Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Passionate Mom" Review

Motherhood is full of uncertainty. What do my children really need? Why are they doing that? Is this normal? What can I do to help them? How can I know for certain that I am doing this right?

The logistics are easy. Anybody can do laundry and carpool. But what makes a mother the best mom she can be?

It’s not better scheduling. Or more activities. Or less.

It is passion—the passion to teach, protect, study, and prepare her children for the future.

Great, but how?

Susan Merrill, the mother of five incredibly different children, has asked that question countless times. And she has read countless answers specific to a certain child’s temperament, age, or situation. But nothing she read offered an overall approach to parenting that would enable her to say with confidence, “I am doing this right.” She never guessed she would find a foundational plan—a reliable, universal parenting approach in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.

In The Passionate Mom, Susan takes you on a journey through Nehemiah and into the heart of parenting. Her stories and confessions in every chapter reveal what she has learned: no mom can control her child’s future, but every mom can parent well. There is a plan—a roadmap for how a passionate mom can parent almost any child, confidently.

About the Author: I am a hybrid of sorts. I majored in finance but I love people more than numbers. I left behind the corporate gray of banking for the colorful world of kids. I had three children and adopted two more. I am a very imperfect Merrill family manager and the director of iMOM. I love to analyze life, ponder possibilities, and pray for opportunity, which makes for a very busy and messy house! I live in Tampa, Florida, with my handsome husband—Family First founder and author Mark Merrill—and two, or depending on the day, up to five of my children ages seventeen to twenty-two. On those days, I happily forsake all other responsibilities to run a bed and breakfast and Laundromat for college students. - See more at:

My Take:

In this book, Susan Merrill goes through the book of Nehemiah and relates the process of how he rebuilt the wall in Jerusalem to how we as mothers should raise our children. From the start, this was an interesting parallel, and I enjoyed how each chapter in the book related to the steps Nehemiah took to rebuild the wall. I'm not sure if the theological relevance quite relates to motherhood, but it was an interesting way to approach it.

My favorite part of the book was how she used the gates in the wall as metaphors for things in the world that we need to be monitoring as we raise our kids. It painted such a good picture of what we as parents need to do and how we should be in control of when, how often, and how much each gate should be opened. Although there are many things that would correspond to gates in our kids' world, the ones that she mentioned were: Choices, School, Friends, Free Time, Technology, Cell Phones, Social Media, Driving, Dating, and College. There were some very practical points in this section that I will definitely be referring to in the future as my daughter gets older.

I felt that this book is mostly applicable to those with older children, but I am glad that I read it now so that I will be more prepared for the future. I also think that the author comes at parenting a little bit one-sided at times. She assumes that children will be away from their parents for great periods of time during the day. While we plan to send our daughter to school, I think some home-schooling parents might feel as if parts of the book don't apply to them. I also thought that the whole book was a little one-sided in that fact that it was only addressed to moms. I realize that I have an important role in my daughter's life, but I see my husband and myself as more of a team rather than me as the mom taking the major role in my raising my daughter. (And yes, I realize that the book is called The Passionate 'Mom,' but I just like to view things from a parenting team point of view rather than a Mom point of view).

Even though some aspects might have been one-sided the overall book was convicting, practical, and encouraging. One of the most convicting points for me was that as a parent I should fear God more than I fear what my child might think. Here is a great quote:

"Your child may be attracted to the lovely things of the world. But you must fear God more than you fear your child's anger or you may say yes to things that are not in your child's best interest. You must also love God and his desires more than you love to please your child."

This is so hard for a parent to do sometimes because we want to give everything to our child. But we should want what's best for them more than to just make the happy in the moment.

The Passionate Mom really gave me a lot to think about in my parenting, especially as my daughter gets older and encounters the world more and more. I'm sure I will be referring to this book often in the future.

I will give The Passionate Mom ... 4 BookWorms.

The Passionate Mom
by Susan Merrill
Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication date: April 16, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through BookSneeze. 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, September 27, 2013

"Finally Free" Blog Tour

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace 
by Heath Lambert
If you have struggled personally against the powerful draw of pornography, or if you have ever tried to help someone fighting this battle, you know how hard it is to break free. But real freedom isn’t found by trying harder to change. Nor is it found in a particular method or program. Only Jesus Christ has the power to free people from the enslaving power of pornography.

