Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Silvia's Rose: Peace in the Valley Novel

Welcome!  I hope everyone enjoyed the eclipse on Monday.  Beverly Lewis has a new novel being published on September 5.  It is titled The Proving.  I am looking forward to reading this new Amish novel. The Beloved Christmas Quilt by Wanda Brunstetter will be out on the same day.  

Silvia’s Rose by Jerry S. Eicher is the first novel in Peace in the Valley series.  Esther Stoltzfus has moved with her daughter, Diana new a new home in the valley.  It is a chance for them to start fresh after the death of her husband, Lonnie.  Esther feels God has led her to the area to marry Isaiah Mast.  Isaiah is a widower and a minister that Esther knew as a teen back in Lancaster County. Esther feels that Isaiah would be the perfect husband for her and it seems that many people in the area agree.  Esther is known for being no-nonsense, practical, and organized (good qualities for a minister’s wife).  Then she meets Joseph Zook who lives across the street and owns a greenhouse.  Joseph is a widower who deeply loved his wife, Silvia.  He created a special rose (which he named Silvia’s Rose) which he is hoping will win an award.  Joseph’s beliefs in romance and love change Esther’s views.  Esther is not the only person influenced by Joseph’s stories.  Joseph knows he needs a wife and mother for his son, Ben.  However, he has found it difficult to move on from Silvia until Arlene King comes into his life.  Arlene does not buy into Joseph’s ideas of romance, but she yearns to be his wife.  Is there a possibility of a second chance at love for Joseph?  Will Isaiah be able to win Esther’s heart?  Find out how their stories end in Silvia’s Rose.

Silvia’s Rose is a sweet and simple Amish romance novel.  It is nicely written and easy to read.  Silvia’s Rose is a clean, wholesome story that is perfect for younger readers (young adults).  I do wonder if people in real life talk the way they do in this book.  They frequently mention God’s will, having faith, power of prayer, etc.  The religious aspect was a little heavy for my tastes.  I thought it needed a lighter touch.  My rating for Silvia’s Rose is 3 out of 5 stars. I found the main details to be repeated frequently.  The ending is predictable.  I kept hoping for a different conclusion (would have made it more interesting).  Silvia’s Rose is an inspirational story about a second chance at love, faith, power of prayer, friendship, and how God has a plan for each of us (if we are brave enough to follow His lead).  Silvia’s Rose is a charming, Christian romance.  It is the type of story I would have enjoyed when I was tween (I was an advanced reader--I read the works of Patrick Dennis when I was 13).  The other two novels in the Peace in the Valley series are Phoebe's Gift and Mary's Home (I will be reviewing them soon).

I appreciate your visit.  My current reading pleasure is Oh, Fudge by Nancy Coco.  May you have a special and happy Tuesday.  I will be featuring A Wedding Tail by Casey Griffin (do you know what other name this author writes under) next time (later in the week when I feel better).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Paris Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery

Welcome.  I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing weekend.  Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry is the fifth A Witch City Mystery novel and will be available on August 29.  There are several new cozy mysteries coming out on that date.  My favorite new cozy coming out next week is Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower.

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal is the seventh novel in A Maggie Hope Mystery series.  Maggie Hope is in agent with SOE—Special Operations Executive.  She is in occupied Paris waiting for the documents she needs to start her assignment.  Maggie wants to find her missing half-sister, Elise Hess and fellow spy, Erica Calvert.  Erica had been sent to get soil samples England needs to plan its invasion.  They know that Erica was captured, but they do not know where she hid the samples she obtained.  Maggie is curious how the enemy discovered that Erica was an agent—could there be a mole in their department.  Maggie assumes the identity of Paige Kelly and checks into The Ritz.  She did not count, though, on meeting inquisitive Coco Chanel.  Maggie will need to work carefully and strategically to get the intel she needs, find her sister, discover what happened to Erica, retrieve the missing samples and get herself out of France.  Join Maggie on her latest mission in The Paris Spy!

The Paris Spy is well-researched and contains good writing.  I liked the addition of Coco Chanel.  I did find the pace to be slow (good for my insomnia, but not for reading).  There is a significant amount of historical detail which makes an accurate book, but, in fiction, can make a boring book.  At times, it felt like I was reading a nonfiction novel instead of fiction.  Maggie is portrayed as a strong female character (most of the time), which I really appreciate.  There are not enough strong, female role models in cozy mysteries.  My rating for The Paris Spy is 3 out of 5 stars.  The guilty party (the mole) was easily identifiable.  I was hoping it would be more of a challenge.  Maggie not being an experienced spy showed in this story.  She always seemed to be on edge and scared (I can understand the feeling, but she is a spy—albeit an inexperienced one—and should be careful in public).  I was surprised that she was not captured by the Germans the first day.  I had a difficult time wading through The Paris Spy and the ending was dissatisfying.  History is one of my favorite subjects (especially WWII), but The Paris Spy missed the mark for me.  I felt the author missed a great opportunity with this novel.  I have decided not to continue with this series.

