Monday, September 22, 2014

"Love's Fortune" Blog Tour

Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas's vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Rowena makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world--filled with family members she's never met, dances she's never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew.

As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes' shipping line. Even with his help, Rowena feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

With her signature attention to historical detail, Laura Frantz brings 1850s Pennsylvania alive with a tender story of loss, love, and loyalty. Fans will cheer for this final installment of the Ballatyne saga.

About the Author: Laura Frantz is a lover of history, is the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, and The Colonel's Lady, and currently lives in the misty woods of Washington with her husband and two sons.

Available September 2014 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Find out more about this title here -

My Take:

After reading the first two books in this series, I was interested in reading the third because of the characters and the legacy if not for the stories themselves, which I thought were too drawn out. (You can read my reviews of the first two novels in the series here – Love’s Reckoning and Love’s Awakening).

In this installment, I was once again drawn to the characters and to the legacy of the Ballantyne family rather than the actual events that were taking place in their lives.

However, the characters that drew me in were not necessarily the ones to whom I was supposed to be drawn - at least I don't think that was to be the case.

The main characters – James and Wren – were not my favorites. They were often contradictory, and they did not always come across in the way in which they were portrayed. The reader is told and shown in some ways that James is strong and capable and able to stand up to anything. But he is unwilling to tell the woman he loves how he truly feels. The reader is told that Wren is independent and unwilling to bend to the pressures of society – that her heart is pure and that her love is true. But she constantly goes against who she is in order to please society and some of the members of her family, and she lets her assumptions take the place of reality. It was very wearying after a while to read about a character being described one way yet acting another.

Another thing that was contradictory was how some members of the Ballantyne family (the “good” ones) overlook the horrible things that other members of the family (the “bad” ones) do as if there is nothing they can do about it. It is as if those “good” members of the family are just constantly saying, “Oh, well, there’s nothing we can do about him or her. We’ll just ignore it.” – without ever speaking truth to them. There is even a case of possible murder by one of these “bad” characters in this book, and the “good,” supposedly Christian, characters never really make much mention of it. It’s as if the book comes from the view that some people are bad and will never come to repentance, rather than coming from the view everyone - even the "good" ones being in need of a Savior.

The interesting thing is that even though the two main characters in this novel – and some of the other Ballantyne characters from the past novels – were not terribly engaging in this book, some of the more minor characters were. I absolutely fell in love with Izannah and Mim and even Malachi Cameron. I almost think this book would have been better if it had focused more on Izannah and Malachi, since they were interesting characters that pretty much stole the show, in my opinion.

While the overall story in this novel was decent and some of the minor characters were good, the book itself was once again just too long. There were some bright spots in the story here and there – the visits to the orphanage, the descriptions of Pittsburg and the steamboats, the continuing abolitionist plotline, the violins – but most of the book seemed to be high-society filler. I appreciate that the author was probably trying to make the reader feel as if she had been thrown into Pittsburg high society right along with Wren, but it was just too much.

Ultimately the two main characters do finally live up to the manner in which they were drawn, but it just took way too long to get there, and it was jarring when it did.

I will give Love’s Fortune … 3 BookWorms.

Love's Fortune
by Laura Frantz
Ballantyne Legacy #3
Revell Publishers
Publication date: September 16, 2014
400 pages

Love's Fortune - Behind the Cover video.

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."

Friday, September 19, 2014

"A Vine-Ripened Life" Blog Tour

The grace that stimulates the fruit and maturity of a sanctified life comes to us through Jesus Christ. We bear much fruit only as we abide in Him.
In A Vine-Ripened Life, author Stanley Gale points us to Jesus, the Vine of life of John 15, in whom we, as branches, must live and grow to bear the fruit of a grace-grown life. He explains, “Having begun in Christ we remain in Christ, continuing to draw our life from Him and maturing in grace.” With pastoral sensitivity and an engaging style, Gale teaches readers both about the fruit of Christian character and how to cultivate it.
Questions at the end of each chapter make this an ideal study for individuals or groups.
About the Author: Stanley D. Gale serves as senior minister of The Reformed Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous books and articles, leads seminars on various topics, and is the founder of Community Houses of Prayer (

Book Information:
My Take:

My Kindle has a "voice-to-text" feature, and I absolutely love to use it when I am at the gym or doing housework. The robot-sounding voice is not extremely engaging, but for non-fiction books it does quite well and is a great way for me to fit in some extra Bible study time. I have "read" many non-fiction Christian books this way, and I they have always kept my interest, even with Mr. Robot reading it to me.

I found this was the case for the most part with the book A Vine-Ripened Life. It uses many Scripture references to explain how the various fruits of the Spirit are to be manifested in the life of a Christian through The Vine - Jesus Christ. Each "fruit" is given its own chapter as well as there are chapters dedicated to humility and grace.

While I was mostly attentive to this book, there were times I did find my mind drifting while I was listening to it. (Maybe I need to re-read the chapter on self-control?!) While some of the stories and metaphors were engaging, some of them seemed to be a bit of a stretch. I think I would have gotten much more out of this book if I had done it as a group study rather than just reading it straight through, especially with the great study questions at the end of the chapters.