In Finally Free, Dr. Heath Lambert, a leader in the biblical counseling movement, lays out eight gospel-centered strategies for overcoming the deceitful lure of pornography. Each chapter clearly demonstrates how the gospel applies to this particular battle and how Jesus can move readers from a life of struggle to a life of purity.

If you or someone you care about is fighting this battle, there is good news: No matter how intense or long-standing the struggle, Jesus Christ can, will, and does set people free from the power of pornography.

Table of Contents:

 CHAPTER 1 – Grace as the Foundation in the Fight Against Pornography
 CHAPTER 2 – Using Sorrow to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 3 – Using Accountability to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 4 – Using Radical Measures to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 5 – Using Confession to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 6 – Using Your Spouse (or Your Singleness) to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 7 – Using Humility to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 8 – Using Gratitude to Fight Pornography
 CHAPTER 9 – Using a Dynamic Relationship with Jesus to Fight Pornography
 CONCLUSION – A Call to Holiness and Hope
 APPENDIX – Help for Families and Friends of Men Struggling with Pornography

About the Author:Dr. Heath Lambert serves as the Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at Boyce College and regularly teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway, 2011), and co-editor (with Stuart Scott) of Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture. He also serves as the Pastor of Biblical Living at Crossing Church, is married to Lauren, and is the father of Carson, Chloe, and Connor.

My Take:

When I requested this book for review, I was planning to have my husband read it since he is the one who deals with this issue the most when he disciples other men. But now that I have read his review and heard his thoughts throughout the time that he was reading this book, I am planning to study this book myself. The basics of this book come down to dealing with sin in your life. Yes, this book focuses on pornography, but the biblical and practical principles can apply to anything that we as humans struggle with.

As members of a church that is very involved in the Biblical counseling movement, I was excited to learn that this book is by an author who is also involved in this movement. The Bible has answers for our life in 2013, and I am so thankful for those who are willing to counsel from the scriptures.

My Husband's Take:

Finally Free is a book on dealing with the sin of pornography.  It is written specifically to men who are struggling with an addiction to pornography or to people trying to help men who are.  But this book is different from other books that I have read on the topic of pornography.  Most books spend a good deal of time describing pornography and how big a problem it is in our culture.  However, if you are already struggling with this issue, you don’t need a history or statistics lecture, you need Jesus to help you conquer your sin.  And that is where this book begins and ends - with Jesus.

Also, the best part about this book is that it doesn’t just apply to pornography.  It applies to any sin in your life that you are continually struggling with.  Perhaps it is gambling or drinking or even something less obvious, like joining in with inappropriate conversations at work.  Whatever it is, this book teaches how to deal with any sin issue that you are struggling with by relying on Christ and His saving grace.

Heath Lambert gives clear evidence of Jesus’ love for us and clear scripture backing it up.  He shows how God wants us to behave and how we can accomplish it.  He also gives very clear practical advice on how to deal with the sin of pornography and gives examples to show how it looks in reality.  At the end of each chapter are a list of questions and tasks to help you apply what you learned in that chapter.  They are very real and practical questions that make you deal honestly with your sin and level with God on dealing with it.

This book is a terrific resource for someone stuck in the mire of pornography.  However, it is also a great book for anyone dealing with a specific sin that is a source of great struggle in his/her life.

We will give Finally Free ... 5 BookWorms.

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace
by Heath Lambert
Zondervan Publishers
Publication date: August 8, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers through Cross Focused Reviews. 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, September 25, 2013

"Love's Awakening" Blog Tour

The path to true love lies somewhere between two feuding families.
In the spring of 1822, Ellie Ballantyne leaves finishing school and returns to the family home in Pittsburgh only to find that her parents are away on a long journey and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. Determined to stand her ground and find her place in the world, Ellie fills her time by opening a day school for young ladies.

 But when one of her students turns out to be an incorrigible young member of the Turlock family, Ellie knows she must walk a fine line. Slaveholders and whiskey magnates, the Turlocks are envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly entangled with the rival clan--particularly the handsome Jack Turlock--she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future. Will she betray her family and side with the enemy?

 Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love and loyalty. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Connect with the author here:

My Take:

I read the first book in this Ballantyne Legacy series last year, and I enjoyed it mostly for the historical aspects. When I began reading this installment in the series, I actually didn't remember much about what had taken place in the first book. As I kept reading, though, bits and pieces of the first novel came back to me.