Thank you for your visit.  I am currently reading Macrame Murder by Mollie Cox Bryan.  I wish for each of you to have a very pleasing and safe Monday.  We are experiencing troubling times in America.  I will be reviewing Silvia's Rose by Jerry S. Eicher on Tuesday.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pieces of Happiness: A novel about friendship

Thank you for stopping by today.  I hope you are having a pleasant Saturday. Sally Goldenbaum's Murder Wears Mittens will be published on August 29.  It is the first book Seaside Knitters Society.  I always enjoy mystery novels that incorporate yarn, knitting, crochet, etc.  You should see my large yarn collection (takes up seven totes in my closet).

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby is the story of five friends starting a new lease on life in their 60s.   Kat had finally settled down in Korototoka, Fiji with her husband, Nicklaus after year of traveling.  Unfortunately, they only got to enjoy Vale nei Kat, the cocoa plantation, for a few years before he passed away.  Kat wrote to her four high school friends (that she has not seen in forty years) inviting them to join her in Fiji.  It will give all them a chance to reconnect and start a new venture together.  Ingrid, Sina, Lisbeth, Maya and Kat had never thought they would get such an opportunity and leap at the opportunity.  Their golden years will be filled with friendship, happiness and chocolate.  Each one of them have secrets they wish to keep hidden, but it is hard to do with good friends.   The first thing the five of them need to decide is how to make the farm profitable.  Soon Kat’s Chocolate is born.  Can they make a success of the business?  Can the five friends live out the rest of their days together?  See how these five women fare in this book about friendship, second chances and healthy chocolate. 

Pieces of Happiness was not a pleasant read for me (made me wish we could read a preview before agreeing to review).  The POV alternates between the five women and the housekeeper which made it confusing (especially if you put the book down and then come back to it hour later).  All the characters are thrown at you and I never did get them straight (they each have a different story).  I found the pace to be slow (plodding).  The writer is overly descriptive and likes flowery prose (which I found off putting).  It reminded me of how people talked in the 1960s (based on movies, not actual experience—just to clarify).  Think San Francisco, Haigh-Ashbury, laid back islands, crystals, Zen.  I believe I am too sensible for this novel.  The writing seemed clunky (for lack of a better word) and the book was too long (you can see why I started skimming—my term for speedreading).  It could be (in part) the translation of the writing from the author’s native language to English (but this should have been corrected by the editor).  I found the story a little boring and it ended as expected.  I give Pieces of Happiness 2 out of 5 stars (I did not like it).  I tried several times to get into and read this novel (the blurb made it sound good).  I ended up skimming through the book to see what happened to each character (I always finish a book I agreed to review).  I was not the right reader for this book.

I am off to relax (I am sick with a cold) and my daughter is coming by for a visit later.  I will be sharing my thoughts on The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal when next I return (depends upon my cold). Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trouble in Dixie: A Familiar Legacy Novel

Happy Friday!  I hope you have had a pleasant week.  Familiar Legacy is a series about a cat named Trouble who fancies himself a sleuth.  The series consists of Familiar Trouble, Trouble in Dixie and Trouble in Tallahassee which will be out on September 12.  

Trouble in Dixie by Rebecca Barrett is the second book in the Familiar Legacy series.  Julia Hampton is cat sitting, Trouble for her friend, Tammy Lynn.   Julia lives in Savannah, Georgia and is a PI for her firm, The Hampton Detective Agency. Julia’s degree in Russian Art History comes in handy when she is asked to investigate an art theft for The Weatherby Insurance Agency.  Julia is asleep when Trouble hears noises in the office below.  Julia, with Trouble’s assistance, scares off the thieves.  Nothing was taken from her office, but the intruders seemed particularly interested in her files (which are now scattered around the office).   The next day Julia heads to her meeting with Peter Ryder at The Weatherby Insurance Agency after retrieving her briefcase (she left it at her parents’ home the previous night with the files Ryder gave her).  Peter has not shown up for work and is not answering his phone.  He had asked Julia to look into the theft of a Nicolai Fechin portrait along some missing Russian jewelry.  Is Peter’s disappearance related to the thefts?   Julia with some unexpected assistance (along with Trouble) sets out to get answers and recover the missing items.

Trouble in Dixie is a light cozy mystery novel.  While the second book in the series, it can be read alone (easily).  I found the story easy to read and to have a good flow.  I also appreciated the beautiful old Southern setting of Savannah, Georgia.  However, I found the story to be lackluster (lacked dimension).  The focus is on romance (what is happening to cozy mysteries).  The mystery portion (what there is of it) is easily solved.  Most of the mystery plays out, but the bad guy can easily be picked out.  I wanted more solid content and less thinking about handsome Mitch Lawson.  Less repetition about Julia’s background would also have been appreciated (from old money, good family, etc.).  I am rating Trouble in Dixie 3 out of 5 stars.  I was entertained by Trouble’s chapters.  I liked Trouble more in Trouble in Dixie than I did in Familiar Trouble.  He was light-hearted and humorous.  Aunt Ethel was a hoot.  I wish she had been the main character (an eccentric older woman).   Trouble in Dixie is a cute story, but I am just not the right audience.  I like more mystery (complicated, hard to solve) in my cozy mysteries. If I wanted that much romance (where it dominates the book), I would (rarely) pick up a romance novel.  

