Saturday, February 27, 2016

From Scratch - C.E. Hilbert

Maggie McKitrick has opened a bakery in Gibson's Run, Ohio.  Other than bickering with her police chief landlord over her rented space, she seems to be settling in with new friends and a growing business.  But what brought her to Gibson's Run, and why is she so easily spooked by a few out-of-place incidents?  Why does Chief Taylor feel that he's not getting all of the answers he's looking for, even as they set their differences aside?

I am a sucker for books about bakers and chefs; and I loved those scenes within this book, where Maggie is creating and interacting with customers and friends over the fantastic desserts she has crafted.  The highlight of the book, however, was watching Maggie take root in this life she'd begun without any ties.  As strangers became friends, and friends became family, it was uplifting to watch her be able to trust God in settling her in this place, allowing herself to stop hiding and confide in someone about her past.  It was also refreshing to have that happen before it was revealed through other means.  There are some disturbing sections regarding the reason for her running, but they're not over-the-top, and they serve as the means for Maggie's life as it is and give foundation to her deep faith in God.  While the online descriptions of the book promote it heavily as a romance, I would say that's only a minor portion of this bigger story of faith, friends, and family.  I do hope that this will become a series, and that we will get to look more into the characters of Gibson's Run, and perhaps the remaining Taylor brothers?

I give this book 3.5 stars.

You can find From Scratch HERE.
(Although it says that's due to be published April 1, 2016, it appears to be available now)
You can connect with the author on Facebook HERE.

I received a copy of this e-book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Beyond the Silence - Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

When Lillian Porter sees an ad for a nanny position in Angels Camp, California, she feels she needs to take it, even though her grandfather tells her she'll no longer be welcome in his home if she leaves.  To add to her dismay, she arrives at her destination to find that gossip and rumors abound concerning her new employer, Woody Colton.  His wife was brutally murdered, and the majority of the townspeople think he did it.  Woody's young son, Jimmy, was home at the time, but hasn't spoken a word since the murder.  Can Lillian trust her new boss, and God, for her safety?  Can she reach Jimmy through his silence?  Will her grandfather ever speak to her again?

This book felt like two separate stories that didn't quite work together.  Lillian's act of leaving her life of luxury to help a struggling family was admirable, and I expected more about the contrast of her old life with the new, or more depth to the broken relationship with her grandfather.  Instead, she settled rather easily into the life of a nanny and tutor, learning to cook and tend the garden with only minor mishaps.  Once she arrived in California, the book awkwardly shifted focus to the mystery surrounding the death of Rebecca Colton, and the continuing danger around the Colton property.  Darwin Longstreet was a fully evil character, murdering without remorse, and plotting the death of his younger brother without a care; this dichotomy between the settling in of a nanny with a hurting family and the actions of a cold-blooded killer was jarring.

Although I found the combination of stories to be awkward, there were several characters whom I enjoyed; Lillian was a strong, independent woman who cared for everyone she met, yet she wasn't afraid to speak truth to those who attacked her new family.  Harry, the killer's younger brother, was endearing, caring for Jimmy and Lillian and hungering for friendship and love.  Even the supporting cast - the housekeeper, the storekeeper's wife, the pastor - they all added humor, strength, and depth to the story.

I was left not knowing how I really felt about this book overall; the darkness of the killer was not a pleasant read, yet I was eager to see Jimmy and the family find healing and forgiveness.  I give this book 3 stars.

You can find Beyond the Silence HERE.
You can find Tracie Peterson's site HERE.
You can find Kimberley Woodhouse's site HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Insider's Guide to Praying for the World - Brian C. Stiller

An Insider's Guide to Praying for the World contains 52 chapters of countries, people groups, and situations throughout the world in need of prayer.  Authored by the Global Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, the stories and prayer guides are given a personal touch and the urgency of current needs for real people.

As my children grow up in a world that's constantly changing, I want them to be aware of where God is working, and where the prayers of His people are needed not only to change the situations around the world, but the hearts of the people who join with Him in prayer.  I requested this book for review to help open their eyes, as well as my own.  While we haven't completed the book, hoping to take our time to read and pray thoughtfully, and stretch our understanding of the world we live in.  The breakdown of this book makes it easy to go through as a family, with the combination of particular countries, people groups such as the Muslims, and larger issues such as prisons and persecution.  Current data, a history of the country, and maps for each chapter help give us context and perspective.  Tips on group use or personal use, as well as a prayer journal at the conclusion, add to this in-depth prayer resource.  My only concern with the book is that specific data and prayer concerns can only remain current for so long.  I wish that each chapter came with a link to an active ministry, or an updated website where the reader could check in to see if there are updates on situations and prayer requests.

I give this book 4 stars; I feel that it is a well-written, nicely laid out prayer guide, and I look forward to studying it more in depth.

You can find An Insider's Prayer Guide to Praying for the World HERE.
You can find the author's website HERE.
You can find the World Evangelical Alliance HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Not by Sight - Kate Breslin

Grace Mabry is filled with patriotism for her native England during WWI; having a twin brother serving in the war, she is certain that other able-bodied men should also be doing their part to help win and end the war.  Her passion results in her being sent to assist the war effort in a manner she did anticipate, as she serves on a farm with the Women's Forage Corps.  While there, she finds that everyone has secrets, and some are more dangerous than others.

While there were several intriguing components to this story - spies, the Women's Forage Corps, the care Grace put into showing compassion to the other women - it just didn't come together for me.  The storyline of seeing past a man's blindness and scars to see to his heart and convince him he was worth loving again should have been refreshingly different, but still somehow fell a bit flat.  Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this novel at this time, or maybe the story was trying to go too many places at the same time that none of it felt well-developed, but something was missing.

Even though I didn't love this story, I did appreciate the theme of not making assumptions about others, both for the good and the bad.  Everyone has secrets, but there is a story behind everyone's past, and a future even when there have been mistakes that seem unforgivable.

I give this book 2 stars, for my own personal tastes and lack of excitement about the story.

You can find Not by Sight HERE.
You can find the author's site HERE.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.