As in the first novel, the historical aspect of this book was the best part for me. I always foget that the Underground Railroad existed as early in American history as this story takes place - 1822. Most of what you read about it takes place immediately before and during the Civil War, so this part of the novel was really fascinating.

I also loved the descriptions of Pittsburg and the surrounding areas including the three rivers. The whole setting was very engrossing and made me feel as if I was right there experiencing all of the things that the characters did.

The romance, however, was really lacking through most of the novel. Although it picked up towards the very end, until then it just didn't seem to have any depth. Jack and Ellie spent absolutely no time together before they were declaring their love. Most of their time was spent apart mooning over the idea of each other, which to me does not a love relationship make. I just didn't feel it, and their love did not come across as based in reality. The star-crossed lover plot is not new, and I think it could have been explored so much more deeply than just through Jack and Ellie's incessant inner monologues.

I also thought that this novel was just too long and drawn out. The previous novel was long, but it spanned so much more time than this one did. This second novel in the series just seemed as if it was a (very long) bridge from the first novel to the third with Jack and Ellie's romance thrown in for good measure.

That being said, the ending of this novel redeemed it a bit for me. It finally picked up and raced on to a very exciting conclusion. Jack and Ellie's romance even became more realistic, and I was satisfied with the ending. The Epilogue sets up the next book in the series and keeps the reader wanting more.

I will give Love's Awakening ... 3 BookWorms.

Love's Awakening
by Laura Frantz
Ballantyne Legacy #2
Revell Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell 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, September 23, 2013

"A Christmas Gift for Rose" Review

Born in the midst of the hardships of The Great Depression, Rose grew up in Berlin, Ohio, in the arms of a loving Amish family. But as she prepares to marry, she’s thrown into confusion when she learns the truth of her birth. She was born Englisch and abandoned when the family moved on in search of work.
Was she meant to be Amish or would she have been better off growing up with her own kind—Englischers? And was her intended’s gift of discovering her birth family given out of love or fear?

Inspired by a true story, A Christmas Gift for Rose is a heartwarming novella of love and sacrifice.

For information on purchasing this book, please click here.

About the Author: Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of two, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. A bestselling author, Tricia has published over thirty books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee.

In 2010, she was selected as one of the Top 20 Moms to Follow on Twitter by Tricia is also on the blogging team at, and other homeschooling and Christian sites. In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR.
Tricia, along with a group of friends, recently launched, sharing ideas about simplifying life. She also hosts the weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired.

Learn more about Tricia at

My Take:

It's Christmas in September again in the publishing world, and the first one on my list is A Christmas Gift for Rose by Tricia Goyer. Since my husband and daughter have been singing Christmas songs around the house for weeks now, I guess it is appropriate!

The plot of this novella - an Amish person finding out that they were actually born English - has definitely been done before in the realm of Amish fiction. However, there was a bit of an added twist to this one considering the fact that not only was Rose born to an English family, but she was, in her eyes, abandoned. This main plot point and the fact that the book took place right at the end of World War II gave it a more unique feeling overall.

I have read all of Tricia Goyer's Amish fiction, and the main thing I enjoy about the way she writes in this genre is how the message of Christ's salvation comes through clearly. I was a bit disappointed in this novella that that message didn't seem to be as clear or as strong as in her past books. The message was there, and there was a lot of talk about God and His plans, but I didn't feel the depth of Christ's love and His salvation from sin as much as in her full-length novels.

The ending of this novella is just outstanding. It is so heartfelt, and the imagery had me feeling as if I was standing right there with Rose as she experienced the moment.

A Christmas Gift for Rose is a heartwarming tale filled with all the warmth and love of the Christmas season.

I will give A Christmas Gift for Rose ... 3 ½ BookWorms.

A Christmas Gift for Rose
A novella by Tricia Goyer
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: September 24, 2013

I have had the pleasure this year of being on the Launch Teams for Tricia Goyer's fiction books, and it has been a delightful experience!

Tricia Goyer is celebrating the release of her first Christmas novella, A Christmas Gift for Rosewith a Christmas Gift giveaway! 