I appreciate you reading my latest book review. May each of you have a stupendous Friday.  I will be reviewing Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby the next time.  I am enjoying Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry.  I hope each of you have a delightful book to entertain you and take you on a grand adventure.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wives of War: Soraya M. Lane's WWII Collection

Greetings!   Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower will be out on August 29.  It is the first book in An Amish Candy Shop Mystery series.  It is a cute cozy mystery with great characters, entertaining mystery and wonderful chocolate descriptions.  I look forward to reading Lethal Licorice (second book in series) when it comes out.

Wives of War by Soraya M. Lane is part of a three-book collection that takes readers back to the World War II era.  It is 1944 and Scarlet Alexander has joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (QA nurses).  Scarlet is waiting for the train (and a little nervous) and is happy when Ellie O’Sullivan introduces herself. The pair are reporting for duty and final field training.  Scarlet comes from a privileged background and is joining against her families wishes.  She has not heard from her fiancé, Thomas is thirteen weeks and is worried about him.  Scarlet feels nursing will allow her to look for Thomas.  She knows he is still alive.  Ellie has three brothers off fighting and she wishes to do her bit for the war effort.  Ellie meets Dr. Spencer Black while training for the front and they are attracted to each other.  Scarlet meets a soldier named James who makes her forget about her missing fiancé.  Ellie and Scarlet are soon sent to France where are they inundated with injured soldiers.  The unflappable Lucy Anderson is assigned to their unit as a surgical nurse.  Lucy wants to enroll in medical school after the war.  Rough conditions, little food and long hours are in store for these nurses.  Their friendship will help them endure these difficult conditions along with hope and love.

I thought Wives of War was easy to read and had a good pace (in most sections).  However, Wives of War is a book for readers who enjoy romance novels.  Love is in the air for Lucy, Scarlet and Ellie and the war takes a backseat for the majority of the novel.  The war in France plays out in the background while these ladies flirt (for the most part).  I found the dialogue to be very American.  It did not match up with the characters.  Scarlet is upper-class British and should speak differently from Irish Ellie.  There are a couple of British phrases tossed in here and there but they do not make the novel any more British.  I also felt it was lacking in historical accuracy.  I am rating Wives of War 3 out of 5 stars (it is okay).  I found Wives of War to be expected (predictable) and a repetition of basic details (how many times were we told Scarlet loved Thomas).  I thought the characters were lacking and flat.  They were not fleshed out and developed.  Friendship blossoms instantly between the ladies (they just met), and then they fall in love just as quickly (Instant connection).  I thought it was unrealistic (even for fiction).  I wanted a story with more depth (about nurses working in Europe, their patients, etc.) with less focus on women finding husbands in the middle of a battle field.  I wish the publisher had written the blurb differently (it is listed as historical fiction).  If I had known it was a romance novel, I would have passed.  My mother also read this novel and came away with the same impressions (which is rare for the two of us).  Voyage of the Heart and Hearts of Resistance (January 17, 2018) are the other novels in the collection by this author.  Wives of War is available through the Kindle Unlimited program.

Thank you for visiting.  I will be reviewing Trouble in Dixie by Rebecca Barrett next time.  May you have a spellbinding day!  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Bequest: A Nicole Graves Mystery

I hope everyone is having a lovely week.  It has been exceptionally hot and humid in my area (Tampa Bay area of Florida).  Since my hot flashes (related to my Fibromyalgia) have increased (lucky me), I am staying indoors as much as possible.  The dogs agree with me about the heat.  They go outside, do their business and rush back indoors. I will be glad when it gets cooler in November.  

The Bequest by Nancy Boyarsky is the second book in A Nicole Graves Mystery series.  Nicole Graves has just returned from London where her boyfriend, Ronald Reinhardt failed to show up for their rendezvous.  Nicole goes to the law office of Bascomb, Rice, Smith and Di Angelo, where she is the office manager, and is informed that Robert Blair, the in-house investigator, has been MIA.  Nicole heads to Robert’s house to check on him.  She finds his very expensive home unlocked and Robert with a bullet through his forehead.  Nicole was friendly with Robert, but they were not close or so Nicole thought.  The police find pictures of Nicole in Robert’s bedroom that indicate they had an intimate relationship.  Detective Frank Miller believes Nicole is withholding information and is guilty of Robert’s death.  Then the beneficiary of Robert’s vast estate and life insurance policy is revealed.  The paparazzi turn out in droves and Nicole is soon unable to move without being photographed.  After an attempt on her life, Nicole decides to disappear and discover who killed Robert on her own.  What was Robert involved in?  Where did her get his wealth?  Nicole intends to get answers and clear her name.   Will Nicole discover the killer’s identity or will Nicole become another casualty? 

