The Christmas Blessing By Melody Carlson

I am always excited when Ms. Carlson publishes and new book and cannot wait to read it. I love the way she captures the true Christmas spirit in so many different ways. All stories are different and filled with faith and surprises. All my other books including this one stays on my bookshelf. I do not even loan them out!
It’s 1944 and men are being shipped off to war at a moment’s notice. Caught up in whirlwind romances and knowing the possibility of being separated for years or forever, it wasn’t uncommon for young couples to give into temptation. This is what happened to Amelia when she fell in love with James. She gives birth to his son only to find out that he is reported dead.
She finds herself with no job and no money to provide for her child. She decides her only hope is to go to James’ parents for help. The problem is they have no clue that her and baby Jimmy even exist. Upon learning that his family is influential and wealthy she cringes at how they might react to her being an unwed mother? Would they believe her story? Will they reject her, and worse yet her son? Does she have any hope?
Bravely she leaves California and travels to his hometown in Montana. There she faces heart wrenching difficulties and serious problems for her and her baby. Things go from bad to worse but she still struggles to go to James’ family. Finally a life threatening situation causes her to make a desperate decision but one made from the depths of love.
My heart ached for Amelia as she struggled. I admired her true mother’s love and devotion, and sacrifices she made for her little boy. The story had many surprises and sudden turns. Ms. Carlson beautifully illustrated the true meaning of Christmas is an unusual and unexpected way. While Amelia was pregnant out of wedlock, her issue was in no way treated as acceptable or appropriate. Another 5 star book! Thank you Melody Carlson!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.


There’s Always a Zacchaeus Up a Tree By Roger Campbell (Author), Timothy Campbell (Editor)

When I chose this book based on the cute title I did not even notice the author was Roger Campbell: the famous writer, broadcaster, columnist, pastor, father and husband! With such a life of variety, insight and experience I knew it was going to be a great book and I wasn’t wrong! It isn’t a big book, only 165 pages, but it would be 3 inches thick if it was measured by the treasures within. This is a simple read, but very inspirational and thought provoking.
Each devotional is a page long with a scripture at the end. I was impressed with how much truth and wisdom each simple story contained. He shares personal experiences, biblical truths and lessons learned from people in the past. Each page was engaging and captured my attention. No matter what the tone of the story; he always ends it on a note of hope
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not only from the entertainment side but also from all the ways it gently opened my eyes and mind to looking at many spiritual matters in a different light. A book shared not only from a full life but also a full heart. Refreshing and different!
I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Ordering Your Private World By Gordon MacDonald

The title of the book drew me to it as I am always interested in better organizing my life, but once I opened it there was oh so much more! As I started to read it my eyes fell upon the words “live out of an empty soul”. That’s when I grabbed my highlighter. The author speaks of Christians who are so busy being Christians and serving the Lord but Christ isn’t the focus of their life. He asks us are we “driven” or all we “called”?
Some people are motivated by praise and success; others are caught up in serving and trying to meet all the needs and demands coming their way. As a minister’s wife for 26 years, I would often think about this. I love the Lord with all my heart but I would find myself “soul empty” because my time so full of the ministry. Yes I read my Bible and prayed but my focus wasn’t fully Christ but the tasks at hand.
No wonder we feel exhausted, hopeless and on the verge of burnout.
This book has so much to offer. Mr. McDonald shares attitudes and applications to establish if we are being driven or called to do something. He shares openly about his breakdown and shares how he began to rebuild his life on a firmer foundation. I like that he doesn’t just tell me I have a problem but gives me the tools to restore my life. I can learn how to reevaluate my priorities, control my time instead of it controlling me, how to re-enforce my spiritual inner life, and learn to truly rest. It excites me to see the world through the eye of the Bible and the Lord and not just what my flesh can perceive.
No wonder so many of us lack peace in our lives. I know I personally need to strengthen my inner world because my outer world the last few years has become almost too much to bear. The author jolted my mind with the example of Jesus ministry. Yes I knew it but I hadn’t ever noticed that he was never in a hurry. No one ever has or ever will have such a massive outer world to deal with. People constantly surrounding him and begging for help, teaching, dealing with those that wanted to harm him, and trying teach hard to teach disciples. Yet He was always at peace. Even as God in the flesh He took time to rest and be with His Heavenly Father. Amazing!
I so appreciate the built in study guide that will help me step by step to achieve this strengthening. When my focus is completely on Christ and all else that is shouting for my attention and energy will be sorted out as to whether deserves my attention or not. I will not be driven by the tyranny of the urgent but by looking through my Savior’s eyes. I want Him to be my only guide, not my planner or to do list. This book is to study and reread. I am keeping it as a reference book when I complete all it has to offer. An exceptional book all Christians need to read.
I received this book from W Publishing Group through Handlebar. I was not required to give a positive review; the opinions stated are my own.