Enter to win a NEW Kindle Fire HDX for you AND one for a friend!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX and one to give away to a friend!
  • A Christmas Gift for Rose, by Tricia Goyer for you and your friend!
Four second place winners will receive:
  • A Christmas Gift for Rose Christmas pack (includes a recipe card, bookmark, a signed book plate, discussion questions, and a Gathering & Giving handout!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 19th. All winners will be announced October 21st at Tricia's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Tricia's blog on the 21st to see if you won one of the great prizes! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan 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."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"God in My Everything" Blog Tour

God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God 

by Ken Shigematsu

Ken Shigematsu shows that spiritual formation is more than just solitude and contemplative reflections. Spiritual formation happens in the everyday, in each and every moment of life. For those caught up in the busyness of work, family, and church, it often feels like time with God is just another thing on a crowded “to-do’ list. Ken explains how the time-tested spiritual practice of the “rule of life” can help bring busy people into a closer relationship with God. He shows how a personal rule of life can fit almost any vocation or life situation.

In God in My Everything, you will discover how to create and practice a life-giving, sustainable rhythm in the midst of your demanding life. If you long for a deeper spirituality but often feel that the busyness of life makes a close relationship with God challenging—and, at times, seemingly impossible—this book is for you.

About the Author: Ken Shigematsu is the Senior Pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver, BC, one of the largest and most diverse city-center churches in Canada. He is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded to Canadians in recognition for their outstanding contribution to the country. Before entering pastoral ministry, he worked for the Sony Corporation in Tokyo and draws on both eastern and western perspectives in writing and speaking. Ken lives in Vancouver with his wife, Sakiko, and their son, Joey.

My Take:
Though I mostly read fiction, occasionally a non-fiction book that really catches my attention will come up for review. This was one of those books.
With an active four-year-old, a loving husband, a house to manage, part-time work to do, and various ministries in which we are involved at our church, my life is definitely busy. Time with God definitely feels as if it just gets put on a to-do list and checked off with everything else.
From the beginning of this book, I was captivated. Ken has an easy writing style that flows well and keeps your attention. And the ideas that he presents just feel so easy to implement into any lifestyle to bring about a closer relationship with God and a more peaceful life.
After Ken gives the background for the "rule of life" that he has put into action in his own life, he lays out practically how this can be accomplished in anyone's life. I loved the imagery of the trellis and how everything in life has its place on the vine with Christ (your spiritual life) as the roots.
Although there were a few things here and there that I didn't agree with theologically, the focus of the book is about Christ and how we should live with him at the center. I would have preferred, however, that the points made were always backed up by the Bible and not by examples of monks or by quotes or examples from secular sources.
After reading this book, I am excited to slowly implement these principles in my life - starting this Saturday/Sunday with observing a time of Sabbath.
I will give God in My Everything ... 4 BookWorms.

God in My Everything
by Ken Shigematsu
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: August 6, 2013
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan 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."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Rules of Murder" Review

Drew Farthering is a young English gentleman living in 1930s England with his mother and step-father on a vast country estate. When his step-father’s niece, Madeline Parker, visits from America, Drew is instantly captivated by her. Before Drew and Madeline have much time to spend together, however, a double murder takes place on the property.

Drew has always liked a good mystery, especially those by Father Knox which follow a certain set of rules. Despite the warnings from the police to let them handle it, Drew is determined to do some sleuthing on his own. Enlisting the help of Madeline and his good friend, Nick, the threesome set out to uncover the mystery.

As more and more clues are uncovered, the more dangerous it becomes to be a resident at Farthering Place. And the more this mystery doesn’t follow any rules at all.

This novel intrigued me from the beginning because I thought it would be neat to read my typical type of novel (Christian historical fiction) that was also a mystery. I always like when a bit of suspense is thrown into historical novels, and since this one revolved entirely around the mystery, I thought I would give it a try.

The mystery portion of the book was good, but it did leave a little to be desired. In an English mystery there are always lots and lots of characters to keep up with, and this one was no different. For the most part, I was able to keep them straight, but there were a couple of times when I had to go back and find out, “OK, who was Clarke again?”

The best part of this book was the setting. Drew’s English estate was, of course, the perfect setting for a murder mystery, and the upstairs/downstairs feeling that comes from a novel in this time and place was appropriate. I also liked the banter among Drew and Madeline and Nick. The dialogue was so very English, and it was just fun to read.