The Bequest is easy to read and has a nice pace.  Most of the action takes place in the last 40% of the book (the pace picks up a little).  While The Bequest is the second book in A Nicole Graves Mystery series, it can be read alone (though I recommend The Swap).  What happened in The Swap is summarized (rehashed) in The Bequest.  Personally, I enjoyed The Swap (which is currently $1.99 on Amazon--the kindle version) more than The Bequest.  I thought this second installment was a letdown.  The romance and mystery competed for dominance in the story.  Nicole has a new love interest, and she is wasting no time with this new fellow (Reinhardt should have responded to her messages).  I wish the romance had been turned down a few notches (it was too much for a mystery novel).  The mystery was interesting (parts were unrealistic though), but not compelling.  I correctly identified the guilty parties early in the book.  I kept hoping there would be a good twist to surprise me (maybe I have read too many mystery/suspense novels).  My rating for The Bequest is 3 out of 5 stars.  I found there to be a repetition of details (especially about Reinhardt).  For some reason, we are given a description of all food items (every single thing at each meal).  I wanted to feel the suspense and I did not.  The Bequest is a good story that many readers will enjoy, but it could have been a great story with some changes.  

Thank you for your visit.  I will be reviewing Wives of War by Soraya Lane on Thursday.  May each of you have a fabulous Wednesday.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gathering the Threads: The Amish of Summer Grove

Happy Book Release Day!  Some of the new releases are A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller, The Bequest by Nancy Boyarsky, Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall, The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller, and Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce.  I hope you find some new novels to add to your TBR pile!

Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall is the final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.  Ariana Brenneman is returning to the Old Order Amish community where she was raised before it was discovered she was switched with Englischer, Skylar Nash.  Settling back into her old life, though, is not easy.  Arianna is no longer sure what she believes in and needs time to think things through.  Arianna is less accepting of authority (being told what to do).    Isaac, Arianna’s father, does not understand the changes in Arianna and is worried her attitude will affect other members of the family (the Amish leaders are not pleased).  Rudy, Arianna’s beau, has been waiting for her to return so they can marry, but he does not understand the dilemma facing Arianna.  Quill Schlabach is the one-person Arianna can discuss what she is feeling and thinking, but the Amish leaders (and Arianna’s father) to do not approve of Quill.  Everyone has an opinion about Ariana, her behavior and her future.  But what does Ariana want?  What is God’s will?  Skylar Nash has adjusted to life in the Amish community and with the Brenneman’s.  She has found her niche, but she worries what will happen now that Ariana has returned.  Each woman must discover where they truly belong.  The path to their future will fraught with potholes, but, at the end, they will find what their hearts truly desire. 

Gathering the Threads is well-written and engaging.  It contains nicely developed characters that grow and change over the course of the series (Nicholas is a great example).  I do feel the pace was a little slow.  Gathering the Threads is the third book The Amish of Summer Grove series, and the books are best read in order.  There is a great summary at the beginning of Gathering the Threads that reminds readers on what occurred in the Ties that Bind and Fraying at the Edge (it has been a year since the last book).  My rating for Gathering the Threads is 4 out of 5 stars.  I did feel the story dragged on a little long with some parts of the book feeling like filler (they were unneeded and did not enhance or add to the story).  I would not survive one day living Amish.  It is a patriarchal society that goes against my beliefs.  I felt bad for Ariana (while cheering for her) when the Amish leaders attacked her for not bowing to their authority and rules (I loved it when she took back her cellphone).  It was difficult for her to be standing with one foot in each world (one in Amish and one with her biological parents).  The Christian element is prevalent throughout the story, but it is handled beautifully by the author.  I like the themes of acceptance, forgiveness, faith, and love.  I do feel the end was a little rushed.   Ariana reaches a decision about her future (one her own) and then the story concludes.  The ending is heartwarming and nicely wraps up the three-book series (no dangling threads).  We get a little glimpse at what the future holds for Arianna, Skylar and their families.  I was especially pleased to see closure for Frieda Miller (about time).   I look forward to reading Cindy Woodsmall's next book!

Thank you for visiting and reading my thoughts on this Amish novel.  I will be featuring The Bequest by Nancy Boyarsky on Wednesday.  I really hope that each of you have very special days.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Mother for Leah: Windy Gap Wishes Novel

I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend.  I spent my time paying bills, running a couple of errands, reading, and doing chores around the house (you can tell I lead a very exciting life).  

A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller is the first story in a Windy Gap Wishes series.  Leah Fisher lost her mother when she was seven years old.  Her father, Samuel is worried about Leah as she approaches adulthood (ten years have passed by).  She stays close to home and does not attend other young people events.  Samuel has decided it is time he found a new wife (frau) who will help guide Leah into womanhood.  Samuel leaves the house one morning leaving Leah at home.  He is traveling to a nearby town to look for a wife (makes me imagine a store with eligible young women waiting for a suitor to come along).  On his journey Samuel encounters a buggy at the side of a road with a passenger inside.  Samuel finds Naomi inside the buggy and escorts her to her aunt’s house where she will be residing.  Naomi felt God was calling her to Windy Gap to find a new husband.  Samuel is instantly attracted to the widow (and vice versa, of course).  While Samul is away, a young man knocks at the door needing assistance with his buggy (methinks it is the same buggy).  Leah’s brother takes off to help Jacob, but Leah remembers the young man long after he is gone.  Love has arrived at the Fisher household, but the path to happiness is will not be a smooth one. 

