Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE CAPTIVE HEART (DALE CRAMER)


Story Description: 

Ravaged by disease, preyed upon by ruthless bandits, the Bender family’s second year in Mexico has taken a grievous turn.  Faced with impossible choices, the expatriate Amish discover, more than ever before, what it means to live by faith and not by sight. 

But it’s Miriam who must make the hardest choice as her heart takes her on a new and dangerous course.  Domingo. “He is gentle,” his sister said, “until someone he loves is threatened.”  Is Miriam that someone? 

“Cualnezqui,” he often calls her – the Nahuatl word for Beautiful one.  The chiseled native has proven himself a man of principle, grace, and power.  Yet is he the pearl of great price for whom Miriam would sacrifice everything, or is he merely a friend?  Tormented by conflicting emotions, she’s haunted by vivid dreams: Dressed in the coarse cotton pants and shirt of a peasant, she stands on the precipice of a sun-washed ridge searching desperately for Domingo.  Domingo the fierce.  Domingo the protector.  Domingo the forbidden. 

This epic story was inspired by actual events! 

My Review: 

I stayed up all night and read this in one sitting I was totally riveted to the story of the Amish Bender family who were spending their second year in Mexico.  Fighting off bandits and disease they sacrificed, hoped, stayed steadfast and prayed.  Their biggest challenge was learning to live by faith.  

Miriam, one of their daughters was in love with Domingo, a strikingly handsome native who was not Amish and if Miriam ever married him she would be shunned by her family.  Domingo was a gentle man until someone he loved was threatened and when that very thing happens he goes to all lengths to save the one he too secretly loves. 

The vividness of the imagery in the novel made me feel as though I was there, stomping through the dusty ground, feeling the grit in my nose and eyes.  I could see the mountains, the crops, the buildings and felt as if I were right there. 

One particular attack by bandits left Miriam’s sister Rachel kidnapped, her brother Aaron stabbed and left for dead, and simple-minded Ada was left to care for the baby.  Ada was like a baby herself even though she was a grown woman.  What she went through to find her way home toting a 30 pound child was truly engrossing, I couldn’t read fast enough.  Staggering in the pitch dark, not knowing where she might fall off the edge of a cliff she walked, crawled and felt her way along the open expanse.  Once surrounded by a pack of coyotes her only weapon was a harmonica the child had in his pocket.  Blowing loud notes only scared them off for so long. 

This is one of the best novels I’ve read this year and would highly recommend it to everyone! 

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group". 

Friday, December 30, 2011

THE MAID OF FAIRBOURNE HALL (JULIE KLASSEN)


Story Description: 

To escape a scheme to marry her off to a dishonorable man, Margret Macy flees London disguised as a housemaid.  If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence.  But she never planned on actually working as a servant.  And certainly not in the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch – both former suitors. 

As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret when suspicions arise and prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall.  Can she avoid a trap meant to force her from hiding? 

Brimming with romance and danger, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall takes readers inside the fascinating belowstairs world of a 19th-century English manor, where appearances can be deceiving. 

My Review: 

This was a wonderful story of a well-to-do young woman who disguises herself as a servant and takes up a job in another rich household to hide out from the man she is supposed to marry.  Margaret cannot stand her suitor and refuses to marry him but needs to keep herself hidden until her 21st birthday when she is set to inherit a large sum of money from her aunt.  She does not want her husband-in-waiting to get this money so becomes a servant in the same household of the man she truly does love and wants to marry. 

Margaret changes her name to Nora and bides her time as a housemaid until her birthday when she’ll receive her inheritance and finally have independence.  However, some of the residents of the household think she looks familiar and one recognizes her despite her disguises but chooses to say nothing until near the end of the book. 

The book was so interesting, the characters were well developed and all the information about housemaids and servants was quite interesting.  Not a job I should like for sure.  I would definitely recommend this book to all my friends.  Very well done and extremely enjoyable!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE KEEPER (SUZANNE WOODS FISHER)


Story Description: 

Life on Windmill Farm hasn’t been the same since Julia Lapp’s father has had trouble with his heart.  But that doesn’t stop Julia from hoping for a bright future.  She has planned on marrying Paul fisher since she was a girl.  Now twenty-one, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation.  But when Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding – again – she is determined to change his mind.  She knows who is to blame for Paul’s sudden reluctance to wed: the Bee Man. 