While the mystery aspect of the novel was done fairly well, the romance and spiritual parts were very much awkwardly wedged into the story. The main characters themselves even admit that they have only known each other 11 days before they begin talking of love. Even in a historical novel, this was completely unbelievable for me. I have read other novels where the two main characters solve a mystery together or go through some tragic circumstances and, therefore, come to love each other rather quickly. But in those stories, the romance is woven throughout the other plots of suspense and/or tragedy. In Rules of Murder, the romance seemed to progress only during the ‘downtimes’ between when they were trying to solve the murders. It made for an up-and-down feeling throughout that slowed down pace of the entire novel. This was also true for the spiritual portion of the story. It seemed as if it was just tacked on for good measure.

Because the romance and spiritual portions were not fully fleshed out, I felt as if I wasn’t able to know or care about the characters as much as was intended. I wanted them to solve the mystery, and I wanted them to grow in their faith, but I didn’t really care if Drew and Madeline got together or not. Whenever I read a romance novel, I like to root for the main characters, and in this one, I was ambivalent.

Even though the story as a whole was a bit disjointed, it was interesting to just be along for the ride with Drew and his friends. It was kind of fun to discover that some things that I thought I had figured out were actually red herrings. The “rules of murder” piece was cute – it was funny when the mystery just didn’t want to follow the rules – although I was not familiar with Father Knox and his rules and would have liked to have had a list of them in the front of the book.

Rules of Murder is a fairly good murder mystery that takes place in a fantastic setting, and it would have been a lot better if it had just been left at that.

I will give Rules of Murder ... 3 BookWorms.

Rules of Murder
by Julianna Deering
A Drew Farthering Mystery
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 1, 2013

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."

Friday, September 13, 2013

"The Invention of Sarah Cummings" Review

Sarah Cummings, parlor maid for the wealthy Banning Family, has aspirations that go beyond her current circumstances. When she stumbles upon the perfect opportunity, Sarah invents the persona of Serena Cuthbert, a young, wealthy socialite. Soon she is swept into the world of Chicago’s elite.

But living two conflicting lives soon starts to take its toll on Sarah. Her work as a maid and with the orphanage where she grew up keeps her busy enough. Now she spends any free time that she has working on making her employer’s cast-off gowns into things suitable for Serena and her privileged life. In addition, as determined as Serena is to get a proposal from the wealthy and influential Bradley Townsend, the more time Sarah spends working with Simon Tewell at the orphanage, the more she comes to respect him and his compassion.

Before long, Sarah is in over her head. When tough times come and the ruse seems to be up, will Sarah choose the life she has invented or the one she has been given?

The Invention of Sarah Cummings is the third book in the Avenue of Dreams series by Olivia Newport.

Sarah Cummings was a character in the previous novel in this series (The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow) who I was not fond of at all. So I was interested to see what she was to be like in this novel that was all about her.

To begin, I was interested in how Sarah ‘invented’ the persona of Serena and how she went about trying to handle everything with that. Although I wasn’t able to completely relate to Sarah’s desire to be a part of Chicago’s elite, I could still understand where she was coming from. I’m sure everyone at some point thinks that if they just had more money or more success or more whatever that they would then be able to be happy. The part of the novel that related to Sarah juggling her two lives was very interesting and entertaining. I was nervous right along with her when she would come close to being found out. I also once again enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs aspect of this novel and those characters, such as Lucy, who would bend the rules when it came to the separation that existed between the two classes.

The romance in this novel, however, was a bit of a puzzle. Part of the story is told from the point of view of Simon Tewell, the orphanage director, but I didn’t fully understand that he was to be the other love interest (along with Bradley Townsend, who was interested in Serena) until I was well into the book. In fact, his interest in Sarah at the beginning of the book felt rather creepy to me. I just didn’t know enough about him, and his interest in Sarah seemed odd and seemed to come out of nowhere.

Politics and financial issues of the early 1890s in Chicago come up several times in this novel as well as the presidential election between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. While this time period was certainly a turning point for industry and for the economic climate in this country, I wasn’t really as interested in that as a backdrop for this novel as I was for the World’s Fair in the previous novels. I tend to zone out when people start talking about politics and economics, so that part of the novel didn’t really hold my attention. I’m sure, though, that those who are interested in those subjects would find it a nice addition to this story.

