Book Review: The Writing Desk

11 Aug

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

Rachel Hauck is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author.She is a Christy Award Winner and a double RITA finalist. Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Club.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, and a former sorority girl, Rachel and her husband live in central Florida. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Visit her at http://www.rachelhauck.com or http://www.facebook.com/rachelhauck.

 

My Impressions:

Not sure how she does it, but Rachel Hauck has written another winner with The Writing Desk. This dual timeline novel with two very different heroines is one wonderful story. I am not the biggest fan of romance novels, but Hauck is a must-read author for me. With endearing characters, beautiful prose, and believable plot lines, this one is a highly recommended read.

The Writing Desk has two settings — Gilded Age New York and modern day NYC/Cocoa Beach. The two heroines, pampered and sheltered heiress Birdie and award-winning debut novelist Tenley, could not be more different in their upbringing and cultural experiences. Yet both struggle to find independence from family and societal expectations. Birdie’s family expects her to expand their wealth and establish their preeminence in society. Tenley bears the last name of beloved and esteemed authors. They embody the struggle all face — finding a place and a voice of their own. The two women also have difficult relationships with their mothers that shape how they see the world and themselves. The novel is indeed romance fiction at its best with not one, but two, GREAT romances. The heroes have a quiet strength, integrity, and faith that lead Tenley and Birdie to the best they can become. I love how each couple compliments and strengthens each other. The two stories run independently of each other until the writing desk that Tenley finds yields a mystery and a culmination of promise, for both women.

The faith message that runs throughout the book is a whisper to the heart. Both women hear a song sung only to them throughout their lives, a song that bolsters courage in the face of disappointment, grief, and discouragement. Even when Tenley and Birdie are unaware of God’s presence, His steadfast love surrounds them. And isn’t that the message of 1 John 4:10?  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (NIV).

If all you are looking for is a romance, then The Writing Desk will give you two for the price of one! But be prepared for more — a story that will sweep you up and touch your heart.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to TLC Blog Tours and Zondervan for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Ghost Heart

10 Aug

A brilliant transplant surgeon. A rogue organ broker. A ghost child. And the legend that could destroy them all. A brutal murder convinces surgeon Mia Kendall there’s more than she imagined to the mysterious spike in heart transplant rejections. Determined to find answers before she loses another patient, Mia gets sucked into a dangerous international medical web. With time running out for her youngest transplant recipient, Mia is forced to partner with a disillusioned ex-military pilot who flies brokered organs across East Africa. But searching for the truth will prove costly for the unlikely duo racing to stop a madman before he annihilates a rare and cursed bloodline. From best-selling author Lisa Harris and award-winning author Lynne Gentry comes a chilling, hypnotic medical thriller that will take you from the suburbs of Cincinnati to the jungles of Africa.

 

 

Bestselling author Lisa Harris is a Christy Award finalist for Blood Ransom and Vendetta, Christy Award winner for Dangerous Passage, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 (Blood Covenant) and 2015 (Vendetta) from Romantic Times. She has over thirty novels and novella collections in print. She and her family have spent almost fourteen years working as missionaries in Africa where she runs a small non-profit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. The ECHO Project promotes Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31:8)

When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at http://www.lisaharriswrites.com.

Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer who loves spending time with her family and medical therapy dog.

 

 

 

 

My Impressions:

Wow! Ghost Heart promised edge of the seat suspense and delivered! But this medical suspense has more than close calls and desperate escapes, it has heart and soul and passion. Authors Harris and Gentry are passionate about the underlying subject matter — the persecution and genocide of albinos in Africa. What makes this novel especially chilling is the reality it exposes. If you are looking for a page-turning suspense that will have you thinking long after the cover is closed, then Ghost Heart is for you.