Roman Troyer, the Bee Man, travels through the Amish communities of Ohio and Pennsylvania with his hives full of bees, renting them out to farmers in need of pollinators.  A mysterious man who relishes his nomadic life, Roman especially enjoys bringing his bees to Stoney Ridge each year.  But with Julia seriously at odds with him, Windmill Farm is looking decidedly less appealing. 

Can Julia secure the future she’s always dreamed of?  Or does God have something else in mind?

My Review: 

I loved this story and fell in love with Julia, Roman and M.K. especially.  M.K. was quite a little curious imp who wasn’t backward at coming forward and always had her nose poked in somewhere.  Roman was somewhat of a nomad but had a kind heart but had been terribly hurt and was literally holding himself hostage through his grief.  Julia was an immensely strong young woman, she just didn’t realize it yet. 

The really lovely thing about this particular novel is that not only is it a great story but it deals with two very important issues.  One of which is organ donation and I encourage everyone to seriously think about this and if you’re ever in the position to help out in this way, I sincerely hope you’ll consider saving some other lives.  I highly recommend this book for everyone!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".
 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TOMORROW'S SUN (BECKY MELBY)



Story Description:

Emily Foster won’t allow herself to move on until she earns enough money to make restitution for the accident that stole a young girl’s dreams. Flipping houses sounds like the fast track to her goal, but when her first project turns out to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, Emily finds herself drawn to, but at odds with, the contractor she hires. Jake Braden needs to focus on gaining guardianship of his late sister’s twins, but the story of lost love uncovered in Emily’s house sets the stage for what might become his own lost love. 

My Review: 

Nice story but I found it a little bit slow getting into it.  However, I did fall in love with the Emily’s character and found the information regarding the Underground Railroad interesting.


NEXT OF KIN (SHARON SALA)


Story Description: 

Beth Venable has seen too much. Witness to a major mob hit, she's placed in protective custody until the trial. But after her third safe house is riddled with bullets, she goes off-grid to save herself. What the FBI can't do, her kinfolk will.

The beautiful but forbidding Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky welcome Beth back, dirt roads and rustic shacks a world apart from L.A.  But her homecoming, even her blissful reuion with strong, silent Ryal Walker is made bittersweet by the fight she's brought to the clan's doorstep.  Hidden in a remote cabin with the man she's always wanted, Beth begins to dreaam of a new life: her old one.  But after so long, with such dangers stalking her, is it impossible. 
But love can distill life down to its essence: an elixir of pure hope, nerve and the will to survive.  
My Review: 
Beth Venable, 27,  is staying overnight in the apartment of her good friend Sarah Steinman as there had been a gas leak in Beth’s Los Angeles apartment and everyone was being evacuated for a 24-hour period.  That one evening spent at a friend’s home was about to change Beth’s life forever!  Spying a telescope in the corner of the living room, Beth innocently peered through the lens at the stars in the sky then began scanning around looking at other things.  The scope lands on the apartment across the way from Sarah’s and the window is wide open and lit up, not darkened like hers.  From the expression on their faces it looked as though the couple in that apartment were having an argument and before Beth had the chance to feel guilty and look away for spying the action went from arguing to violence in a heartbeat.  The man abruptly shoved the woman against the back of the couch and she reacted with a hard slap to his jaw.  Beth saw instant rage fly across the man’s face and then all of a sudden there was a knife in his hand.  He slit the woman’s throat from ear to ear so fast, had it not been for “..the arterial blood spray that splashed across the windows, Beth would have thought she’d imagined it.”  Beth started jumping up and down and screaming: “Oh my God, Oh my God, Sarah, help, help! He killed her!”  Just as Beth was explaining to Sarah what happened, the man turned toward the window almost as if he could see Beth.  Although her apartment was shrouded in darkness, she ducked out of the way anyway.  Sarah called 911 for her and they waited for the police to arrive. 
After going to the station and giving a statement to the police about the circumstances surrounding that entire evening, including why Beth was at Sarah’s apartment in the first place and not at her own, she was dropped back off at Sarah’s apartment.  Once Beth was inside she noticed Sarah’s bedroom door had been left a bit ajar and walked in slowly calling out: “Sarah? “Sar-ah?”  She could hear the t.v. in Sarah’s bedroom and as she pushed open the door all the way she found her best friend sitting up in bed with a bullet hole through her forehead!!  Obviously the killer had come back and mistakenly thought it was Sarah who had witnessed the murder and killed her in error.
The policeman who had walked Beth to the door heard her scream and was back inside the apartment within a matter of minutes.  Beth was scared to death thinking the killer may still be inside the apartment.