This novel is a nice, light story, but it doesn’t go much farther than that. It is extremely light when it comes to the spiritual aspect and any sort of growth in the characters. Any growth that did take place was not related to the characters admitting their need for Christ as their Savior as much as just recognizing that God loves them just the way they are. Yes, God does love us, and Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Sarah did seem to take this first step of faith – recognizing that God loves her – but Christ was not mentioned as having a place at all in this change. It just didn’t seem to go far enough spiritually, and the every aspect of the story felt very rushed at the end.

Even though the spiritual side was lacking, the upstairs/downstairs facet and how Sarah is able to bridge both worlds for a time was still an interesting plot for a novel set in this time and place.

I will give The Invention of Sarah Cummings … 3 BookWorms.

The Invention of Sarah Cummings
by Olivia Newport
Avenue of Dreams #3
Revell Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell 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, September 10, 2013

"The Miner's Lady" Review

When Chantel Panetta discovers that her younger sister, Isabella, has fallen in love with Orlando Calarco, she knows that trouble is in store. The Panettas and the Calarcos are old Italian families who have been enemies for generations. Even though the two families have managed to live in the same mining town for years, Chantel knows that the relationship between Isabella and Orlando will not be met with acceptance.

Chantel reluctantly agrees to help her sister as she and Orlando continue their relationship. What Chantel was not prepared for was Orlando’s older brother, Dante, and the sudden attraction she feels for him.

When tragedy after tragedy occurs at the mine and in the town, will the two families be able to put aside their decades-long feud and seek forgiveness and peace? And if not, what will that mean for the young couples and their hope for love?

Set in 1890 in Ely, Minnesota, The Miner’s Lady is the third book in the Land of Shining Water collection by Tracie Peterson.

I have enjoyed the history and characters that have been portrayed in this latest series by Tracie Peterson. (The Icecutter's Daughter & The Quarryman's Bride being the other two novels in the series). The Minnesota setting is very nice, and it’s really interesting to learn about different industries (ice cutting, quarry work, mining) and varied cultures.

In The Miner’s Lady, the families are Italian, and it was really fun to experience the culture and ways of life of Italian-American families in the 1890s. The descriptions of the food alone were enough to endear me to this book. I craved Italian food the entire time I was reading the book! I also enjoyed how Chantel and her mother spent their time making lace, or tatting. My grandmother used to do this, and it truly is a dying art.

The long-standing feud between the families in this novel sets up a Romeo and Juliet situation for the two young couples. This was a good plot set-up, and it was done very well. It was the focus of the novel, but it wasn’t so all-consuming that you felt as if you were reading Romeo and Juliet again.

I liked the main characters in this novel – Chantel, Dante, Isabella, and Orlando – but I can’t say that one of them really stood out in my mind as my favorite. Probably my favorite character in this novel was Dante’s grandmother. She was loving towards everyone, and her faith and heartfelt prayer helped to pull both families through some very tough times.

And there were indeed some tough times in this book. The families fighting, accidents at the mine, and troubles in the town all lent to disaster and heartbreak for the characters. Not all of this tragedy was without hope or without an ultimate faith in God, but sometimes that hope was a bit long in coming or was only hastily portrayed at the end. The ending of this book was very exciting and had me turning pages quickly, but it also seemed a bit rushed and not quite completely satisfying. This is a book in which I was really, really wanting an epilogue.

In this novel, you basically get two romances in one. Even though the relationship between Isabella and Orlando was established before the book began, their romance is still a focal point since it is their forbidden relationship that gets everything started in the first place. Their love for each other is strong, and it is heartwarming to see how they stick up for each other in the face of their families’ ire. As for Chantel and Dante’s relationship, it had a very interesting beginning. The only reason they even noticed each other was because they were trying to keep their brother/sister from having a relationship with their family’s enemy. It was so funny that they were attracted to each other but kept trying to convince themselves that they were not. Once their relationship progressed, however, I thought they fell in love too quickly. I didn’t really get the feeling that they spent much quality time together before they were declaring their love. I did like how Chantel and Dante shared a faith in Christ and how that was central to their relationship.

Another thing that didn’t quite fit to me was Marco’s storyline. Marco was one of Chantel’s brothers who also worked at the iron mine with the Panetta and Calarco men. His story seemed a bit out of place, especially with part of the book being told from his point of view. His story was interesting, but it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the overall plot except maybe to show the bad things (drinking, prostitution, violence) that existed during this time period in mining towns.