A Mother for Leah is easy to read (I always try to start with something positive).  It is a simple story about love and faith.  However, I felt it was geared for a younger audience.  The writing reminded me of books written for young adults.  Jacob meets Leah and falls instantly in love.  Jacob then comes a courting (after I wrote this the song “Froggie Went A-Courtin” started running through my head).  Samuel and Naomi instantly connect and start talking about marriage on the first date (this is at the beginning of the book—I am not spoiling anything for you).   My rating for A Mother for Leah is 3 out of 5 stars.  The story is told from the main characters point-of-view (it switches between Jacob, Leah, Samuel, and Naomi).  I wanted more depth and substance in the book.  I felt the book was a sappy romance.  I cannot see a widower (in his late 30s or early 40s) blushing when he looks into Naomi’s beautiful brown eyes (this is in the book).  I found information repeated and a great deal of time devoted to internal dialogue (people thinking about love).  The words “God’s Plan” and “God’s Will” were mentioned too often (we get the point after the first three times).  Amish words were sprinkled throughout the text.  I know they are meant to add Amish color or authenticity to the story, but it felt forced (odd).  Especially when the same word is used (gegisch).  A Mother for Leah is a clean Amish romance that would a good book for younger readers. A Mother for Leah will be available on August 15.

I appreciate you visiting today and reading my review.  I am currently reading A Knit Before Dying by Sadie Hartwell.  I will be sharing my thoughts on Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall on Tuesday.  I hope that you have a happy Monday!  I am off to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my mother.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tiny House on the Hill: A Tiny House Novel

Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce is A Tiny House Novel.  Clarisse “Summer” Murray is twenty-eight years old and has decided to make some big changes.  Summer has quit her job, sold her condo, and commissioned a tiny house in the shape of a caboose.  After shrinking a cashmere sweater in the wash and discovering she cannot unshrink it, Summer explores felting.  She is going to felt sweaters, make them into purses, and sell them at craft shows while traveling around the continental United States (let’s forget that she does not know how to sew).  Then she receives a call from her grandmother, Queenie asking her to come home to Cat’s Paw, Washington to help with the family bakery, Dough Z Dough.  Summer packs up Big Red (her new truck), leaves most of her belonging behind (her neighbor, Lynnie will dispose of them for her) and heads to Kentucky to pick up her new tiny home.  Bale Barrett, of Bale’s Tiny Dreams, has her new home ready to go.  After having dinner with Bale and making plans to meet in Seattle in a few weeks, Summer starts her new life as a tiny home owner with her dog, Shortie.  Summer has not been home in ten years since her heart was broken by bakery manager, Keefe Devlin.  She is hoping to fix whatever is wrong with the bakery, and quickly head off on her adventure.  But her grandmother’s odd behavior puts a wrinkle in her plans (just the first of several).  Summer must discover what is bothering Queenie and (finally) deal with her unresolved feelings toward Keefe. 

Tiny House on the Hill is a light-hearted romance novel (which was not what I expected).  The story is easy to read and has a steady pace.  I liked Shortie (he was a cutie).   I just felt the story was a little cheesy (silly too).  Summer put more research into how Shortie should travel in the truck, then her journey (tiny homes are not accepted everywhere plus she should have done test drive’s before embarking out on the open road).  Summer fantasizes romance with her tiny home builder (she met him once) and then gets jealous of Keefe being around his old girlfriend, Evie (really, after ten years).  Summer ogles, flirts and thinks too much about Bale and Keefe (reminded me of a sixteen-year-old girls reminisces).  My rating for Tiny House on the Hill is 3 out of 5 stars.  The story had the expected ending (which was a little rushed).  I did appreciate the attention brought to suffers of celiac disease (my own sister has this issue).  Summer’s tiny house sounded adorable.  I have (like many people) watched the shows on these portable, tiny homes (my books would not fit into 220 square feet).  Lynnie provided some comic relief.   If you are wanting a light, humorous romantic story to read, then check out Tiny House on the Hill.  Tiny House on the Hill will be published on August 15.

I appreciate you visiting today.  I am currently reading The Girls of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke which I will be reviewing on August 27 as part of a blog tour.  I sincerely hope that each of you have a satisfying Sunday.  I will be sharing my thoughts on A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller on Monday. I hope you return to see what I think about this Amish novel.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Return: An Amish Beginnings Novel

Thank you for visiting today.  I hope you are having a good start to your weekend.  Suzanne Woods Fisher is the author of An Amish Beginnings series (and other Amish novels).  You can follow Ms. Fisher on Facebook and Amazon. Readers can get more information about the author and her books on her website. There is a giveaway on her site until August 15 (great prize).

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the third book in An Amish Beginnings series.   Readers are taken to Stoney Ridge in April 1763.  Betsy Zook is in love with Hans Bauer and looks forward to his proposal of marriage.  Then one night her life is changed when the Indians attack, kill her parents and take her hostage along with her brother, Johnny.  Willie Zook hid in a hollow log and after the Indians depart, he runs to the nearest town.  Hans wants to immediately set out to find Betsy, and it takes some work to convince him that would not be the best idea (due to the number of Indians and they have no idea where the hostages were taken).  Betsy and the other hostages are taken into the mountains where they are given to various Indian tribes (in tribute).  Hans rails against the Indians much to his families’ consternation.   Tessa Bauer has cared for Hans for some time and is happy when he starts to pay attention to her.  Hans is ready to move on with his life, but then Betsy is returned to them.  Caleb, half Indian and half Mennonite, engineers Betsy’s escape and returns her to the Bauer family.  Hans is thrilled to have Betsy back, but his quest for vengeance has not been extinguished.  Betsy, Caleb, Hans, and Tessa have choices in front of them.  Will they make the right decisions?  What does the future hold for them?  Join them on their journey in The Return.

