My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade ~ Review

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

My Stubborn Heart pic

My Stubborn Heart is one of the sweetest romances I have read in a long time. Two hurting individuals meet while renovating an old home in the reclusive town of Redbud, Pennsylvania. Kate Donovan and her grandmother had arrived to renovate Gran’s childhood home, Chapel Bluff, and return it to its old glory. It was a massive job, requiring them to hire a local contractor for the work. That’s where Matt Jarreau came in. He specialized in working on old homes and restoring them.

Kate’s first impression of Matt was that of tragedy. He had a heart-breaking story filled with sadness and bitterness. She could sense it. Matt was reclusive. He preferred working alone. He didn’t socialize much. People in the small town knew who he was but left him alone. Matt was the local celebrity. He had been a world champion hockey player. He had married a sweet girl, an actual Miss America, but after being on top of the world as a married couple, his wife died of cancer. He was so ripped up about it, he left hockey behind. Kate didn’t know this at first, but she could see that he needed a friend. She was determined to be that friend.

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Kate lived in Dallas. She was a social worker. The job was demanding, but she loved it. That is, she did until one of her children she had worked closely with had committed suicide. It sucked the joy out of her life. She needed a break so that she could get her head on straight about her purpose in life. So she joined her grandmother in a journey up north to remodel Gran’s old childhood home. The break was just what she needed. She loved antiques and old homes and this was just the therapy she needed. She joined Matt daily in taking down wallpaper, designing rooms, painting walls, and so on. Matt was reluctant to work with her, but she was persistent. Keeping everything on a friendly note, she knew God had a purpose for her to be there.

I love the simplicity of the story. It’s not overly complicated. There are a few other subplots, but the story stays true to the major theme–renovation. Not just the home, but Matt’s heart as well. It took a lot of time and patience, but eventually he started to warm up to her friendship. Kate didn’t try for anything deeper than that. She had already set her heart on not reading anything personal in their relationship. She felt that God had sent her for only one thing…to bring Matt’s heart alive again.

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The part of the story I like best is the relationship Kate has with God. She prays and listens to Him. She tries hard not to insert her own personal interests in what she thinks God wants her to do. I really like her humble spirit and teachability. So many of us struggle with these character qualities. I felt encouraged in my own prayer life just by watching how Kate kept her expectations in line with what she felt God wanted her to do. Many of us try to do that, but often fail if we don’t use the Bible as a guideline. We often want to read into situations things that aren’t there because we fail to know and understand the God of the Bible as it teaches us. Kate demonstrated a good balance between knowledge and personal application. The author accomplished this in such a natural manner. There was no awkwardness, no preachiness, no finger wagging, no guilt trips. The issue of faith in God was not overtalked or forced. This was truly an enjoyable book to read.

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Jabez by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

Jabez pic

Jabez by Joy Ohagwu

The book Jabez fits into the AFTER series written by Joy Ohagwu. Book 1 tells the story of Candace and JB Patrickson. That book is an inspirational romance. Once Candace and JB are married, he then feels confident enough to tell his life story to her. So this book is the story he tells Candace on the way to their honeymoon. That would make this book 2, although I think of it more as book 1.5. It could be easily incorporated into book 1 as part of JB’s back story.

When Jabez was ten, he was well used to the drunken rages his father would get into. He had a hiding place, and his mother had a hiding place. It was not enough to keep them safe, however, and eventually Jabez was beaten senseless and woke up in the hospital. Things only got worse from there when his father returned to their home. No one else knew the situation they were in. His father owned a reputable construction company and seemed like a straight up guy to everyone else. But JB and his mother often went entire days without a meal. His father had to control everything. When JB was old enough to work for his father, he was expected to work in construction and live at home.

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One day, he and his mother found a safe place across the street to hide. They slept in the pews at night in the church to avoid getting beaten. Then he met Pastor Yohanna who began to help them in subtle ways. He encouraged Jabez to find his own path and became a role model for him. For the first time in his life, Jabez saw a father figure the way it was supposed to be. He began to attend church and special meetings the pastor set up for a few other young people who had challenges in their lives that blocked their successful entry into the world. His transformation was not an overnight success. It was a huge struggle far into JB’s adult life.

This author writes in an understanding manner about the impact of abuse this type of experience has on a growing child and on an emerging adult. When a person has heard their entire young life they will not amount to anything good, they tend to believe what they hear, even though their minds can tell them otherwise. Parents are the first authority figure a child experiences, and what they are told is often taken for the truth. It’s extremely difficult to shake off that first voice in spite of good influences in their lives afterward. The author does a great job showing us what this type of struggle to overcome abusive programming is like.

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It was the faith of the Pastor that leads him to step out of his comfortable place to lend an understanding ear and a shoulder to lean on for the young people in JB’s group. And it was faith in Jesus Christ that finally brought JB over the edge from abusive thinking to victorious thinking. This could be so many peoples’ stories. I pray that this short novella helps many people to understand how difficult it is to shake abusive influences, but that it is possible.