Liar’s Winter By Cindy K. Sproles

I read the author’s first book Mercy’s Rain and could not wait to read this one! She is an incredibly talented writer that not only entertains but rivets your heart and mind to the story, bringing home incredible biblical truths.
The Appalachians and the unique people that live there have long fascinated me. Ms. Sproles was raised in the Appalachian mountains so her stories have a realism inherent from understanding the people, their ways, and their traditions.
Lochiel Ogle was born in the Tennessee mountains during the late 1800’s. Through no fault of her own, she had a large red birth mark on her face and neck. The superstition of the hills deemed it a “mark of the devil.” Due to the fear associated with this belief she suffered isolation and abuse by her adopted family.
As a young boy, her brother Gerald came upon the cabin where her mother had just given birth to her. The mother, in deep sleep was assumed dead by the boy. He was hoping a baby would ease his mother’s grief from the babies she had lost. Of course because of the mark, the infant was rejected and became a young woman filled with anger, hurt and confusion. She truly believed the curse and that the devil controlled her.
When she was 19 years old her brother tried to kill her and left her for dead. A compassionate Christian man named Walton found her and took her to his elderly mother, Edna. There for the first time in her life Lochiel, experienced love, kindness, acceptance and nurturing. While these were all very important needs, the greatest gift Edna gave her was to introduce her to God and His Word. Gently and lovingly she began to teach Lochiel that there was no curse and that she was not evil. Slowly Edna’s Christ like ways and teachings began to change Lochiel. It brought home that what we see has a horrible situation is God working to bless us.
This is an incredible story of forgiveness and love beyond what most of us cannot even begin to grasp. I saw God’s power working in Lochiel’s life in unimaginable ways. Suspense and surprise do not even begin to describe this novel. You will not be able to put it down! If you only read one fiction book this year, this is the one!
I received this book from Kregel Publishing. This is an honest review and the opinions stated are my own.

The Legacy By Michael Phillips

I understand this is the third book in a series. I have not read to the first two books and I feel like I missed a great deal. I don’t feel like it can be read and truly enjoyed as a standalone.
Scotland is some place I would love to visit. The author captured the beauty of the landscape, the historical background, and the heart of the people that live there. While I enjoyed his attention to detail in all aspects, at times it made the reading rather slow and cumbersome. There were points I had to push to get keep going as my interest waned.
Loni unexpectedly inherits a small island in the Shetlands. The Scots strongly steeped in tradition and family ties were not happy with an outsider suddenly being thrust upon them in a position of leadership. The resident’s rejection makes Loni’s adjustment even more difficult, causing her to question what path to take. As a unique twist to the story she finds herself falling for the local chieftain, David Tulloch whom the islanders believe to be the true heir.
The story switches back and forth between Loni and David’s present day romance and that of her great-grandparents through old journals written by her great-grandmother. I especially liked the latter parts. They were relevant to me for a couple of reasons. I have a diary kept by my uncle that describes my father’s and his life growing up. Also I have a friend doing a genealogy search for me on my family history. There is something special about knowing where you came from and who your past family was. It gives you grounding and a feeling of belonging. I see this in Loni as she reads the journals. The most important thing is finding strength and inspiration from your spiritual heritage. Over all I had trouble sticking to the story, maybe because I hadn’t read the first two books.
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers. The opinions I stated are my own.