The FBI gets involved and has to move Beth to THREE different locations because the killer kept finding her.  After the third move, Sarah ran away and decided to take matters into her own hands and contacted some of her family members whom she hadn’t seen in years.  What follows is an unbelievable display of what it means to have “family” in the true sense of the word where it doesn’t matter what has happened in the past or is currently happening, if a family member is in trouble then everyone rallies around and does what they can to help. 

The best part for Beth is once again seeing Ryal Walker, her first and only love whom she last saw when she was 17-years-old.  He is 8 years older than Beth but with the two of them, age seems to have no limits.

This book was 330 pages long and I literally sat and read it in one sitting .  It was so well written and so powerful that I just couldn’t tear myself away from the book at all.  This is one book that you simply cannot miss!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

DINNER WITH LISA (R. L. PRENDERGAST)


My Review: 

Joseph Gaston and his four children are seated on two seats of the train rushing through Ontario toward its destination of Philibuster, Alberta.  Joseph is a widower and nearly 40-years-old.  His children: Clare, 6-months; Nolan 11; Cole 7; and Sarah 4 are the light of his life.  Poor little Sarah had succumbed to vomiting due to motion sickness and thus sat alone holding a bowl in her wee lap.  Joseph knew that if his wife, Helen, were still alive, she would know how to help Sarah immediately.  Joseph and his family are heading west toward a new life filled with hope and prosperity. 

The train was grinding to a halt in Philibuster, a small town to stay with Joseph’s brother, Henri, and his sister-in-law, Tilda.  It’s the 1930’s and the country is in the grip of the Great Depression but hope abounds for Joseph and his family, or so he thinks.  Joseph is filled with optimisim about his new job until he finds out the job no longer exists.  What is he going to do now with four children to feed and no income?  He begins to worry and the burden and sense of responsibility he feels towards his family is almost crushing, but with the help of his brother Henri, Joseph may be able to survive but not before enduring more problems than one man deserves.  

The character development is magnificent in this novel as are the descriptions of the town, its people and surroundings.  I felt as though I’d been pulled into the book and could almost walk alongside Joseph seeing the sights and smelling the odours of the town around him.  Joseph never lost his sense of belonging and he always had hope.  He was forced to fight many battles one which included his sister-in-law wanting to take his children for her own feeling that she could do a much better job of raising them. 

To me, this was a story of one man overcoming great adversity through hope.  As long as you have hope, you have a horizon in the distance, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that is just where Joseph heads.  I read this novel is one sitting, I was glued from beginning to end and would highly recommend it to everyone!  Well done.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A PERFECT SQUARE (VANNETTA CHAPMAN)


Story Description: 

There's more to the quaint northern Indiana town of Shipshewana than handcrafted quilts, Amish-made furniture, immaculate farms, and close-knit families. When a dead girl is found floating in a local pond, murder is also afoot. And Reuben Fisher is in jail as the suspect!

Reuben refuses to divulge any information, even to clear himself of a crime Deborah is certain he didn't commit. So, with her English friend Callie-fellow sleuth and owner of Daisy's Quilt Shop-Deborah sets out to uncover the truth. But the mystery deepens when an elderly man seeks Callie's help in finding his long-lost daughter, missing since the days of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes.

An old man who has lost his past. A young man who may lose his future. Once again Deborah and Callie find themselves trying to piece together a crazy quilt of lives and events-one that can bring unexpected touches of God's grace and resolve to the tragedy that has shaken this quiet Amish community. 


