The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter

Book description:

She only remembers loving him. But he can’t forget the way she left.

Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn’t remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.

Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she’s back—vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams?

Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away. And Zac knows that if he follows his heart he’ll win back the love of his life—but if Lucy’s memory returns, his would-be bride might say goodbye forever.

My review:

This book has such an interesting premise. Lucy can’t remember leaving Zac and still loves him as if she were going to marry him while Zac has begun healing from her leaving him. It is definitely not your typical romance novel.

Hunter did a great job with the plot of this novel. She didn’t give away too much too soon, yet gave readers just enough to keep us wanting more. It was definitely novel writing at its finest! I’m not sure that I found Zac and Lucy the most compelling characters that I have ever read, but the plot more than makes up for anything lacking in them, for me.

I thought the whole question of Lucy’s amnesia interesting and the mystery of how and why she lost her memory intriguing. Hunter deals with the power of generational strongholds perfectly.

I also thought the slightly sinister addition of Lucy’s new fiance to be a perfect addition to the story. It added a bit of tension to the story, without too many superfluous characters.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Hunter, but it surely won’t be the last! If you love romance novels with a hint of mystery, this is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The End of Law by Therese Down

Book description:

Berlin, 1933: as Hitler rises to power; the law–designed to protect and serve–becomes twisted to the will of those who dream of a pure Aryan race.

SS Officer Walter Gunther is intensely loyal to the Third Reich. His readiness to kill without question or remorse would seem to make him the ideal candidate to lead the T4 euthanasia programme. SS officer Karl Muller, a trainee doctor and engineer, is also brought into the programme, and assured that his work is consistent with the Hippocratic oath he’s due to take.

Their mandate: to kill the “unworthies”–not just the Jews, but crippled children, the mentally ill, homosexuals. Hedda, Walter’s wife and old acquaintance of Karl, has no idea of what their work entails. Until, that is, the fate of their families is at stake, and each must confront afresh the choices they have made.

This dark, tense novel is a compelling story of human tragedy, and man’s potential to revel in, or fight against, the evil actions of a corrupted nation.

My review:

This is unlike any WWII era book I have ever read. Down takes readers inside the minds of Germans on both sides of the insanity of Hitler’s regime.

This book really focused reader’s attention on other atrocities of the regime, namely the murder of humans deemed unworthy of life because they were disabled in some way, physically or mentally. It also illustrated the murder of homosexuals. It is accepted that Hitler’s regime murdered Jewish people by the millions, but other populations are not as represented. Their murders are brought to the forefront in this novel in a unique way.

It has been a long time since I sacrificed sleep to finish a book. This is the book that did it for me. I stayed up late just to finish it and then I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about it. The betrayals to Hedda were so many that it boggled my mind.

This book is a look into German society and how much loyalty to Hitler’s regime cost the Germans that followed him, either by design or by default. Parts of it were so, so hard to read, but it is necessary to be informed about the past so that it is not repeated!

If you are fan of WWII fiction, this is a great choice. If you have read numerous books of this era, like I have, this book offers a unique perspective that is much appreciated.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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An Unbroken Heart by Kathleen Fuller

Book description:

An argument. A crash. In an instant, Joanna’s world is changed forever.

One minute, Joanna Schrock was arguing with her parents, and the next, her parents’ lives were claimed in a hit-and-run buggy accident. Her body is broken, but her heart is in even deeper pain— after all, how do you cope with your parents’ deaths when your last words were spoken in anger?

After an extended stint in a physical rehabilitation center, Joanna re-enters her Amish life. But nothing is the same—not even her feelings for Andrew Beiler.

Joanna has loved Andrew since the age of twelve, and her feelings have not changed throughout the years. She is thrilled when Andrew wants to get married, but she wonders whether it’s love he’s feeling, or pity. As the couple’s wedding date approaches, Joanna isn’t overcome with the deep joy she was hoping to feel; instead, she’s wracked with anxiety and guilt.

Joanna hears God whispering to her, Be strong and courageous, but she’s afraid that courage looks a lot like walking away from her dreams and into the plan of her Heavenly Father.

If Joanna takes the first step toward healing, will it cost her everything she’s ever wanted? Or could God be changing the desires of her heart?

My review:

I thought this was a unique Amish fiction novel. It seems like many Amish novels take an idealistic view of the Amish. They are depicted as quaint and almost perfect. However, in this book, Fuller gives us a picture of a young woman that is arguing with her parents when one of the worst possible things happens and her parents are killed in a hit-and-run accident. I appreciated a look at an Amish girl that struggles with anger like the rest of us.