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

 

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The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson ~ Review

Christmas Dog, The pic

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

I have to admit, I got quite a chuckle from reading this story. The story is not meant to be humorous, but to me the silliness of the main character was what set off my funny bone. I suppose it’s because I know a few people just like our main character, Betty Kowalski. You know the type. Betty is a widow, living in her house alone; her grown children have their own children and are busy with their lives and are scattered all over the country. Unlike some people she knows, she does not live in a gated community with security built in, nor does she live in a secured building with buzzers. Her neighborhood is a typical neighborhood with friends she’s lived near about half her life.

The part I find funny is her attitude toward a new neighbor. She knew who used to live in that house when it was in its prime. Now, the house is old and worn and more than a little bit shabby. She’s convinced that the new neighbor must be a squatter. When hammering and sawing sounds came from the house at night and the pink toilet appeared in the back yard, she was even more suspicious. Then when that viewpoint didn’t seem to work, she wondered if he was a criminal. He never answered the door. He didn’t talk to anyone, and no one had ever seen him smile. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d kept her thoughts to herself, but she was not as quiet as she should have been with her opinions to her friends and neighbors. Now the newcomer is ignored and snubbed by most of the neighborhood.

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Betty’s attitude was worth several eye rolls in my opinion, and even one of her daughters felt she was being unfair. But that happens when fear overrules reason and you are alone. The author did a great job writing about this type of fear and isolation so that the reader would feel somewhat irritated while still understanding the woman and her ridiculous assumptions. This is not a typical Christmas story.

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The turning point happens when a little dirty unclaimed dog appears and Betty assumes he belongs to the neighbor. He in turn assumes it is hers, so for a little while we are viewing a ridiculous tug of war. Poor dog. In the end, this dog actually becomes an integral part of transformed attitudes, but you’re going to have to read the book to find out how.

A rebellious granddaughter shows up at Betty’s house after Thanksgiving, and adds to the confusion of conflicts. My favorite part is how the little scruffy dog wins over hearts little by little and brings about quite a transformation of attitudes. But things have to get worse before they get better. As usual my favorite author of Christmas stories has penned another winner.

 

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Haley’s Hangdog Holiday (Bk 2) by Tamie Dearen ~ Review

Haleys Hangdog Holiday pic

Haley’s Hangdog Holiday by Tamie Dearen

While this book is the second book in a series, it is completely capable of standing on its own. The books in the series are only loosely connected, so you could read these books in any order and enjoy them. And of course each book features a dog as part of the story.

This is the type of story I enjoy reading over and over. It has a well developed plot that includes plenty of humor, realistic struggles for both parties in their lives as Christians, and development with bumps in the road when Haley and Gavin became a couple. Both characters are completely believable. They aren’t perfect, but are both striving to be the best person they can be. Being a Christian is a driving role in both their lives.

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Haley and Gavin had a lot in common. They were both extremely competitive and when they both signed up for a particular degree program in accounting, they came head to head at the top of their classes, striving for the same honors. In spite of that, they didn’t really get to know each other until two years into the degree program, and that by a chance encounter on the ski slopes in Colorado.

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Haley had no intentions of dating at all in school. On the other hand, Gavin had somehow ended up with a reputation as a playboy. It was undeserved, but he didn’t it much. They had to overcome a lot of wrong impressions just to get to know each other. Then came some impressive obstacles. It took a lot of time for those obstacles to be overcome. That is what drew me into the story. How they overcame and resolved those differences is what makes this story a great read.

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My favorite parts of the story have to do with the dogs Daisy and Bojangles. They added quite a bit of humor and dimension to the running storyline, especially for Haley who was not really a dog lover at the beginning of the book. While the dog element is not prominent in the story arc, it is still an important element. That is great for all dog lovers.

Haleys Hangdog Holiday quote4

 

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After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

After Bk 1 pic

After: Book 1 by Joy Ohagwu

What happens when your world falls apart all of a sudden? That is the theme of this book. Candace Rodriguez is a top ranking singer associated with a record label. Six months ago, she accepted Christ as her Savior. Slowly, her perspectives changed and she changed her behavior accordingly. It didn’t take long before she saw that her music future would have to change as well. Then one day she fell off a stage. She realized at that moment she had to take her future in hand both physically and spiritually.

God takes control and provides a way for Candace to get away to a farm in Maryland owned by a doctor couple where she can get rest and begin to regroup. While there, her faith grows as she waits for the Lord’s leading for her future as a singer. She’s under pressure to create a whole new line up of songs that are fitting with her new found faith in Christ. So she begins to undertake the task of writing enough songs to fill a new album. But her muse has fled. In the meantime, she meets JB Patrickson, who is also pulling up roots to begin life again after a brief stint on Wall Street as a trader. When the housing bubble crashed, so did he.

