Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer ~ Review

Somehow Christmas Will Come pic2

Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer

The Christmas seasons is often a time of reflection and traveling down memory lane. It can be a time of hurt and pain, but also a time of healing. This story is a tasteful combination of tough issues dealt with humor and heart. A little 6-year-old girl’s heart is at stake when she has to deal not only with the recent loss of her mother to a boating accident, but then her father’s death through a motorcycle accident. How does Bethany survive?

Bethany’s Aunt Molly moved from Minnesota to Las Vegas to live with her brother Pat and his daughter Bethany. She had originally come to help Pat while he was still grieving over the loss of his wife in a boating accident. But it became painfully clear to her that Pat had an additional problem: alcoholism. He had gone from completely leaving the stuff alone for as long as she could remember to drowning his sorrows in the bottle every evening. Molly struggled in her changing role from little sister to friend and confidante. How could she help her brother? But before she could even get started, he was suddenly killed in an accident. Now, she had to deal with this loss and with her niece’s shock. The household was hurting.

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None of the coping would have been possible if it weren’t for Pat’s fire fighter partner, Trace. Trace had been close to Pat’s family since Bethany was born. During the difficult period of loss of his partner and best friend, Trace began to spend time with Pat’s family. Bethany came alive when he was there. He knew what she liked and it was through his gentle care that Bethany began to deal with her aching grief. Bethany’s grandmother became a stable factor in the group. She only lived a few blocks away, but moved into the house to help. Between the four of them, the family slowly recovered from their great loss.

This is a difficult book to describe. The situation was serious and heartbreaking. Yet the author created a family from the four grieving parties, and transformed them into a loving, caring unit that supported one another. She used humor, surprisingly, to bring them all closer. And I found it appropriate and well balanced in spite of what you would expect. In fact, you can’t help but laugh your way through the silliness that is Molly and Trace and even the grandmother. Together, their antics and love helped a little girl recover from a serious loss. Kudos to the author for a well written, sensitive, and yet light-hearted book about what makes a family. I consider this a memorable book.

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Another thing I like about the book is that while being a faith based story, it doesn’t tend to lecture or talk the topic of loss to death. Instead, it is a book of action. It demonstrates how the characters loved each other even in the worst of circumstances. It wasn’t easy. But they toughed it out together. If anything, the book performed as a great object lesson for the readers.

Somehow Christmas Will Come

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network 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, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter & Richelle Brunstetter ~ Review

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The Beloved Christmas Quilt: 3 Stories of Family, Romance and Amish Faith by Wanda E. Brunstetter, jean Brunstetter and Richelle Brunstetter

This set of stories is very special. There is one quilt and three generations of stories related to this quilt. What makes the book original is that three generations of Wanda Brunstetter’s family wrote this story.

The first book written by Wanda is Luella’s Promise. Luella has been taking care of her friend Dena Zook since her heart troubles began. Luella took on the responsibility of taking care of the home, cooking meals and caring and watching over Dena’s 4 year old son. Just before she died, Dena gave Luella a beautiful quilt in gratitude for what Luella did to help the family. She also extracted a promise from Luella to continue helping her grieving husband with the care of their son. Luella promised and continued to cook, clean and care for Atlee’s little boy after her friend died. Eventually this led to some complications as the adults grew closer to each other. Atlee eventually realized he had grown to love Luella, but there was one pressing problem, he was sixteen years older than she was. Her parents would not consent to a relationship between them.

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Jean Brunstetter writes Karen’s Gift. Karen is Luella and Atlee Zook’s daughter. By the time the story begins, she is married to Seth Allgyer and has moved to another community with him while they start their family. When their third daughter Nancy Anne is born, the couple is worried because Karen was exposed to German Measles during the pregnancy. Eventually they discover that Nancy Anne is deaf, and the knowledge contributes toward a rift in their marriage which was amplified by stress in Seth’s job. The community and friends helped them through some of the roughest spots.

Richelle Brunstetter wrote the final book, Roseanna’s Groom. Roseanna is Karen and Seth Allgyer’s eldest daughter. She is about to be married. In fact, all her family is gathered together to celebrate with her and John. But just before the service started, John ran and Roseanna is faced with the fallout of a broken heart and a blow to her self worth. As the special Christmas quilt is passed from mother to daughter at Christmas, the Scripture embroidered on the quilt offers unique comfort to each woman going through trials.

