suggestion, I decided to put some of that information here, to keep from bogging down the action in the novel.” (White, Kindle location 4241)

Unfortunately, that is exactly what I thought happened in this novel. Actually, it wasn’t always the strict history lesson that got in the way of the action of the story but the descriptions of the setting and time period. There were so many times when something exciting would be happening, and right in the middle of it there would be a description of how bread was being made or how a character’s office looked. I am really torn about this style of writing, though. I really liked getting the complete picture of what life was like for people during this time. It was very interesting and made the novel have so much more depth, but sometimes it did slow the action down. I also thought that this novel was too gritty overall, but that’s just a personal preference.

As I began reading this book, I have to say that I was swept up in the story right away. The plotlines are complex and overlap with each other very well. Once the Pelican brides arrived in the settlement, things started getting even more intriguing. I was kept from completely enjoying the main plots of the story, however, because of the sheer number of characters in this book. It doesn’t help that the names of the characters are mostly French. I realize that to remain authentic, this needed to be the case. I just wish I had started keeping a list of who was who at the beginning of the book!

The part of the story that was most interesting to me was the Protestant/Catholic storyline. It was interesting to learn how there was so much persecution of those who were part of the Reformation and that this persecution extended even to the New World. I wish there had been a bit more depth to the matter of faith in the other characters’ lives, not just Genevieve’s. I also liked the story between Genevieve and Tristan. It was a quick romance, but, considering their circumstances, it was believable. 

This is the first book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles by this author, and I believe the next one will be out sometime next year.

I will give The Pelican Bride ... 3 BookWorms.

The Pelican Bride
by Beth White
Gulf Coast Chronicles #1
Revell Publishing
Publication date: April 15, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."