In fact, that is the best part of this book for me – characters that are not idealized or “perfect” but are flawed and struggle with mistakes and guilt and real-life problems. Some people don’t enjoy books where things don’t end happily for all the characters, but I do. I really enjoy books that are realistic and in real-life, things usually don’t end up happily for everyone. Sometimes life is about making great-tasting lemonade with the lemons we are given.

There isn’t anything not to like about this book. The pacing is perfect; I didn’t get bored, but didn’t feel like I was racing to the end to find out how it would all turn out.

I was so curious about what would happen to Cameron, but I felt like Joanna’s story kept me captivated enough that I didn’t feel like I had to rush through just to find out what happened to Cameron and Lacy.

If you enjoy Amish fiction, Fuller offers up a solid novel. After you read this one, you might consider reading other Amish of Birch Creek novels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston

Book description:

After losing her fiancé in a tragic accident, Veronica Fisher finds solace in the old recipes stored in her mother’s hope chest—and in a special visitor who comes to her bake stand to purchase her old-fashioned raspberry pies.

Veronica Fisher knows how lucky she is to be marrying her best friend. Seth Lapp is kind, hardworking, and handsome—but most importantly, he loves Veronica.

When an accident on the job steals Seth away from her, a heartbroken Veronica is certain she will never love—or be loved—again. Yet when she discovers a batch of forgotten recipes and opens a bake stand to sell her Mammi’s raspberry pies, Veronica picks up a regular customer who gives her heart pause.

Jason Huyard was with Seth when he lost his life—a memory that haunts him still. So when he seeks out the grieving fiancée to convey his condolences, the last thing he expects—or wants—is to fall in love. Nonetheless, Jason soon finds himself visiting Veronica’s bake stand every week . . . and it’s for more than the raspberry pies.

Now, as Veronica’s heart thaws, Jason can’t bring himself to tell her he was there when Seth died. Can he ever reveal where he was on the day her life derailed? Or will his secret rob them of the second chance at love they both want?

My review:

I enjoyed this book very much. It was different from the typical Amish novel but was a nice change. I had never read an Amish novel where the fiance was killed. It was easy to feel empathy for Veronica for her loss and for Jason wanting to reach out to her but struggling with his guilt. The characters were very compelling from the very beginning.

With these kind of books, it is kind of a given that the couple are going to get together by the end of the book. The only question is how they will overcome the conflict that could potentially tear them apart. I have to admit that there was a time in the middle of the book that I was wondering how Veronica would find out about Jason’s duplicity and thought it was taking a little bit too long to wrap up that part of the story. Other than that small criticism, the book was almost perfect.

I say “almost perfect” because I really thought there would be a recipe at the end of the book for raspberry pie. There are frequently recipes at the end of Amish novels that I like to try out. Veronica’s raspberry pies were such an integral part of the story that I thought for sure there would be a reward at the end of the book with a new recipe. I was disappointed that there wasn’t one!

However, I can’t fault the story or the author for the lack of a recipe in a novel. The story itself was a lovely love story that was entertaining to read. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, you will enjoy it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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An Amish Market – Four Novellas

Book description:

Love Birds by Amy Clipston

While Ellie Lapp and her mother are still mourning the loss of her brother, Seth, Ellie starts working at one of the gift shops in town. Seth’s friend Lloyd is talented at carving wooden birds, but his father disapproves and expects him to take over the family farm someday. Ellie sees the beauty in Lloyd’s creations and insists Lloyd sell the birds in the gift shop where she works. As Ellie and Lloyd spend more time together, they begin to develop feelings for one another, but she accidentally betrays his trust. Will she lose any hope of a future with him?

A Bid for Love by Kathleen Fuller

Every week, Hannah Lynne brings her home-churned butter to the local market. And every week Ezra stops by to purchase some. Hannah Lynne knows not to read too much into it—Ezra is a confirmed bachelor and barely even glances her way, despite any hope to the contrary. But when Ezra bids an exorbitant amount to win the quilt she had her heart set on, Hannah Lynne can’t stop her heart from taking over her mind. Could Ezra finally be in the market for love?

Sweeter Than Honey by Kelly Irvin

Shattering a jar of pickled beets wasn’t the impression Isabella hoped to make on her first trip to the local Combination Store of Bee County, Texas. But as embarrassed as she was by the accident, she didn’t think it warranted the frosty reaction from the handsome manager of the store, Will Glick. As she soon learns, though, Will’s heart has been broken one too many times. And now, for some reason, Isabella finds herself determined to be the one to repair that broken heart and renew his faith in love.