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Each simple plot was endearing, poignant, and a delight to read. The stories captured well the simplicity of Amish life while dealing with the complexities of human nature. I enjoyed reading all of these short Christmas stories. If you are a fan of Wanda Brunstetter’s books, you’ll welcome these new treasures to your collection.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc. 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 Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew (Inspirational Christian Romance) by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Beginning Anew pic

The Naomi Chronicles Book 3: Beginning Anew by Paula Rose Michelson

Beginning Anew is the third book of the Naomi Chronicles series. The entire series has close bearing on all the books as a whole, so my recommendation is for you to begin with the first book and proceed from there in order. These books are very much chronically ordered and reading the third book will make much more sense if you read the previous two books first.

Naomi Chronicles Beginning Anew quote1

As I read this third story, I could see it is a transitional volume. First, Naomi and Chaz (also known as Chaim) are back together after a very rough beginning in their marriage. They have new complications to face both personally and as a couple. Chaz needs to become more comfortable in his new identity. Naomi also has to adjust to the new perception of her identity within the barrio she has lived in for 15 years. And, unfortunately, the Barrio itself undergoes a bit of a transition when the Church Father tries to make peace in the neighborhood. There are a few nail-biting moments when it doesn’t appear this effort is going to work.

Second, while we were introduced to Tia Vida in the first book, and became acquainted with her amazing work among immigrants, we never fully came to understand her as a person. This was true for Naomi, as well, in spite of being adopted by the woman and living with her. So in this third book, Naomi is introduced to the work of the Tia’s in a more personal manner, although Tia Vida passed on long ago, through a new found journal. This adds some new twists to a wonderfully developing plot as well as a hint of mystery.

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I love the new twists; there is also some tension as the newlyweds become more comfortable with each other and among their friends, new and old. While this is a historical piece of fiction, the issues addressed in this story are very relevant, even today. This is an exciting way to learn more of our country’s amazing history as it deals with immigrant life in developing neighborhoods. Even though this is a transition time for the newly married couple, the way it is written, there is not a dull moment in the entire book.

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I read several books a month. Some of them I write reviews for. Most of them do not stick with me over the course of time. I put them down and they are forgotten. That’s not true of any of the books in this series so far. Every single one of them has stayed with me weeks after I’ve read them. I believe it’s a sign of the relevance of the books’ contents. It’s a topic that interests me. It also has historical significance, which I enjoy. But it also reflects how well the books are written. Like most authors, the writing style is not perfect; but it is memorable. This is not just another feel good romance. There is nothing fluffy about this series. There is relevance and purpose behind the fiction. I’m drawn to that type of writing.

Of course, there is another book in the series. Not all of the issues brought up in this book are resolved. So I am looking forward to reading the next piece in this adventure. There are mysteries to be settled.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. 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 Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

perfect time

Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

gratitude

Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. 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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Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason ~ Review~

Irish Meadows: The Courage to Dream Bk 1 by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows

The author, Susan Anne Mason, has skillfully created a world into which we can feel comfortable. The two main characters, Brianna and Colleen, could be our sisters, realistically endearing and frustrating simultaneously. Brianna feels she has grown up in Colleen’s shadow, her father’s favored daughter. Nothing she did seemed to gain his respect. Colleen is the sister we love to hate. She is bold, brash, flirtatious, the apple of her father’s eye, and always on the prowl for rich, handsome bachelors. She played with them and even pit them against each other. Brianna, on the other hand, wanted to attend a university in the fall. She had no use for men at the moment, although her daddy wanted her to get married to a suitable (prosperous) gentleman as soon as possible.

But then Gilbert Whelan returned to Irish Meadows after three years at college. Gil grew up on the farm, the son of the O’Leary’s housekeeper. When she died, James O’Leary took in Gil and treated him like a son. He was big brother to all the rest of the five O’Leary children. Adam, the eldest son, resented Gil for that. Brianna wanted to enlist Gil’s aid in convincing her father to allow her to further her education. But it became a more complicated situation when she discovered her feelings for him were no longer brotherly. Gil himself has felt the stirrings of love for Brianna. When he finally gained the courage to approach James, his mentor and father figure, he was flatly refused. The reason shook him to the core.Irish Meadows quote1

One day a distant relative of mother 0’Leary’s came to stay with the family for awhile. Rylan Montgomery needed a place to stay for a few months while he worked on his internship. His goal was to become a priest. It was Colleen’s duty to ferry him around until he became familiar with the area. When her father caught her in a compromising position one evening, he “sentenced” her to working with Rylan at the orphanage. This was truly punitive for Colleen since she hated all things religious, including priests, church and orphanages. However, working with Rylan day after day brought about subtle changes to her heart. She began to enjoy working with the children. In introspection, she questioned her previous dubious behavior. And…she fell in love with Rylan. Colleen’s world was turned upside down. Family dynamics, secrets, disastrous emotional upheavals and more make this book an intriguing read.Irish Meadows quote2