Overall, however, the themes of forgiveness and peace do shine through in this novel as does the necessity of having faith in Christ. It was also interesting to read about the cultures of Italian-American families during the early years of industry in the United States.

I will give The Miner’s Lady … 3 ½ BookWorms.

The Miner's Lady
by Tracie Peterson
Land of Shining Water #3
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 1, 2013

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."

Friday, September 6, 2013

"On Distant Shores" Blog Tour

Caught between the war raging around them and the battles within, two souls long for peace--and a love that remains true.
Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson.
Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?
With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin weaves an exciting tale of emotion, action, and romance that will leave you wanting more.
Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
My Take:
I really enjoyed the first book in this series – With Every Letter – so I was looking forward to this next offering from an author Sarah Sundin.
The story starts off a little bit earlier than when the previous novel ended, which was a neat twist that I didn’t expect. It was nice to sort of rewind a bit and catch up with some of the characters from the first book and to get more of a running start into Georgie’s story.
As with the first book in the series, On Distant Shores was very well-written and had a seamless flow to it. You can tell that the author definitely does her research – about WWII as well as the pharmacy/medical details. Being a chemistry/biology nerd myself, I really liked the pharmacy aspect of the book. I felt so sorry for Hutch that he wasn’t able to be a commissioned officer even though he had a degree and practiced a medical profession such as pharmacy. This made for a unique storyline within the background of the war.
I also liked the growth that the two main characters experienced throughout the book, especially Georgie. It was so interesting to see how she discovered that everyone else in her life was making her decisions for her and how staying in her safe little comfortable world was hindering her relationship with God and her relationships with others. I thought the characters in this novel were just so relatable and believable. Their conversations were realistic, as were their emotions and doubts and fears. As I said, Hutch and Georgie both experienced significant growth in their faith throughout the novel which was encouraging and thought-provoking. And although the romance between the two was a bit predictable, I was still rooting for them.
Even though I did enjoy the various plotlines in this novel, it was much more heart-wrenching than the first one in the series. I actually had to put it down a couple of times and come back to it later. The part that was the most emotional, however, was a necessary plot point in the book, and it was handled well. It just took me a while to get through it.
With her characteristic writing style and attention to historical details, Sarah Sundin has another winner in her Wings of the Nightingale series with On Distant Shores, and I look forward to reading Kay’s story in the next one.

I will give On Distant Shores … 4 BookWorms.

On Distant Shores
by Sarah Sundin
Wings of the Nightingale #2
Revell Publishers
Publication date: August 1, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell 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, September 4, 2013

"The Secret Keeper" Review

From the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, and The House at Riverton, a spellbinding novel of family secrets, murder, and enduring love.

About the Book: During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—whose lives are forever after entwined.

A gripping story of deception and passion, The Secret Keeper will keep you enthralled to the last page.

My Take:

Wow. Just – wow.

I have only read one other book by Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden, and it was fantastic. But I would daresay that this one was even better.

The Secret Keeper starts off very well by getting your attention right away. The author also has a way of helping you to get to know the characters easily, which makes the overall flow of the novel seamless and engrossing. Also true to the author’s style, this novel is told from the viewpoint of several different people and jumps back and forth from the past to the present day. As I said, though, the flow of the novel is seamless, and I was never confused as to who was telling the story or what time period it was.

Part of this novel takes place in London during World War Two. Admittedly, this is not my favorite historical time period for fiction, but for this book, the setting was perfect. I was totally engrossed in the part of the story that revolved around the war and the devastation that it had on London.

It is hard to talk about much of the plot of this book without totally ruining all of the twists and turns that this novel takes. Although I did eventually figure out the main plot twist, I had no idea how it was going to take place. So even though the ending was not a complete surprise, I was still interested in how everything was going to tie together.

The only thing that keeps me from giving this book a 5-BookWorm rating is the fact that it is just so long. There was a point about a third or so of the way through the book that I was thinking, “just get on with it,” and the characters were starting to get on my nerves. Once things kind of came back together, though, it picked up again, and the remainder of the novel was excellent.

This was my book club’s selection for July, and everyone really enjoyed it.

I will give The Secret Keeper … 4 ½ (or even 4 ¾!) BookWorms!


The Secret Keeper
by Kate Morton
Atria Books
Publication date: October 16, 2012

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Atria Books through NetGalley. 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."