The Return is well-researched and contains good writing.  I thought the characters were well-developed (thought out).  The Return is an emotional novel (great sadness and loss).  I have to say that The Return is my least favorite novel in An Amish Beginnings series.  There is extreme violence and cruelty in the story that was disturbing to me.  I am fully aware it is based on true events, but I do not like to read about the violence in such detail (one scene near the end was extremely off putting).  I did find the information about Conestoga wagons (the creation, design) to be fascinating.  My rating for The Return is 4 out of 5 stars.  I highly recommend reading Anna’s Crossing and The Newcomer prior to The Return.  Otherwise, it can be confusing with the various characters, their relationships, and how they came to America.  Some of the themes or life lessons in the story are prejudice, revenge, racism, tolerance, jealousy, faith, love, and trusting God.  I liked the phrases “triumph of human spirit” and “sovereignty of God in all things”.   I was disappointed with the ending.  It was unsatisfying and odd.  It felt incomplete.  The Christian element was handled beautifully.  

I have a few errands to run (I have put them off as long as I can) and then I will be reading Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower.  May each of you have a relaxing day.  I will be reviewing Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce next time.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, August 11, 2017

Let the Dead Speak: A Maeve Kerrigan Novel

Hello!  On August 14 Trouble in Dixie by Rebecca Barrett will be published.  It is the second book in Familiar Legacy series.  Trouble is staying with Julia Hampton in Savannah, Georgia and it looks like he will get to put his sleuthing abilities to work.  Familiar Trouble is the first story in the series.  

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey is the seventh installment in the Maeve Kerrigan Novels.  Chloe Emery returns home to 27 Valerian Road in London from visiting her father to find blood in almost every room of her home.  DS Maeve Kerrigan (she got a promotion) and her team are assigned the case.  There is plenty of blood, but they have yet to find Chloe’s mother, Kate Emery.  Maeve starts out by questioning Chloe, and then proceeds to canvas the neighbors.  The police bring in dogs to sniff out the victim, but they are unsuccessful.  They do, however, uncover some helpful clues.  Then Chloe and her friend, Bethany Norris disappear.  Were they taken or did they take off on their own?  What is going on in this neighborhood (and I thought I had troublesome neighbors)?  Maeve, with the help of DI Josh Derwent, must discern fact from fiction to identify the culprit.  Maeve will need to work quickly before more blood is spilled. 

I had a hard time wading through Let the Dead Speak.  The writing style is awkward/stilted ((clunky is a good word).  The story lacks flow (an easy style of writing) which makes for a hard to read story (insert yawn here).  Letthe Dead Speak sounded like a thrilling mystery novel, but, in the end, I was bored.  The mystery may seem complex, but the solution is not.  I solved the mystery early in the book (I would say how early, but then I would be giving away a spoiler).  The suspect pool is small.  Let the Dead Speak is a novel I read, but I was not pulled into the story or engaged.  I did, though, find a great cure for my insomnia (I have suffered from it since middle school).  One chapter and my eyes started drooping.  I woke up with my ebook nearby and off (happened twice in one night).  My rating for Let the Dead Speak is 2 out of 5 stars.  I especially disliked the transcript chapter (that is when I fell asleep for the second time).  The author needed to add more suspense and a surprising twist (and shorten the book).  The basic premise had potential.  I do want to warn readers that Let the Dead Speak contains foul language, violence, and intimate relations.  Unfortunately, the Maeve Kerrigan series (you can find the complete list of titles in this series here) is not for me. 

Thank you for reading my latest review.  If you like my book evaluations, please consider joining my blog (upper right--through Google+ or email).  The next time I will be sharing my thoughts about The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher. I will be running a couple of errands today and then finishing Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce.  May you have a fantastic and fun Friday!  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader   

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Any Dream Will Do: A new novel by Debbie Macomber

Salutations!  A Pinch of Salt by Eileen Ramsay is out today.  It takes readers back to 1910 in Scotland.  Kate Kennedy's mother dies when she is thirteen and she has to take on her mother's role.  Readers get to see how her life unfolds in A Pinch of Salt.  

Any Dream Will Do is the latest novel by Debbie Macomber.  Shay Benson is trying to turn her life around.  She is clean (no drugs), working as a teller at a local bank, and taking accounting classes.  Then Caden, her brother (and only family), shows up needing help.  Caden states he needs $5,000 right away or he will be killed.  Promises to get the money back to her within days if she will obtain it from the bank (not through legal means).   Caden gets the money and disappears.  Shay is sentenced to three years.  Three years later, a bus drops Shay off in front of Seattle Calvary.  She walks inside and feels a sense of peace.  Pastor Drew Douglas has been having a crisis of faith since the loss of his wife three years prior.  It has been a struggle managing his children and his flock.  Drew is in the church when he hears a noise and encounters Shay Benson.  Shay needs assistance (a new start, a place to live), and Drew takes her to Hope Center.  Drew keeps track of Shay’s progress in the year long program and they develop a friendship.  As time passes, Shay gets to know Drew’s children, finds a job, a place to live, and a church family.  Life is good for Shay and romance is blossoming, but then her past comes back to haunt her.  Shay’s dreams for her future are threatened.  Shay will need to stay strong and hold onto her faith to get through this trial.  Will Shay and Drew get their happily ever after?