There’s a lot to like in this book. First, the Point of View (POV) is key to how the author develops tension and suspense. There are four Points of View: Colleen’s, Brianna’s, Rylan’s, and Gilbert’s. This author manages to blend them so well that she avoids the disjointed feeling so common in books with so many POV’s. I feel these points of view are what keeps this storyline moving along without stalling for lack of physical action. That’s excellent characterization.Irish Meadows quote3

Second, the four main characters all have a crisis of heart to meet, deal with, and resolve. Even the secondary characters, Kathleen and James O’Leary, the parents, had to face issues themselves such as what really mattered in life, and how to handle secrets within a family unit. Each issue felt real, urgent, and relevant for today even if the source is a historical novel. I found each of the conflicts plausible and could relate to many of them myself. The author manages to create believable people we can become akin to and care for.Irish Meadows quote4

Third, this is a faith-based book. I love how each voice dealing with an issue was facing something that included a crisis of faith, as well as heart and home. When a faith issue has to be dealt with, even though it may be an entirely private matter between you and God, it does affect those around us because what we believe leads to how we live our lives. That is how this author presents each character’s conflicts. When we are privvy to their thoughts, feelings and the process of resolution within, we appreciate them more for their struggles, even if they are still a flawed individual. I enjoyed the process as I read along, because what they struggled with was thought-provoking and insightful. And since most of this was internal, none of it sounded even remotely like preaching or finger wagging. Rather, I felt blessed to gain a glimpse through the window of their souls. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series which will give us Adam’s story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy (ARC) of this book 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 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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Petticoat Detective (Undercover Ladies Book 1) by Margaret Brownley ~Review~

Petticoat Detective

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

Combine historical fiction, a female Pinkerton Detective Agency operative, a former Texas Ranger, a bandit who’s adept at keeping his identity hidden even from the best of sleuths, mistaken identity, false assumptions, a killer on the loose, a recent murder, a Madame who sells boots, and you get an adventure you won’t quickly forget. Then add some sly humor, a little bit of romance, some great character work, and the combo makes this book irresistible.

Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton was on a mission. His brother Dave’s last letter to him had indicated a change of heart and a desire to be reconciled with his young son, whom Tom was raising. Now his brother was dead, and Tom wanted to find his murderer and bring him to justice. His recent investigations brought him to Goodman, Kansas, right to the doorstep of Miss Lillian’s Parlour House and Fine Boots. Dave had written about a Rose, one of Miss Lillian’s girls, whom he had fallen in love with and intended to marry. Tom wanted to talk with Rose, hoping to elicit her help in finding Dave’s killer. This part of his quest made him uncomfortable, but he would do whatever it took to get his man.

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Jennifer Layne was a highly trained agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her job often placed her undercover on a case where she could accomplish more than a man often could. Her quest had also brought her to Miss Lillian’s Parlour House where she was to talk to a Miss Rose whom the Pinkertons believed was a key to their investigation to the identity of the Gunnysack Bandit. She decided to apply to become a “resident.” She had just become established in a room and been made over to look more “decent” in Miss Lillian’s estimation, to get close to Rose. But a complication occurred when Miss Lillian discovered Rose in her room, killed but without evidence of a struggle. Jennifer’s job suddenly took a serious turn for the worse. She wondered if Rose’s death had anything to do with her investigation of the bandit.

Just moments before Rose’s death, Tom was directed upstairs to her room. He was told she was expecting him. Somehow he entered the wrong room–Jennifer’s room (as Amy Gardner). He assumed she was Rose, and Amy assumed he was a john! What ensued was a comedy of errors and gaffs until they heard Miss Lillian’s scream, sending them both out to investigate. From that point on, Amy in disguise as a “lady of the night” and Tom worked together on the case. Amy could not divulge her true identity so she had to keep her mouth firmly shut in spite of Tom’s concerns over her chosen profession. The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, and all the misunderstandings, assumptions, clues and surprises make this a fun read.

faith trust God even unknown plan

This is the first Margaret Brownley book I have read. I’m pretty certain it won’t be the last. There are many reasons why I like this one in particular. First, there is a “who done it” thread running all throughout the story that’s well written. Tom wants to find his brother’s killer. In the process of picking up clues, he believes they lead him to the Gunnysack Bandit. Finding who this bandit is becomes his central focus. Between the Tom and Amy, clues begin to look as if Dave Colton might be the bandit. Disheartened, Tom returns home after the Pinkerton Agency concludes the same thing. But Jennifer doesn’t like the way the clues don’t exactly add up. Eventually she has an idea after the case was closed. The end solution took me completely by surprise. Kudos to the author for keeping the readers guessing right up to the end.