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JB has a history which makes him a bit gun shy around Candace. He is working hard to make the farm he is managing for his grandmother more prosperous. Their relationship starts out slow, but eventually they become good friends. Candace is trying to become physically healthy as well as spiritually healthy. She works hard to lose weight and JB has become her supporter along with the good doctors.

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What I like best about this book is the great way the author allows spiritual growth to show up in the characters’ lives without being overly talkative about it. Instead of talking it out, the author shows us how Candace grows. I understand Candace’s issue with weight loss too, as I struggle with the same problem. Her hard work was inspiring to me. I felt this was all good writing.

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In spite of working the book out in first person, the different voices were done very well. I usually find the first person use irritating and sometimes immature, but I think I was about half way through the book before I realized that I hadn’t even paid attention to the voice. I found that surprising. For once, the reader is privy to the thought process of a person whose heart is being turned to God and maintaining a mature attitude about it. I found that refreshing. I also like the moderate amount of tension built into the story. It wasn’t extreme, but it kept the story moving forward nicely. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

After Bk 1 quote5

 

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Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

Gathering the Threads

Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove Bk 3 by Cindy Woodsmall

The series begins with Ties that Bind followed by Fraying at the Edge before concluding with this book. I have already read quite a few of Cindy Woodsmall’s series and each time I have believed that that one was the best one I have read, that is, until I would read the next series. This time I jumped in on the last book first. I don’t recommend doing that with this author, because when she writes a series, they are usually books that are closely linked to each other. Fortunately, before the first chapter, this book had a running summary of the previous two books that I haven’t read. It was so well summarized that I had no trouble reading this book by itself. But again, I really don’t recommended that. Cindy Woodsmall’s outstanding talent is to connect us deeply with her characters so that the reader forms an emotional bond and experiences the turmoil written about with the character. This is such a rare gift for a writer, so that when I find one I like to search for all their books and read them through.

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That’s how I feel about this series. When I read the summary, I had to chuckle. It read like a soap opera. I say that in the kindest manner possible. This series is intense, if all the books are like this one. There are several well-planned out plots, complex characters, schemes, turmoil, twists and turns, and just plain anguish laid out in the first two books that continue in this one. It was quite an amazing task to see how it all resolved. But it was definitely and happily resolved, in a way only this author can accomplish.

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There are so many characters that are important to the series. Ariana is the one that stands out the most. Skylar is also another but not as much the focus as Ariana. Book three resolves a long standing issue between Ariana and Quill, a neighbor she had known since her childhood who had left the Amish years ago for reasons no one in the small community of Summer Grove really knew about and thus was a forbidden friend. Nevertheless, he plays a prominent role all throughout the series.

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Among the complexity of details there arises a theme that may surprise the reader as it becomes clear. Ariana learned about bullying while she was “out in the world” with her birth father. Interestingly, bullying takes on a whole different shape and color when she encounters it in the Amish community after she returns. Had it always been there and she had never noticed before? The running questions then became how would she deal with it living at home with her parents while preparing for her upcoming marriage? This was not a cut at the Amish community by the author, but rather a commentary of society, that it can happen anywhere, even in places we don’t expect to find it.

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Finally, just like other books by this author, the spiritual elements of the story are authentic, realistic, respectful while helping us to gain some fresh perspectives on the character of human nature in general. Cindy Woodsmall’s series are some of the best faith-based books I have ever read. They are not filled with platitudes or pat answers. Real issues are realistically dealt with that touched my heart deeply. Even though I haven’t read the first two books, I know I will soon. So I can heartily recommend this series for you. If you like intense, complex characters who are not stereotypical Amish or non-Amish or former Amish, you’ll love this series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Amish Christmas Baby: Book One by Samantha Jillian Bayarr ~ Review

Amish Baby Amish Secrets Collection pic

Amish Christmas Baby: Book 1 of the Amish Secrets Collection

When I first purchased this book it was an individual short story on Amazon.com. Since then, it has been incorporated as part of a collection of three stories. That book is called Amish Secrets Collections. In that book, this story is the first one.

Ellie Fisher has a house full of boys–six of them. But she has always desired a daughter to make her brood complete. But now she’s older and still has no daughters. When the doctor tells her there will most likely be no more kinner in her life, she feels devastated. Then one cold winter night, a wailing baby is left on her doorstep. It’s a little girl.

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Did Ellie dare to think God had given her a gift this Christmas? But soon, Ellie believes she knows who the mother is, and being a midwife, she goes to her aid. Sure enough, she finds the mother at home, one of her neighbor’s granddaughters. She’s in distress, so she brings the girl home to tend to her.

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It becomes clear that the girl wants to give her baby to Ellie to raise. But as elated as she is, Ellie feels conflicted. She struggles with her desire and what she believes is right for baby Grace.

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This is a wonderful, short Christmas story. It can easily be read in just a few hours. The plot is simple, so the characterization is limited. Yet Ellie’s plight will touch your heart as it did mine. I found her faith in God inspiring as well. I hope you enjoy this short read as much as I did.

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