Any Dream Will Do is nicely written, has a good steady pace, and is set Seattle, Washington (I have always wanted to go there).  This book is different from Debbie Macomber’s other novels.  She always writes clean, wholesome books, but Any Dream Will Do has a Christian theme.  The values of faith, trust, hope, second chances, redemption and love are prevalent throughout the story.  Shay is given a second chance, but no one ever said it would be easy (life is full of struggles/obstacles to happiness).  Life is fraught with hills and valleys (shadow and light).  We get to see Shay and Drew go through good times and bad.  I am rating Any Dream Will Do 4 out of 5 stars.  The romance takes a backseat in this novel.  It places out softly and slowly which I liked.  Any Dream Will Do is an uplifting and inspiring novel.  The story touches on the plight of the homeless, how people struggle with addiction, and dealing with prejudice (assuming that Shay is bad because she was in prison).  Any Dream Will Do does have the expected ending, but it is touching.  Any Dream Will Do is a good novel to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon while lying about in a hammock with a cool drink nearby.

Debbie Macomber's next novel (her Christmas story) is Merry and Bright.  It will be available on October 3.  May you have a lovely, summer day.  I will be reviewing Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey next time.  I am off to do some work around the house and then finish The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Promise of Dawn: Under Northern Skies

Welcome!  Lauraine Snelling is one of my favorite authors.  I discovered her Red River of the North series in a Christian bookstore one day on my lunch break.  I then proceeded to read the books she had written at that time.  I look forward to getting her latest novel each year.  Some of her books include Song of Blessing series, Red River of the North series, Daughters of Blessing series, A Secret Refuge trilogy, Home to Blessing series, The Second Half, Song of Blessing series, Return to Red River trilogy, Someday Home, One Perfect Day, and The Healing Quilt (a must read).  For more details on Lauraine Snelling and her novels visit her website.

The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling is the first book in her new Under Northern Skies series.  It is April in 1909 when Signe Carlson and her husband, Rune receive a letter from Einar and Gerd Strand who live near Blackduck, Minnesota.  The Strand’s need assistance on their farm and will pay the Carlson’s passage in exchange for work (they sign a contract).  Signe, Rune and their three boys set off on the long journey to Minnesota.  They arrive at the farm and the greeting is not what they expected.  The farmhouse is a mess, there is no place for them to sleep, Gerd is sick (and rude), and Einar is demanding.  Signe spends her days whipping the farmhouse into shape, cooking, and taking care of Gerd’s needs.  Einar has Rune and Knute (their eldest child) out early every morning felling trees to clear the property and earn money.  Signe knows life in Norway was hard, but they had family, friends, a home, and soft beds.  Her trust in God is faltering.  She struggles to understand why her family must endure such hardship.  Then Signe falls from the ladder to the loft (where they sleep) late in her pregnancy causing her to go into labor.  Signe loses a great deal of blood and is very weak after giving birth to a little girl. Things cannot go on as they have been for the Carlson’s.  Is there a chance for a better future for the Signe and her family?  Pick up The Promise of Dawn to see what happens (I do not want to spoil the story for you).

The Promise of Dawn is a well-crafted novel.  It is one of those books that you start reading and do not want to put down (I stayed up very late—even for me).  After I finished the book, I continued to think about it.  The Promise of Dawn has rich, well-developed characters and a rugged, yet beautiful setting.  Ms. Snelling’s vivid descriptions brought the book alive for me (the author has a special knack).  I could picture the scenes in my head (could even imagine the smell of the stinky outhouse).  I am rating The Promise of Dawn 5 out of 5 stars (I loved it).  The Promise of Dawn is an emotional story (love, humor, heartbreak, anger, joy and much more).  The plight of the Carlson’s will tug at your heart.  I thought the book to be well-written, have a nice pace and flow, and to be very realistic.  So much happens in The Promise of Dawn (I only gave a brief overview).  The Christian element was handled beautifully.  We see how Signe struggles with trusting God and keeping her faith.  God has a plan, but Signe must be patient.  There are good life lessons in The Promise of Dawn. I appreciated the mentions of Ingeborg from Red River of the North series (she is such a wonderful character).  I look forward to reading the next installment in Under Northern Skies series.  