Second, the pull of attraction between Tom and Jennifer (as Amy) is everywhere in this tale, twisted up in the main plot, complicating the urgency of their respective tasks. It is especially evident in Tom, a man of faith. Since he believes Amy is a “sporting woman” he fights his attraction to her all the way to the final chapters. In the meantime, Jennifer has her own conflicts because she too is a person of faith. She barely manages not to compromise her convictions without revealing her involvement with Pinkerton. I was a little surprised whom she took into her confidence. I think you may be too. But it works out well in the end.

Third, the book is heavily laced with good humor from mixed up identities to misunderstandings to just plain silliness. The strands of humor and adventure work well together. This coupling brought me back to re-read the book more than twice.

True friends love you as you are

Finally, I was given this book on CD to review. Jaimee Draper reads the book with so much talent and gusto that her acting ability made the story come alive. She added accents, hesitations, and mispronunciations at all the appropriate places with hilarious results. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. For all the above reasons, I highly recommend you read it too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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Beyond All Dreams: A Novel by Elizabeth Camden ~Review~

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Beyond All Dreams

A peek into the history of the Library of Congress, a mysteriously inaccurate naval document that no one would discuss, a particularly persistent librarian, timid but with fire in her blood, an annoyingly arrogant congressman from Maine, and the circumstances that precipitated the Spanish American War are all ingredients that make this book a fascinating read. Add a generous amount of romance and the book becomes irresistible.

Anna O’Brian was one of only a handful of female librarians allowed to work at the Washington D.C. location of the Library of Congress in the late nineteenth century. For her, it was a dream come true. Anna’s responsibilities were to care for the library’s maps and to conduct research for congressmen. Occasionally librarians even provided expert advice and testimony for congressional committees as well as for individuals. It was her attention to detail and her persistence that made her an excellent researcher. It also got her into trouble with the US Navy when she noticed an error in the reports of an incident that occurred 15 years ago. It also happened to be the same incident in which her father, a cartographer, disappeared with the ship he was sailing on. There was a definite mystery and she wanted it solved.

Beyond All Dreams quote1

Anna’s retiring yet understated fire also caught the eye of Lucas Callahan, a fairly new congressman from Maine. His youth, energy and brashness were all the talk of the town. His rivalry with the Speaker of the House got him removed from the US Budget Committee and reassigned to the committee on Fisheries. Their former war of words had hiked up a notch. But under all his fuss and blunder was a man with principles, who understood the hard-working laborers, the every day man, because his own roots were from the lumber industry. His family’s newly gained wealth was only a thin veneer that barely covered a darkness he wanted very much to escape. When he met Anna, he discovered her naturally placid nature brought a peace and calm to his turbulent one. But getting Anna to accept his suit was a challenge. It was not until he became entangled in her mystery document and the affairs of the Navy that she realized how serious he was. The truth behind the mystery had the potential to either drive them apart forever or weld them together.

What I enjoyed most about this charming historical fiction was the author’s use of wit and humor. Because of her nature, Anna just could not refrain from delivering a not-so-gentle reprimand to the presumptuous congressman who attempted to summon her services and expertise by snapping his fingers. Later, when he began to pursue her with the idea of courtship, she couldn’t imagine why. She described herself as a “short, ordinary girl who had a voice like sandpaper and the habits of a hermit crab.” Luke himself described her as his opposite. “She never did anything impulsively and liked the safety of her map room in the attic of the Capitol. She hid up in that room like a princess in a castle tower, surrounded by a fortress of books and maps.”

Beyond All Dreams quote2

Some of the historical events in the book are based on actual occurrences. The author created a personal link to the tragic loss of life in the event that eventually helped to fuel the flame of American sentiment against Spain–the link that lead to the Spanish American War. Anna’s father lost his life in that tragic event, creating an inner conflict between her desires to avoid war and the loss of more lives and revenge for such a loss in her young life. I was touched by the author’s empathetic writing. Many readers today will be able to relate to such a conflict.

Beyond All Dreams quote3

The author wasn’t heavy-handed with spiritual lessons learned during a character’s development, but it was there, nevertheless. One doesn’t have to talk about God’s work to know His Presence is evident through their thoughts and actions. Each of the people we grow to love in this book had to face basic personal challenges. Not only did God meet them in their growing pains, He used other characters to assist in bringing them to maturity faster, much like a jeweler chips away the dross to find the diamond inside. I enjoyed how the author made this happen with every interaction between Luke and Anna.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book 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 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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