My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson ~ Review

My heart belongs in San Francisco pic

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California: Abby’s Prospects by Janice Thompson

My Heart Belongs in San Francisco, California joins the collection of Barbour Publishing’s series that celebrates historical beginnings in America. This book explores the era of the California Gold Rush, the ’49ers, and the roots of San Francisco, the boiling pot of the West. This book places you right there in the middle of all the action from the viewpoint of a young woman from England.

Abigail Effingham was not a typical person traveling out West in the 1850’s. For one, while she was not traveling alone by train, wagon train and coach, she was accompanied by her household’s butler. Her objective was to meet up with her mother in the Oregon Territories where her mother was visiting her sister. Abigail missed her and wanted her to return home to Philadelphia, a city they were well settled after their immigration from England. This trip gave Abby a close-up look at all the frontier had to offer, including the flooding that diverted their path away from Oregon. With a new found determination, Abby decided against Neville’s advice to return to Philadelphia, but to visit San Francisco to wait until the flooding receded in the Spring and her mother could come to her. She couldn’t realize how much this side trip would change her life’s course.

My heart belongs in San Francisco quote1

The people in the hayday of San Francisco were uncivilized, thrill-seeking and out to find their fortunes. Some of them were optimistic, starry-eyed with hope of striking it rich. But if they stayed too long, they often became jaded, swindled, crushed, and hard-drinking gamblers. They were not what Abby was used to. But soon, she inevitably discovered ways to influence a few of them, and being a young person herself, began to improve what was around her. Eventually a young man, Sam (good old reliable Sam), became her protector in more ways than she understood. They developed a strong friendship while she and Neville stayed at the Inn owned by his father. Sam’s family housekeeper, who traveled to California with them years before, became the cook at the Inn. Her food was legendary and she was popular all throughout the city.

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What I enjoyed so much was the complete makeover of the young lady we know as Abigail, to the self-sufficient woman that emerged as Abby. Her world was turned upside down. We get to watch the sometimes comical change-up as she learned to pluck chickens, make cherry pies, wash dishes and wait tables for the first time in her pampered life.

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Another valuable part of Abby’s life was her integrity and strong will. That included her spiritual life. She knew what she believed and why she believed that way, yet she never viewed herself as better than anyone else. She made friends with those who were like minded and they encouraged each other in their faith. She was always willing to consider a different viewpoint and learn new things, especially learning about God’s character. That part of one of my favorite sections of the book and the best part of the character development that is done so well. If you like historical fiction from a woman’s point of view, then you are sure to enjoy this book.

My heart belongs in San Francisco quote4

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Barbour Publishing as a member of the Review Crew. 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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After 3 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

After 3 pic

After 3 by Joy Ohagwu

The After series includes loosely related books that center around a theme of transformation. In every book I’ve read so far, the focus has been how the person rises out of the ashes of an identity crisis, a severe illness that has changed the characters’ lives, or regaining your bearing after a crippling loss. The themes are about things we experience in our own lives–occurrences we face ourselves at one time or another. Like these characters, we need answers to our pressing questions. We need to figure how to do life AFTER–all relevant needs for today’s readers. The author then helps us step into another’s shoes and imagine how their lives could possibly help us in our own AFTER.

Albert Dove was a writer. But recently he fell into a slump when his wife died. His friend is concerned about Al’s lack of motivation to even live and take care of himself. His publisher dumped him when his popularity slumped and now he doesn’t know what to do with his life. His friend makes a last ditch effort to revive Al’s writing career. To do that, he tries to find a way to inspire his friend to pick up his pen again. They find just that in the form of a cover model for the next book in Al’s series. And his friend is going to show him how to self publish the book.

After 3 quote1

Rachel Song is a waitress. Worse yet, she is a former model who she believes is past her prime. She’s just gliding along in life without much purpose when her friend Candace shows her an ad for an audition. She decides to give her old career one more try before moving on. But then she is chosen as the model for Al Dove’s next novel, something about a feisty female sheriff who has disappeared in the last book and is now making a surprise come back. She and Al hit it off right away, and he is certain he can write not only one more novel but a whole new series. His muse is back and he decides to make this a faith based series.

Like the other books in the series, this one is filled with hope and life. Faith plays an important role in how these characters recover from losses and setbacks. The author’s intent is clear. She wants us to be encouraged rather than discouraged by the tests and trials we face so often. Her desire is to show us how God can lift us out of the pain and into peace right in the middle of even baffling circumstances. I think she does this well without becoming wordy or preachy. Her message is that there is always hope. That hope is in a close relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And He has a plan for our lives.

After 3 quote2

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, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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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.

Somehow Christmas Will Come quote1

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

Beloved Christmas Quilt pic

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.

Beloved Christmas Quilt quote1

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.

Beloved Christmas Quilt quote2

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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