Thank you for reading my latest review.  I am currently reading Trouble in Dixie by Rebecca Barrett. My next review will be of Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber.  May you have a very blessed day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

All Signs Point to Murder: A Zodiac Mystery

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco is the second novel in A Zodiac Mystery series.  Julia Bonatti is a bridesmaid in her friend, Geneva Leary’s wedding.  The wedding is about to start, but no one can find Moira, Geneva’s sister.  The wedding proceeds without the missing bridesmaid and goes off without a hitch.  After the ceremony, Moira is found collapsed at the bottom of a set of stairs.  She claims she was not drunk this time (sound suspicious).  During the dancing, Sally Stark, the wedding planner, collapses on the dance floor.  Moira states it was supposed to be her.  Geneva’s marriage is starting off with a bang.  Julia is sleeping at the Brooke Leary Ramer’s house when she hears shots ring out.  She heads downstairs and Rob Ramer enters the house from the garage.  Rob states he shot an intruder.  Julia enters the garage and finds a hooded figure on the floor—it is Moira.  Moira dies before reaching the hospital.  Geneva asks Julia to investigate Moira’s death.  Someone, though, does not appreciate Julia’s meddling.   Julia uses her astrological knowledge to help her uncover the facts and determine what happened to Moira.  Will the killer let her share her knowledge with the police or will Julia end up the next victim?

All Signs Point to Murder may be the second book in A Zodiac Mystery series, but it can be read alone.  All Signs Point to Murder is easy to read except for the astrological sections.  The information provided is not written in a way for lay people to understand (the terms are not explained).  It was gobbledygook to me.  I do, though, like that Julia uses astrological information to solve crimes.  It is unique.  I just wish it was written in a way that was easier to understand (for people not familiar with astrology).  The mystery is intriguing and slightly complex.  Unfortunately, I identified the guilty parties (and the victim) before Moira was pronounced dead.  I believe many readers, though, will be surprised.  The reason why Moira was killed is what kept me reading.  My rating for All Signs Point to Murder is 3 out of 5 stars.  I do feel that the author included too much detail.   Julia hunting for parking spots, walking instead of driving to avoid hunting for a parking spot (it must be difficult to park in San Francisco), the cost of parking in San Francisco, looking through each item in Moira’s apartment, the size of the goose egg on her head, etc.  It was nice to see Cheryl (from The Madness to Mercury) get a happy outcome.  Will I read the next book in A Zodiac Mystery series?  I am undecided.  It will depend on the mystery in the next installment.  The first book in the series is The Madness to Mercury.

I appreciate you reading my latest review.  I will be sharing my thoughts on The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling next time.  May each of you have a very pleasant day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, August 7, 2017

To Wager Her Heart: A Belle Meade Plantation Novel

Welcome!  Tamera Alexander is a historical writer who has given readers A Belle Meade Plantation series, A Belmont Mansion series, Timber Ridge Reflections series, Fountain Creek Chronicles, and To Mend a Dream.  To Wager Her Heart is the final novel A Belle Meade Plantation collection.  The novels in the series are To Whisper Her Name, To Win Her Favor, To Mend a Dream (a novella), and To Wager Her Heart (releases 08/08).  To Win Her Favor is currently $1.99 on Amazon (kindle version).  

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander is the latest (and final) A Belle Meade Plantation Novel.  It is August of 1871 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Alexandra Jamison is still grieving the loss of her fiancé, David Thompson who died one year prior in a train accident at Dutchman’s curve.  Alexandra blames the train engineer, Harrison Kennedy for the incident.  Barrett Jamison, Alexandra’s father, is pushing her to marry Horace Buford.  Alexandra, though, wishes to do something meaningful with her life. After a disagreement with her father, Alexandra is out walking when she hears singing.  It is the Fisk University Jubilee singers giving a concert and after the program there is an appeal for teachers.  Alexandra has found what she wants to do, but is she ready for what it will cost her. 

Sylas Rutledge has arrived in Nashville to bid on the Belle Meade railroad project and to clear his stepfather, Harrison Kennedy’s name.  Sylas is unprepared for Southern society after living in Colorado.  He needs someone to help him navigate Nashville society.  Sylas feels that Alexandra will be the perfect tutor, but Alexandra is less than willing to pair up with him.  But after her father casts her out of his house when she refuses to marry Mr. Buford, Sylas’ offer to pay for her tutoring is answer to her prayers.  Over time, Alexandrea grows to respect and start to care for Sylas.  Their bond will be tested and Sylas could lose everything. 

To Wager Her Heart is nicely written and has a beautiful setting.  The romance portion is light and subtle which I appreciated (it was predictable though).  The main focus of the book is on Fisk University and the Jubilee singers (the hardship they endured on their journey).  Ms. Alexander did a superb job with her research and incorporating it into her story.  I like how she incorporated historical figures and events into her narrative.  It was interesting to learn about the college as well as the struggles faced by the university, the faculty, and the students.  It is a shame this historical tidbit was never included in school curriculum.  The author did a remarkable job at capturing the time-period and locale.  I did find the pace of the novel to be a little slower than I would have liked, but I have discovered that it is normal in novels rich in historical detail.  The Christian element was just heavier than I would have liked (I prefer a lighter touch), but I liked the themes which included the power of prayer and trusting in God.  My rating for To Wager Her Heart is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  While To Wager Her Heart is part of a series, it can be a stand-alone novel.  It is nice, though, to catch up on the characters from the other books in the series especially Uncle Bob.  I am glad that I read To Wager Her Heart (which releases on Tuesday, August 8).  It encouraged me to find out more about the Jubilee singers and Belle Meade.  

I appreciate you visiting and reading my review.  I will be featuring All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco on Tuesday.  May each of you have a nice, easy Monday (a good way to ease into the week).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader