The Maid of Ballymacool By Jennifer Deibel

I found this story very intriguing!  Brianna Kelly is a kitchen maid at the exclusive girl’s boarding school of Ballymacool House.  She is severely mistreated emotionally, verbally and physically by the head mistress and owner, Maureen Magee. There are no clues as to way she constantly spews her venom at Brianna.  She only remembers coming there to the care of Ms. Magee as a small child, and not as a boarder. It is the only life she has ever known.  The head mistress’s  abuse is not limited only to her servants but her students also suffer her wrath, yet no one to the degree Brianna does.

Michael Wray, son of a wealthy, elite family, is sent by his father to keep an eye on his rebellious young cousin to prevent her being expelled from the school.  He loathes the task.  He is immediately taken by Brianna, in sympathy seeing her horrible treatment and living conditions but also her beauty.  He begins to develop a friendship with her but it isn’t easy.  She is very shy and reluctant believing it isn’t appropriate given their stations in life.

Brianna won me over with her humility and sweet, gentle spirit in spite of her horrid situation.  Though she did not understand why Ms. Magee hated her so she committed to doing her job well and accepting the life she had.  I love the way she captured moments of joy in the simplest ways. 

I loved that Michael was not haughty and think himself better than others because of his life of privilege.  He was so kind and caring of everyone.  I really liked it when he stood up to the headmistress not being intimidated by her anger.  He did what I would have wanted to do!   I enjoyed watching his and Brianna’s romance grow in the most unexpected ways.

There were so many twists and turns, that I was constantly surprised!  I would think I had it figured out and BAM! Everything would change! I was sad when the story was completed but I loved the surprise ending. A book you will want to read! 

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing.  The opinions stated are my own.



Windswept Way By Irene Hannon

I love this series!  Hope Harbor is like a favorite vacation spot I can visit again and again in these books!  I can almost smell the ocean and feel the sand beneath my feet.  I always enjoy meeting the old characters again and seeing how the last ones are becoming part of the community.  My favorite one is Charlie the taco man and his sea gull sidekicks!

Needing a fresh start Ashley Scott decides to really step out of her comfort zone, travel 2500 miles (approximately, yes I checked) to purchase an historic Victorian mansion.  Her nerves are a little one frazzled after reading about the rumors the house is haunted and tales of spotting of an ethereal woman in white walking on the grounds.

Upon arriving as she starts to enter the gate a man in a mask carrying a chainsaw moves out of the hedge.  You know here her mind goes! (Mine went there too!) He passes the car, much to her relief, and walks away.  She finds out later this is Jon, the landscaper.  He is a war veteran deeply scarred both physically and emotionally. The owner of the home, eighty year old Rose Fitzgerald is also quite mysterious and a bit different.  She has locked herself away in this mansion for many years where she lives alone. 

Ashley finds that the purchasing the home comes with some unusual conditions. 

This story was constantly surprising me with unexpected circumstances that arose and most of all with Ashley peeling away the layers and discovering the most incredible secrets of Jon and Rose.  I did the “stay up too late and read” night because I couldn’t put it down!

It was beautiful to see how no matter how hurt a person is or misguided in their thinking about their previous life, they overcome it!  New life can begin no matter how difficult the past is.   Ashley being able to see past Jon’s disfigurement to who he truly was touched my heart.  Each character has their own ghosts from their past to deal with and courageously moves forward. I love how this unfolds! 

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Second Time Around By Melody Carlson

Mallory Farrell finds herself divorced with grown children and rambling around her huge Victorian home she has remodeled to perfection.  She has an upscale thriving home decorating business but feels alone and left behind.  What does she do now?  Things begin to change when she receives notice that she has inherited her beloved grandmother’s tourist shop in Seaport, Oregon.

She packs up to go and prepare it to sell.  It holds so many happy memories of her childhood and her grandmother.  Seaport is no longer a tourist hub.  She is surprised the sad condition the little shop has fallen into and the town.  An old high school friend, Grayson Matthews, offers to buy it.  Mallory considers selling until she finds out he plans to tear it down along with many other shops to build a modern mall.  She is horrified and refuses.  Then her strong creativity and passion as an interior decorator is awakened!  She decides to remodel and open a new business, one the town has never seen; a home decorating store.  She envisions it inspiring business owners to revive their shops too.

Fully committed, she sells her home, finds someone to care of her clients at and moves to Seaport.  Making a dream come to life is not without obstacles.  Her journey is certainly filled with those.  Some of them crushing, but she doesn’t give up.

This book is so descriptive you will feel you are right there watching everything unfold.   Ms. Carlson is a master at using details to bring the story to life.  Her first glimpse of her grandmother’s shop made me think of some of the little shops we’d visit while on vacation in Galveston Island 40 years ago.  Trinket, shells, plastic toys, all dusty and reminders of the past.  Not much you’d want to buy but fun to look at.

I so enjoyed watching the shop turn into something amazing.  I could picture the beautiful things in her inventory as she arranged them.  It was very satisfying to be a part of it and not lift a finger! There are so many unexpected surprises along the way.