Overall, I really loved how everything in this book always pointed back to Christ and the gospel. This book abounded in Scripture references, and it reminded me a little of the book by Jerry Bridges - The Discipline of Grace - especially how it repeatedly made the point the apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

I will give A Vine-Ripened Life ... 4 BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Heritage Books through Cross Focused Review. 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 10, 2014

"Secrets of Sloane House" Review

Rosalind Perry came to Chicago to be a housemaid at the lavish Sloane House, home to one of the most influential families in all of Chicago. But what the Sloanes don’t know is that Rosalind has another reason for being there – to determine what happened to her sister, who was also employed at Sloane House but who seems to have vanished into thin air.

Reid Armstrong is the only son of an up-and-coming family among Chicago’s elite. Since his family is not from “old” money, Reid is expected to marry up. Veronica Sloane should fit the bill just fine, but Reid suspects that not all is as it seems at Sloane House, and he is curiously attracted to one of the Sloane House maids – Rosalind Perry.

When Reid discovers the real reason that Rosalind is at Sloane House, the two begin to work together to discover the truth. But the secrets of Sloane House may be more frightening than either of them could ever have imagined.

With a backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, Secrets of Sloane House explores the lives of both the sophisticated elite and those who are there to serve them.

Shelley Gray is a new author to me, and I was interested to read another book based around the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After a bit of a slow and repetitive start, I was able to become more interested in the story as Rosalind became more accustomed to her surroundings and began to work with Reid a bit more to search for the truth about what happened to her sister.

The best part of this story was how Rosalind grew over the course of the novel. Even though at times this growth seemed to leap ahead rather quickly, it was still substantial and really added to the story overall. When she first comes to Sloane House, she is scared of her own shadow, but as the story moves on, she becomes so much stronger and more self-reliant. She really gains a confidence that was nice to see in a housemaid during this time period.

Unfortunately, the other parts of the story were not quite as cohesive. The search for Rosalind’s sister is pretty much the only story being told, and any other bits thrown in didn’t always seem to fit or were not explored deeply enough. Reid and his family come across as contradictory, and the romance between Rosalind and Reid was fairly flat. They didn’t seem to spend much time together to really get to know each other before their thoughts were turning to love.

As for the mystery element to this novel, it was fairly convincing. Wondering what happened to Rosalind’s sister was definitely the thing that kept me reading to the end of the book. It was also interesting to read about the different classes – the “elite” and the “help” – and I thought this novel clearly portrayed those relationships, however cruel they might have been.

While Rosalind does experience growth over the course of this novel, the spiritual aspect still felt a bit lacking. Rosalind credits her growth and strength to God, but I didn’t feel any passion behind her thoughts on this matter. The overall spiritual aspect could have gone much deeper, especially considering all of the things the characters encountered.

Some of the secondary characters in the novel were actually quite interesting, but they didn’t always seem to be explored deeply enough either. There was a jolting shift in point of view three-quarters of the way through the book to a minor character that actually ending up being one of the most interesting parts of the book. Fortunately, this character is the main character in the next novel in the series, which does pique my interest in continuing the series.

I will give Secrets of Sloane House ... 3 BookWorms.

Secrets of Sloane House
by Shelley Gray
"Chicago World's Fair Mystery" #1
Zondervan Publishers
Publication date: July 8, 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."


Friday, September 5, 2014

"How Can I Be Sure" Blog Tour

How Can I Be Sure?
by John Stevens

Many Christians experience times of doubt and uncertainty. At various times we can ask: Does God love me? Am I really a Christian? – and even Is there a God at all?

This short, readable book unpacks the difference between good and bad doubt, shows us where it comes from and how to deal with it in ourselves and others.

It explains clearly and simply the liberating reality of what the Bible tells us about doubt, assurance, and the Christian life.

Table of Contents:
Introduction: The many faces of doubt

1. What is doubt?
2. Why is doubt dangerous?
3. What do I have to believe to be a Christian?
4. How can I overcome doubt as a Christian?
5. How can I develop a confident faith?

 Conclusion: Living with faith and doubt

Book Information:
•Publisher: The Good Book Company
•ISBN: 9781909559158
•Page Count:  96

About the Author: John Stevens lectured in law at the University of Birmingham before entering full time ministry. He is the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in the UK and co-pastor of a church plant in Market Harborough. John is married to Ursula and they have four children.

My Take:

Since becoming a Christian at the age of eight, I have experienced doubt about my salvation at different points in my life. I always try to read any book about doubting your salvation that I can get my hands on since I can easily fall back into this wrong pattern of thinking.

This short but truth-packed book really hit home for me with some of the doubts I have had in the past. There were so many sentences and passages that I highlighted -- it is an immensely quotable little book!

  • "The very fact that you are not complacent about spiritual decline or stagnation is a sigh of genuine faith."
  • "You can be confident that your relationship with God does not depend on your faith being perfect. Your relationship with God is secure because you have been united with Christ and justified in the sign of God....[Christ] never fell into the sin of unbelief, so all your doubts are covered by His perfect faith, which is counted as yours."
  • "In the end, all doubt is a battle between trusting the word of God and trusting our own feelings and intuitions about reality."

Overall, this little book feels kind of more like an essay or a pamphlet rather than an in-depth book, but, as I said earlier, it is packed with truth. I would have liked a few more Bible verses and passages to go into more depth about doubt and faith. Even so, this book is a great place to get started when wrestling with your own doubt about God and salvation or if you are working with someone else who is having a difficult time with these issues.

I will give How Can I Be Sure? ... 4 BookWorms.

How Can I Be Sure?
by John Stevens
"Questions Christians Ask" series
The Good Book Company
Publication date: July 8, 2014
96 pages

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Good Book Company via 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."