Love in Store by Vannetta Chapman

Stella Schrock works at the Old Mill in Nappanee, Indiana, with new employee David Stoltzfus, a recent widower. When strange happenings begin occurring around town, it appears as if someone wants to close the mill. Stella and David have to work together to solve the mystery of what is happening at the Old Amish Mill, and in the process they might just find that God has more in store for their future than they would ever have dreamed possible.

My review:

I have to admit that these kinds of books – a group of several novellas – are not my favorite type of book to read. I tend to find that each story is not as fully developed as it could have been and either ends too abruptly, or is not as detailed as I would have liked.

I enjoyed this grouping very much, however. Perhaps the novellas were a little longer than some I have read, or perhaps the authors did a great job developing the characters, but these stories were not lacking depth or details.

I kept thinking, “This one is my favorite” until I remembered the previous one. I guess they are all my favorite! I do have to admit that I particularly enjoyed “Love Birds” because I had met Ellie in “The Forgotten Recipe”. It was nice to read about her from a different perspective.

This book has a lot of appeal for any reader. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, this is a great choice!

If you are interested in The Forgotten Recipe, click on the picture:

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Why is Great-Grandma So Sad by Susan Heagy

Book description:

Though this book is written for children ages 7 to 14, it is also intended for any age of people who have difficulty reading anything having to do with the Holocaust of WWII. This story is presented from the personal perspective of a family in the midst of the Holocaust, without trauma but historically correct. Sarah, at the age of seven, does not understand the extreme sadness her great grandmother portrays, prompting her to ask her mother the question, Why is Great Grandma so sad? Her mother decides it is time to relate the Holocaust experience of Great Grandma Hannah beginning at the same age as Sarah. This story gives an account of a family experiencing the onset of WWII, ghetto life, being sent to a concentration camp and the unusual circumstances surrounding their struggle to survive. Through the dialog Sarah comes to have a new view of her great grandmother, Hannah, as a child. Hannah, through necessity, grows up all too quickly. But while she endures these changes and experiences and during times of hiding, her doll Rachael is always there as a confidant and constant companion in her loneliness. She hears also of an unbelievable time when the Jewish people were treated horribly and unfairly. Sarah comes to realize how the Jews, her own people, demonstrated strength and resilience when under pressure, determined to survive. This story brings to life the sadness, and the hope, tightly interwoven in the lives of those who survived the Holocaust culminating with a surprise ending. Throughout this dialog Sarah learns along with the child Hannah about a time in history no one should ever forget. It is the hope of the author that those reading this book will also learn the truth of that time and not allow the voices of those who experienced it to be silenced. This story of Great Grandma is historical fiction. The family is not real but the experiences are. Based on several Survivors of the Shoah, their true life war accounts are included in the book.

My review:

This book does a great job of introducing children – the target audience is children ages 7 – 14 – to the Holocaust in a way that is informative, yet not too graphic. Heagy does not sugarcoat the horrible experiences that the persecuted suffered during the Holocaust, but explains it in a way that children can understand.

The idea of the book is genius. Sarah asks her mother why Great-Grandma is so sad and her mother answers her questions in a loving, maternal way. The details and the information Sarah’s mother shares with her clearly gives Sarah – and the readers – a clear understanding about why Great-Grandma is sad. It was an honest look at the Holocaust.

I think this book is so timely. The reality is that Holocaust survivors are getting older and soon there will be none left to tell the stories. I liked the way that Sarah is tasked with continuing her Great-Grandmother’s legacy. It is a legacy everyone who learns about the Holocaust is responsible to carry to future generations.

I enjoyed this book so much that I passed it on to my oldest right away to read. It is a very short book that is easy to read in one sitting, but it stays with you. I particularly enjoyed the stories of actual survivors at the end that Heagy included. It was inspiring to look at their faces and know what they have been through and survived.

If you are looking for a book to give children a realistic look into the Holocaust, this is the best one I have come across for a younger age group.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins

Book description:

A boy with a troubled childhood . . . becomes a reluctant criminal . . . becomes a broken man on death row who just wants to die. A failed pastor . . . rejected by those he only wants to help . . . finds a new calling. Thomas Carey and Brady Wayne Darby couldn’t be more different. One is a washed-up pastor hoping desperately to make a difference; the other is a criminal who’s worst crime is always the one he’s about to commit. One diligently serves God; the other diligently serves himself. And yet . . . both are sinners in need of grace. So take the first step on a journey to transformation. Join the murderer and the chaplain. Choose between a life of crime and a life of purpose and prepare to leave the ranks of the hopelessly lost and find the One who can save even the most troubled soul.