With You Always By Jody Hedlund

After losing both her parents, German immigrant Elise Neumann, finds herself homeless and sole provider for her 2 younger sisters and 2 motherless orphans. In the late 1850’s life was harsh for women in poverty and alone. She is only 19 years old but very mature and courageous from all the suffering and adversities she has faced in her young life. They find themselves living on the streets and in dire straits. Miss Pendleton, a wealthy, Christian woman who has sold all to open a mission in the slums of lower Manhattan, invites them to live there. While the mission is better than the streets, it has not been renovated yet and is filled with filth and vermin. No matter, Elise and her sisters are grateful.
Miss Pendleton’s purpose for her ministry is to help prostitutes get off the streets and earn and honest living. She hires them as seamstresses to do work for local business. This is Elise’s trade and she begins work. Not long after, the city finds itself in severe financial straits and the work ends.
With a broken heart she is forced to leave her sisters there while she goes west to work in a new town being developed along the railroad. Little does she know the new town she is going to be employed in is part of a challenge between Thornton Quincey and his twin brother to prove who is worthy to inherit the family business from their dying father. Thornton Quincy, wealthy New York socialite, is completely at the other end of the social scale from Elise. Here their paths cross again (you have to read the book to find out how they met). She was proof you don’t’ have to be wealthy to be confident and he confirmed you don’t have to be poor to be meek. I totally enjoyed their interactions and sense of humor. Despite the vast ocean of class that divides them a seed of romance is planted.
The story is a touching example that true love knows no boundaries, and God’s plans are not limited by circumstances. While since her parent’s death and one setback after another, Elise feels God has abandoned her. Through her adversities she grows to see He has always been there. I was reminded of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Being a huge fan of historical Christian novels, I appreciated the author’s thorough research. Being based on a true incident, Ms. Hedlund did a skillful job of fleshing out the story and characters. I had heard a lot about the orphan trains but was unaware of plight poverty-stricken women during this era. It shocked me to realize so many had to leave their children to work in the Midwest to provide for them. It seemed they jumped out of the frying pan into the fire as the employers exploited and abused them. I cannot imagine going through what these women did. An outstanding book! Can’t wait for a sequel!
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

A Love So True By Melissa Jagears

This is my first book to read of Ms. Jagears and I was very impressed. Her subject was unique to most novels; prostitution in the early 1900’s. It was as destructive a lifestyle then as now.
Evelyn Wisely had a heart for those affected by it, not only the women but also the children born as a result and the men who paid for the services. You would think she would be applauded by the people of her town but most people during that era were quick to judge and reject the sinner than to help. She faced great opposition. This did not deter her from pursuing the ministry she felt called to.
David Kingsman, a business man, joins her by allowing the women to earn honest money by cleaning his factory after hours. He is also attacked in his efforts by his employees. Both are strong Christians and determined to help no matter what the cost. To say the obstacles they face are formidable is putting it mildly.
The conditions the women and children lived in was tragic and even more so knowing the same things are happening in our day and time. Morality and Christianity, during that era held very high standards but tended to be snobbish and repulsed by those living in sin. There was definitely a “holier than thou attitude.” They failed to hate the sin and love the sinner.
David truly impressed me and I enjoyed him. Even though he exuded wealth and good looks his humility and respect for the prostitutes and children was a beautiful testimony. I love how at ease he was with them and did everything to make them feel comfortable.
I also admired Evelyn and David because the each was struggling with difficult and painful personal issues but that did not deter them from giving 100% of themselves. Most people go inward with self-pity and selfishness rather than looking outward. A great story with a strong Christian message. It brought to my mind Philippians 2:3. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
I received this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Ebb Tide By Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis is a classic writer! Her books always give me spiritual and scriptural inspiration. I truly enjoy reading them.
Twenty year old Sallie Riehl is at that point in her life where she must choose to make a lifetime commitment to the Amish church by joining and being baptized. She even has a beau courting her, Perry, whom she has no attraction to. Sallie is invited by a wealthy family to spend the summer as their nanny at the beach in New Jersey. Her parents agree to let her go but with great reservations. Her strong desire to travel and see the world is a constant conflict with the Amish beliefs. Reasoning that this trip will get it out of her system she more than happily agrees to go.
What fun it was to experience the trip, the ocean and the beach through her eyes! Such a fresh view of so much we take for granted. As if all there was to see and do are not enough she gets a taste of freedom she never before had. Her weekends are open to do as she pleases. On her grand adventure she meets Kevin. He is fun, interesting, shares her dreams to travel and she finds herself having strong feelings toward him.
Upon her return home the trip has not only failed to extinguish her passion for travel, but Sallie finds herself desiring it even more. Her eyes being opened she realizes she is not happy with her Amish life. She must now make the decision to disappoint her family and leave or stay forever living in discontent.
The book’s title was so meaningful to the story. The way time and circumstances pulls us forward into the future and back into the past. The book presents a strong testimony of seeking God’s will in the face of tough decisions; pleasing Him or others. An excellent book!
I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.