I felt her overwhelming disappointment with each problem that arose, but felt inspired as she pulled herself and faced them head on.  I saw a huge lesson in not judging people’s motives by appearances.  They may as with her are the very ones that are your true friends.  Also sometimes we have to put aside our pride and ask for help. This was such a fun read!  

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  All the opinions stated are my own.

Be Held By Him Companion Guidebook, By Karen Brough

This guidebook/workbook knocks it out of the park!!!  Ms. Brough’s book is incredible in itself.  People can share their experiences when they write about their story, and others can relate to it finding help from their example but this Guidebook takes you well beyond that. She gives you the tools to work through your own personal challenges applying what you have learned from her testimony.

I was so impressed with her book, Be Held By Him and how Ms. Brough poured herself into it, but now this amazing guidebook!   It is truly a gift of love to help others not only overcome their painful trials, but also draw closer to the Lord, find comfort and peace in Him.

Each chapter is titled with a key name to focus on in your journey.  They are divided into seven different parts that encompass so much concerning the area.  1. Take Aways – Summarized main thoughts. 2. Questions to Ponder – These help you look within and apply what you have learned. 3. Journal Space. 4. Playlist – suggested songs to listen to. 5. Activations/ Applications – 8  different categories with suggestions of different ways to spend time with God. Musical, Visual, Logical, Kinesthetic/Bodily, Intrapersonal, Verbal, Interpersonal, and Naturalistic.  I have never seen anything like this before and it is very unique. 6. Blessing – Blessings that we receive from God and don’t even think about. Especially in the midst of great suffering. I am so impressed with the thoroughness and detailing of the author in writing to help the reader.  A book you will want and will use over and over. The possibilities are endless!

I received a copy of this book from the author through Eblast in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Be Held By Him: Finding God When Life Knocks You Off Your Feet,  By Karen Brough

All I can say is, “Wow”!  I was facing a painful and difficult time in my life when I read this book. Although Ms. Brough’s experience and suffering is very intense, even heart breaking, her book is filled with hope and peace.  I found encouragement in her faith, her focus on God and sharing the very private moments where He spoke to her. Page after page I was inspired and encouraged. Her testimony of letting go and turning to God with each new challenge she faced is very special.  I was reminded anew of how He IS there for us even in the worst of times. If we will only draw close to Him and allow Him to comfort and guide us in ways we can never imagine and how much He loves me!  I saw I often focus on the trials rather than Him and I am missing out on so much He has to carry me through.  Not to mention learn what He is trying to teach me and spiritual growth.

This book was written out of pure love and praise for her Lord but also for her readers.  She was so open and transparent in her deepest thoughts, feelings and even in her failures, doubts and spiritual conflicts.  I cannot even imagine the courage it took to write her story. Every chapter has a scripture focus that goes with an area where God was working in her life. At the end of the chapter is two parts, one entitled “Father’s Heart”.  I especially liked “Father’s Heart” as she shares thoughts and words the Lord spoke to her.  I found so many of these spoke to me in a deeply special way.  The last part is a personal prayer. All of them very inspiring and uplifting. I will read it and keep it as a reference.  I have to keep myself from highlighting most of the chapters! Whether you are facing a major crisis or small difficulty, you will want to read this book and keep it in your library.  There is also a Companion to help you study and personalize your unique journey. 

I received a copy of this book from the author through Eblast in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

Pretty Little Pieces By Carmen Schober

I never like to leave a negative review, but I have to be honest. I choose Christian fiction because I only want to read things that are in agreement with God’s Word and His standards.  This book did not fit those guidelines for me.

There is fornication, drinking, going to bars, drunkenness and other unacceptable behavior.  There was also a word used that I consider cursing. Such things should not be a part of a Christian novel. 

God and prayer are mentioned but it does seemly have nothing to do with the immoral behavior of the characters.  They appear to be Christians in name only.  Due to these things I was unable to bring myself to finish reading the book.

This book was very disappointing.   

I received this book from Bethany House thorough LibraryThing Early Readers Program in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Her Heart’s Desire  By Shelley Shepard Gray

Mary Margaret has decided to step out of her comfort zone and go on a trip alone to Florida.  She meets three other young Amish women and they find they have a lot more in common that just their faith.  They have experiences they have never had even a little romance thrown in.  Their adventure turns into one of deep self-examination, seeing themselves as they truly are.

I admired Mary Margaret’s courage and courageous spirit to venture out and do something she has never done, especially after always being in such a sheltered environment.  I loved Nancy, the caring, joyful energetic Inn’s owner. The description of her homemade goodies made my mouth water.

 As a read about their stay there, and excursions I felt myself relaxing and thinking what how wonderful a vacation like that would be.  I would have like to have known more about the quaint shops and what the bought!  It made me think of some of our family get away to Galveston Island. 

Jayson, also Amish, is there visiting a friend.  He and Mary are immediately attracted to each other.  Their relationship quickly turns into romance.  An unexpected surprise visited seems to threaten Mary’s idyllic trip, but God has other plans.

What really hit home for me about each of the characters they were all trying to escape some problem in their lives. In reality they may have physically removed themselves but the root cause was still there.  By stepping away they were able to search their hearts and see their struggles were within themselves not circumstances or others. The story has many beautiful lessons about yielding to God’s guidance and living by faith not sight. . Looking forward to the next book!