Ghost Heart has a lot going for it — exotic setting, twisting, turning storylines, and complex characterization. Tanzania, with its dense, damp heat, poverty, and beauty, became real to me within this book’s pages. The seemingly separate storylines of a suburban family and a heart specialist in Africa are masterfully woven together into a credible story. But the characters are the best part. The main characters, Mia and Race, are in Africa to make a difference in the world, but also to do a kind of penance for their past mistakes. They are the focus of much of the action, but the authors have added secondary characters that readers will identify with. Catherine and Jeme are mothers fiercely dedicated to keeping their daughters alive. Nerdy medical researcher, Harry, dreams of heroics, never suspecting he will get the chance at being a true hero. All of these characters, with the addition of others, bring depth to the story.

The plight of people with albinism seems unreal to our American sensibilities. Prejudice and superstition combine for real life and death consequences. Ghost Heart opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about. Medical ethics are also explored. In a world where enough money can buy a desired outcome, the value of human life takes on a whole new meaning. Characters struggle with believing in a God who seems remote or uninterested in their lives, but find the One who has true love and compassion. Ghost Heart got this reader thinking, making it a perfect choice for a book club.

I really loved this book and give it a highly recommended rating!

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to the authors for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Children’s Corner: The Bedtime Book

9 Aug

Mama comes to tuck you in,

Pulls the covers to your chin,

Squeezes fingers, squeezes toes,

Lays a kiss upon your nose.

New York Times bestselling author Mary Engelbreit presents The Bedtime Book, a beautifully-illustrated picture book that pairs sleepy time text with Mary’s beloved, timeless art. From endearing poems and snuggly stories to sweet blessings and precious prayers, each page of The Bedtime Book features ways for you to read your little one to sleep. 

Mary Engelbreit grew up studying the illustrations in the vintage storybooks of her mother’s own childhood, and she developed a unique style that harkens back to those simpler times. Mary’s distinctive images have made her a celebrity to millions, who eagerly snap up gift items, calendars, books, fabrics, and more. Mary’s dearest wish has always been to illustrate for children. Her New York Times bestselling The Night Before Christmas is already part of the holiday tradition for families across the country.

 

My Impressions: 

The Bedtime Book illustrated by the very talented Mary Engelbreit will be your child’s go-to book when the sun goes down and sleep beckons. Filled with whimsically detailed illustrations of creatures of all types, the poems, prayers, and stories all focus on the process of bedtime. I loved this book! The pace is slow and easy; the pictures sure to engage your child’s imagination. My favorite in the collection is titled Counting Sheep, a story sure to induce giggles and smiles. Perfect for snuggle time with your child or grandchild! The Bedtime Book is a great edition to your family library or the just right gift for the special child in your life.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Shelf Love

8 Aug

My bookshelves have gotten out of control. When perusing them for a topic for this week’s Top 10 Tuesday, I just had to get them organized. I cleaned them out, purging 2 whole books! And I shuffled them around, gaining a few inches of space. The sad thing is that the books on my shelves, by and large, have not been read. I am dedicated to sharing my books with others, and except for a few books that I may re-read or are signed by the author, I am fairly successful at moving books out of the house. Unfortunately (I really mean fortunately 😉 ) books have a way of finding a home with me. They arrive from Amazon, authors, and publishers. Sometimes they come from local bookstores. Some are books in a series I have started and not finished. Some are books I thought my book club would love. Some I just could not resist the cover, or the book blurb, or the endorsement. Sigh. So I have shelves and shelves of books whispering, clamoring, and shouting pick me! This week I thought I would feature randomly selected books that reside with me and are worthy of my quality time. I just need to get reading!

Now my Kindle looks like  . . . . whoo boy!

(Four of my bookcases. Yes I have more.)

Ten Random Books from My Shelves

Crimson Snow by William Kritlow

Dangerous Mercy by Kathy Herman

Fading Starlight by Kathryn Cushman

The Loom by Sheila Gillus

Petra by T. L. Higley

The Potluck Club — Trouble’s Brewing by Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd

Road to Nowhere by Paul Robertson

Saint by Ted Dekker

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Whence Came A Prince by Liz Curtis Higgs (I’ve actually read this one! Go me!)

How about you?

Do you have your shelves under control?

Or are they controlling you? LOL!

Children’s Corner: Imagine . . . The Great Flood

7 Aug

IMAGINE…
The ocean swirled around the boy and pulled him down with unrelenting power. Heavy water churned and tugged at his flailing body like unseen hands yanking him into the watery depths. The fight was finally over. Even though he’d tried to stand up to the enemy, the waves were about to swallow him whole.

The last thing ten-year-old Corey remembers (before the world as he knew it disappeared) was the searing pain in his head after falling while chasing his dog Molly into the woods. What happens next can’t be explained as Corey wakes up and finds himself face-to-face with not one but two lions! 
 
Join Corey and experience the excitement . . . the wound . . . the adventure . . . as the epic story of Noah’s ark comes to life.
 
Imagine. . .The Great Flood is the first release in an exciting, brand-new epic adventure series for kids ages 8 to 12 written by schoolteacher and missionary, Matt Koceich. The Imagine series brings the Bible to life for today’s kids as they ponder what it would be like to live through a monumental biblical event.

Matt Koceich (born August 20, 1968) is the author of The Sending and a public school teacher. He is currently working on The Breaking, Book 2 in the Soul Kingdom trilogy.

Matt lives in Mansfield, TX with his wife and their four children.

My Impressions:

Fast-paced action and adventure is what you get with Matt Koceich’s book for kids, Imagine . . . The Great Flood. The first book in the Imagine series, this novel takes main character Corey from his suburban neighborhood to the site of Noah’s Ark and the ensuing flood. This imaginative book gets your child thinking about the familiar Bible story by putting them right in the middle of the action.

Ten year-old Corey is disappointed that his family will soon be moving from Texas to Florida. Faced with leaving all he finds familiar, he is feeling a bit sorry for himself. Then an accident plunges him into another world. Waking up in the time of Noah, Corey sees for himself the events leading up to the flood.

I found Imagine . . . The Great Flood an interesting read for kids. Koceich takes the basic facts of the Flood account and adds his own twist. Corey not only interacts with Noah and his sons, but some of the lesser known people alive at this time — the Nephilim. His fictional account of the well-known Bible story made me go back to the Bible to check out what God’s word had to say about it all. That’s a good thing. It gets the reader to investigate on their own. This book isn’t really time travel, but more of a dream. But in it, Corey discovers truths about God — the fact that He never changes, is in complete control, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives. The end of the book finds Corey and his family settled into their new home and community. The things he learned in his dream are reinforced in his new life.

I think 8-12 year-old readers, especially boys, will like this chapter book. It is a great step towards getting them to think about God and dig deeper into His word.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 8-12.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Barbour for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Audiobook Review: The Rook

3 Aug

An arsonist has struck a top-secret research facility at a key US naval base. But it’s not just a random terrorist attack. These people were after something specific. When Special Agent Patrick Bowers is called in to investigate, he is drawn into a deadly web of intrigue and deception. With his own criminology research being turned against him and one of the world’s most deadly devices missing, Bowers is caught up in a race against time to stop an international assassin before it’s too late.

Full of fast-paced action and mind-bending plot twists, The Rook is an adrenaline-laced page-turner that will keep readers up all night. Book 2 in the Bowers Files, this riveting look into the criminal mind is the perfect follow-up to James’s well-reviewed The Pawn.

 

 

Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base.

Suspense Magazine, who named Steven’s book The Bishop their Book of the Year, says that he “sets the new standard in suspense writing”. Publishers Weekly calls him a “master storyteller at the peak of his game”. And RT Book Reviews promises, “the nail-biting suspense will rivet you”.

Equipped with a unique Master’s Degree in Storytelling, Steven has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades, speaking more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe.

Steven’s groundbreaking book on the art of fiction writing, Story Trumps Structure, won a Storytelling World award. Widely-recognized for his story crafting expertise, he has twice served as a Master CraftFest instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers.

My Impressions:

Years ago my book club read Steven James’ first novel, The Pawn. We had varied opinions — scary, creepy, nightmare-inducing . . . . Some did not even finish it because it was too intense. I had forgotten all that when I chose the audiobook of The Rook, the second in the Bowers Files series, for my daily walks. While it didn’t produce bad dreams, it was scary, creepy, chilling, and perhaps a bit too real. I really liked it. It made me think. However, if you are the least bit squeamish or have trouble with disturbing images, then this one is definitely not for you. But if you like a thriller with twists and turns and some seriously disturbed bad guys, then I recommend it.

Patrick Bowers is a Special Agent for the FBI. Not a profiler, he is an expert at identifying where serial offenders are apt to strike leading to the discovery of their identities. Called in to help with a serial arsonist case in San Diego, he gets more than he bargins for. A sinister weapon is being developed, and there are lots of people who would like to get their hands on it. Add the life and death implications of the case to a tenuous relationship with his sullen, stubborn, and vegan stepdaughter, and Patrick may just be in over his head.

While The Rook is a masterfully plotted thriller sure to induce gasps and grimaces and keep you up way too late at night, the characters are what I loved. Patrick is at once caring and compassionate and dogged and determined. He has trouble with authority, but is on the side of the good guys. Tessa, Patrick’s 16-year old stepdaughter struggles with her place in Patrick’s life following the death of her mother. Tessa and Agent/profiler Lien-hua Jiang show the personal side of Patrick, giving the reader a balanced view. The Rook is Christian Fiction, but it does not have an overt spiritual message. Tessa and Lien-hua discuss faith and Patrick wrestles with the nature of evil, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. And perhaps that is enough. I did like Patrick’s realization of the nature of evil — “We are all monsters, all of us. But we were made to be so much more.” The narrator does an excellent job, making this audiobook easy to listen to, even with the times I had to cringe.

For edge of your seat thrills, The Rook is a recommended read (or listen).

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island

2 Aug

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders — including Maude — and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?

 

Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is an ECPA-bestselling award-winning author of Christian historical romance. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn’t “cure” her overactive imagination! She resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia, which is perfect for her love of history. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time!

 

My Impressions:

Sometimes you just need a light love story with a beautiful setting to give yourself a mini-bookcation. My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels fits the bill. Set in the late 19th century at the famed Michigan location, this novel will whisk you back to an enchanting era. This novel is perfect to tuck away in your weekender tote.

Maude Welling is a young woman set on determining her own future. Betrayed in love, she is even more resolved to run the family Inn that her mother and grandmother hinted would be hers one day. Her father, however, has other plans. Enter a very attractive young man who gains her affections. Ben Steffan is also determined — determined to become a successful newspaper editor. Will Maude and Ben’s plans become reality, or will God’s will prevail?

If you like historical romance, My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island is a good book to choose. The gilded era of American history is brought to life with the luxurious Grand Hotel and its wealthy guests. But this novel is not centered on opulence and excess, but more on everyday people — newspapermen, maids, business owners. Characterization is strong, and I came to love Ben/Frederich and Maude. Supporting characters will also steal your heart. I had a bit of trouble following the plot (there are many twisting threads), and motivations of some of the secondary characters were unclear. Ultimately I decided to join in the fun and not worry about where the story was taking me. Ben and Maude (along with a few others) take part in masquerades, pretending to be something they are not in order to further their life plans. But deceit doesn’t sit well on them. In fact, it focuses them on who God wants them to be — an important theme in the book.

Overall, I enjoyed My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island. It is a quick read great for lazy weekend reading. Put your feet up on your porch or patio and enjoy the journey back in time.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Barbour Publishing for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)