Treasured Grace By Tracie Peterson

Historical novels are always so exciting to me as I get to step into the past with characters and their lives the author has created. I live beside them and experience living and facing challenges during that era. The early American frontier was such a time of change and adventure. That’s why so many of us love westerns right? Reading about those times and entertaining ourselves with movies is far different than living during that era. This is something the author really brought to light for me. If you lost your family you were on your own and at the true mercy of others. You couldn’t run down to Walmart and buy medicine when you were sick or groceries and these are just a few difficulties they faced!
After losing her parents, Grace marries the bad-tempered Rev. Martindale so she could provide for her sisters and travel the Oregon Trail west. It was a marriage of convenience as he had to be married to serve as a missionary. Her plans were derailed when he suddenly dies along the way. She is left with nothing again.
Dr. Whitman of the Whitman Mission (of the infamous massacre) allows them to stay. Grace finds herself in conflict with the doctor/missionary because she is an herbalist. He does not want her treating anyone. This is ironic as she saved so many lives with her remedies on the wagon train. It reminded me of western medicine and holistic medicine conflicts today.
While Grace and her sisters have a roof over their head they are not out of danger. Unfortunately the wagon train brought an epidemic of measles and there are many deaths, especially among the Indians. The Cayuse Indians the doctor is treating are dying in large numbers. They believe his medicine is purposely killing them. Add to that the problem of the increasing population of white men taking the Indian’s land, and there is serious trouble. Hostilities are increasing and the mission is in danger of Indian attack.
A bright note in her life is handsome trapper Alex Armistead. Familiar with the ways of the Indians and the wilderness, he protects and watches out for Grace and her sisters.
There were so many things I liked about the book. First and foremost was the focus on scripture and the plan of salvation. So rare to find a novel that actually shares this. The author emphasized strongly the reliance on God and strong faith in any situation, not allowing compromises. The tragedies faced by the characters are heart-breaking.
I use natural remedies and oils regularly. I found it extremely interesting as to how Grace used and obtained her treatments. Once again a startling reminder of the hardships the people faced with injuries and illness.
Always a great author, Ms. Peterson did an extraordinary of capturing historical facts and bringing to life the raw emotions of those who lived through the events. A book you will want to read!
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte By Carolyn Miller

Charlotte was caught up in a time of gaiety and youth. She was being presented to society and the world was her oyster. She is beautiful, her father a marquess, and every handsome titled young man is competing for her attention. What young girls head wouldn’t be whirling?! In youth we have our dreams and plans, having no doubt they will come to pass simply because we want them to. As Lady Charlotte learns life does not always follow our script.
Her head is quickly turned by a dashingly handsome, charming friend of her brothers. She is sure he is “the one”. Her brother knows him and says no but his opinion doesn’t count. It’s her parents and they put an end to all of it believing the best match for her is a not so handsome, rather dull widower, ten years older than her. You can image how crushed and devastated she is. She cringes at the thought of a marriage without love in the name of money and social station.
Her chosen suitor, Duke William Hartington, is a godly man of integrity and faith. He has sadly been through great pain with his deceased wife’s infidelities. He is attracted to Charlotte but his former wife was younger too and he is afraid to trust any women, and certainly with his heart.
This a unique historical romance as you can already realize. It was beautiful to see Charlotte mature from a flighty young girl to a woman that sees the true values that should be present in marriage and that love isn’t just feelings but actions too.
William is an epitome of kindness, patience, and true love with her during this process. The story meant even more by its focus on trusting God for His plans in our lives. The scriptures mentioned and prayers by William truly make a spiritual impression. The book even includes a bit of mystery and danger.
I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the surroundings and social ways of the very wealthy during that era. Something I always look for in an historical novel! A book you will want to read.
I received this book from Kregel Publication in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.