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Rose and the Thistle By Laura Frantz

Ms. Frantz makes history more than dates and battles.  When reading her books I always learn about a new era in history that I was not familiar with.  Her characters not only make history come alive, but give me a deeper understanding as to what it was like to be live during that time.  Her descriptiveness of their surroundings, traditions and way of life allow me to be a part of what is happening.

The setting is Scotland the year 1715. It was a year of great upheaval and danger between the Catholics and Protestants (Jacobite’s).

Duke of Northumberland was a devout Catholic as was his daughter Lady Blythe.  This made him an enemy of the king.  Knowing the danger, his number one desire was to protect his daughter Lady Blythe.  He arranged with her godfather, Lord Wedderburn for her to take refuge with him and his family.  It is shortly before Lord Wedderburn dies that his son Everard and succeeding laird learns of this arrangement.  His family was loyal to their Protestant faith.  A bit of a sticky wicket!

He wasn’t very pleased with the news but didn’t have time to ponder it.  His father hadn’t even been buried and late one night Lady Blythe was rushed to the castle after an attack on their estate. Talk about an awkward situation!  They couldn’t have had more opposite religious or political positions!

I hurt for Lady Blythe being thrust into a place where she really wasn’t wanted without anything of her own.  I also understood his confusion, stress and frustration of losing his father and dealing with a guest whose presence could be dangerous for their family.

Lady Blythe won my heart with her independence, sweet spirit and humility despite her position, education and wealth.  I was fascinated by their day to day life, and how the affluent were cared for..  Almost as if they were children in ways. I cannot imagine how boring her days were as there wasn’t a lot to do even when she was at home.

At first Everard irritated me with his attitude.  Then I saw how overwhelmed he was about all that had occurred so quickly in his life. His responsibilities were crushing.  I soon was endeared to him as he proved to have a tender heart and a strong sense of integrity.  

I found it beautiful how their love unfolded and developed despite all the obstacles they faced.  I liked the fact despite their different faiths, they shared a love of God, a strong reliance on the Lord and prayer.   Difficult family relations, fear, danger and seemly impossible circumstances confronted the couple.  The suspense and surprises along the way heightened made the story even more enjoyable and hard to put down.  A book you will want to read!

I received this book from LibraryThing and Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

Anything But Plain By Suzanne Woods Fisher

This book combines two very unusual subjects and modern day topics and weaving them into an informative, entertaining and interesting story!

Lydia is quirky and can’t seem to keep her life in order. This leads her quickly going from job to job in rapid succession. She feels doesn’t fit in anywhere, especially not in the ordered life of the Amish.  She secretly plans to leave.

Nathan’s dream is to become a successful organic farmer.  He loves Lydia and only sees her sweet spirit and unusual insight into situations.  Unfortunately his father and brother are sold out to using as many harmful chemicals on their crops as the can.  Ignoring the impact they have on the environment and health.

To complicate matters more Lydia’s paternal grandmother comes to stay.  She is overbearing, unkind, controlling and has a master plan to “fix” Lydia once and for all. Lydia’s Aunt, Dok is a physician who left the Amish years ago. She offers her a job in her office.  Her suspicions are validated with some testing, Lydia has ADHD.

All the characters are so multifaceted!  Each has their own faults and struggles they are secretly dealing with.  Ms. Fisher beautifully weaves them all together in their relationships and community! 

I learned much about ADHD that I wasn’t aware of.  Not only some of the challenges but also how greatly it impacts one’s day to day existence.  I appreciated that the author presented that it can be treated without medication.

A wonderful story of forgiveness and God’s healing in unexpected ways.  

I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.

The Lost Melody By Joanna Davidson Politano

Vivienne Mourdant is relieved at the death of her abusive father.  His cruelty and harsh training made her into a famous, sought after pianist.  Finally she was free to live her life and pursue her passion with music.  That is until she found among his papers reference to a woman named Rose.   For many years he had been paying for her keep at the Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum.  Who was this mysterious woman?  She was compelled to find her.  She decided to become an employee at the asylum to gain inside information and search.  Little did she know the danger she was exposing herself to.

I have read several fiction books depicting the lives and treatment of those living in what was referred to as lunatic asylums during the 1800’s.  I have even read Nellie Bly’s, “Ten Days in a Mad-house”.  None of these books came even close to giving the true picture of what these inmate’s lives were like, but Ms. Politano captures it all in this novel. 

She exposes the unjust, raw nightmare conditions of those who fell victim of these establishments.  Many inmates would become lifetime prisoner simply by someone’s accusation or assumption that they were mentally ill.  Sadly family members were often the culprit just wanting to rid themselves of the person. Some simply suffered from health problems.  I was grieved at the inhumane treatment and hopelessness of these poor souls.  

The story is powerful.  I could not read it at long stretches and especially not before going to bed.  All in the entire story is one of perseverance in the face of great hardship.  Vivienne’s faith, and belief she would escape even with such physical and mental abuse was inspirational. I loved the surprise ending. 

I received this book from LibraryThing and Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions stated are my own.