My review:

I am a fan of Jerry B. Jenkins and have been for many years. This book reminded me of why I enjoy reading his books so much.

The book shifts from Brady’s story to Thomas’s story throughout most of the book. I kept wondering when their stories would intertwine because it seemed like they were destined to meet, but I wasn’t sure when or how it would happen. The pace of the book is storytelling at its finest. It is so very slow throughout much of the book, but then accelerates until the end. It could not have been better.

In a note from the author, Jenkins wrote that he hopes “it stays with you long after the final page”. This one certainly does. I find I cannot stop thinking about it. Even though it is such a sad story, it is one filled with hope. It reassures readers that perseverance pays off. Thomas remains committed to his calling, even when he see no progress or fruit. Thomas and Grace remain committed to praying for their prodigal, even when she assures them time and again that she will never return to church.

I love books that leave readers thinking after the last page has been read. I also love books that are realistic; life isn’t always neat and clean.

This is an example of storytelling at its finest. I think a lot of readers would enjoy this book.

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Eternity by Tony Evans

Book description:

We often think of heaven in two extremes: It’s either a dreamy existence where we float around on clouds with nothing much to do, or it’s something far off in the future that we don’t want to happen until we accomplish all that we want to in this life.

Both of these are flat wrong, and Tony Evans looks to Scripture to set the record straight. Simple and straight-forward, Eternity is a short book on what eternity with God will really be like.

“God hasn’t told us everything [about heaven],” writes Evans, “but Scripture gives us enough glimpses and enough promises about heaven for us to know we don’t want to miss this place of eternal joy.”

Walk through Scripture with Evans as he plainly explains what heaven is like, who will be there, and what they’ll be doing. With engaging illustrations and practical insights, you’ll know what awaits believers forever and how that matters for life today.

My review:

I was surprised when this book arrived in the mail. It is a very small, thin, book and only has about 80 pages. However, there are a lot of thought-provoking ideas within the pages.

I appreciated the detailed explanation about what believers can expect heaven to be like. Certainly it is something that all believers already eagerly anticipate seeing. I also really appreciated the way that Evans backed up his description about what to expect in heaven with references to what the Bible says about heaven.

A surprising effect of this book is the way that it motivated me to tell others about heaven, especially loved ones who are not believers. The thought of them missing out is too painful to contemplate.

If you have questions about what heaven will be like, this is the book for you. It provides a Biblically-based description of what we can expect and answers a lot of questions that I had and that I have heard others ask over the years.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells

Book description:

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

My review:

The best part about this book for me was the setting in Indiana. It brought back a lot of memories of life in small-town Indiana and the acres and acres of grass and cows. It was also nice to remember the small-town churches on many corners in rural America.

The characters of James and Noble and the struggles they experience are easy to identify with. Noble feels such pressure to provide for his brother and mother and is willing to give up his dreams to do so. However, it is so difficult to forget about the desire to follow a dream. James is at an opposite place in his life, where his church is closing down.

There were a couple places in this book where the plot took a strange turn for me, especially with James. I would have liked to have seen more of Shelby to get more insight into her thought processes. However, obviously the focus of the book was on James and Noble, so it is easy to overlook the lack of depth in Shelby’s character.

Overall this is a nice story of the struggles of people that you could imagine encountering in real life. If you are looking for a nice, easy comfortable read, this makes a great choice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

Book description:

In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth-grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.

Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks into depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.

Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world.

My review:

This is one of the best books of the year so far that I’ve read. Parts of it were so difficult to read and other parts took my breath away. However, Cantrell delivers a story that is real.

I thought the setting of the book was interesting. It brought back so many memories of when Katrina hit New Orleans and watching the levees fail and the city flood. It was interesting to read a fictionalized account of how it might have been for people living in the area.

However, the story is of the horrible situation that the characters experience. While reading this story, I had no idea where it would end up. There are no clues as to whether Sarah will be found or not. Even Amanda and Carl’s relationship status is questionable. Clues are given from the very beginning that their marriage is not the best, but I could not tell if they would reconcile or divorce, or just continue on in the way of their marriage.

This is the first book I have ever read by Cantrell, but it won’t be the last. She is a master storyteller of human nature and emotion.

I can imagine that this book might be too difficult for some readers to get through because it deals with heavy, horrible realities of life. However, it is also a story of the strength of humanity. I really enjoyed it and have already recommended it to fellow readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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