My Review: 

Deborah, Esther and Callie are piecing together a different type of quilt in this saga.  They’re piecing together a the pieces to a murder after finding a young girl drowned in a pond after stopping to pick wildflowers at the side of the road.  Not being right friendly with the local police, Officer Taylor, the girls try to gather their own information and piece together who, why and how this beautiful young woman was killed.  I couldn’t help but cry when they approached Mr. Lapp with the crime scene photos.  Excellent novel and I would highly recommend it to everyone!

GONE TO GROUND (BRANDILYN COLLINS)


Story Description: 

Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it's named-bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago-a sixth murder.

Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is-someone they love. None is aware of the others' suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down. But each woman suspects a different man. 


My Review: 

Not often I love all the main characters in a novel but I sure did this one.  Three very unlikely women to ever become friends do and their relationship blossoms.  Trying to solve the murder of Erika Hollinger is proving to be a bit more complicated than they first thought it would be.  Each of the three women thought they knew who the killer was but once they sit down to discuss the situation, each of them comes up with a different name with different proof.  Now what?  You’ll have to read the book to find out but I will tell you that you’ll fall in love with Tully, Cherrie Mae and Deena.  A thoroughly enjoyable read that I would highly recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE FORGOTTEN CHILD (LORHAINNE ECKHART)



Story Description: 

He wasn’t looking to love again. But what he got was a woman who shook his lonely bitter world upside down, and touched him in a way no other woman could.

Emily Nelson, a courageous young mother, ends a loveless bitter marriage and strikes out on her own. She answers an ad as a cook and live-in caregiver to a three-year-old boy on a local ranch. Ranch owner Brad Friessen hires and moves in Emily and her daughter. But Emily soon discovers something’s seriously wrong with his boy. And the reclusive difficult man that hired her, can’t see the behavior and how delayed his son is.  Emily researches, until she stumbles across what she suspects is the soft signs of autism. Now she must tell him. Give him hope, and help him come to terms with this neurological disorder—to take the necessary steps to get his child the help he needs.

As their lives become intertwined, it’s unavoidable the attraction—the connection that sparks between them. And just as they’re getting close, Brad's estranged wife Crystal returns after abandoning them two years earlier. In amongst the shock and confusion there’s one disturbing fact Brad can’t shake. How does she know so much of his personal business, the inner working of the ranch and Emily's relationship with his son?

Crystal must’ve had a plan as she somehow gains the upper hand, driving a wedge in the emotional bond forged between Brad, Emily and the children. The primary focus for care and therapy of three-year-old Trevor is diverted. The lengths Crystal will go—the lies—the greed, just to keep what’s hers are nothing short of cold and calculating. Emily’s forced out of the house. Brad fights to save his boy—to protect what’s his. And struggles over his greatest sacrifice—Emily, and the haunting question—has he ultimately lost her forever. 
My Review: 

Thirty-five-year old Emily had been married to Bob for 12 years but the marriage was stale and wasn’t going anywhere and Emily didn’t love Bob anymore.   After telling him she was leaving and moving out with their young daughter, Katy, Emily finds a job as a live-in caregiver to a ranch owner, Brad and his troubled son, Trevor.  However plain it is for Emily to see that something is seriously wrong with Trevor, it’s not so easy for Brad.   After Emily does a lot of research online, she finally confronts Brad with the information that he can no longer ignore.  He has to accept that his boy is different. 

Things are also beginning to heat up between Emily and Brad when suddenly this arrogant, whirlwind of the Tazmanian devil comes sweeping through the house.  It’s Brad’s wife, Crystal.  She has to be the most ignorant, self-centered woman I’ve ever met and I detested her in the story.  Not often a character affects me as much as Crystal did and that means the author did a fantastic job.  I just wanted to shake this woman from head-to-toe.  She had no interest whatsoever in her own child and undermined all the therapy that had been done with Trevor up to that point.  Needless to say, she also drove a pretty thick wedge between Emily and Brad to the point that she moved out and was forced to find another job.  

Brad is just sick with worry over losing Emily and Katy but has he lost them forever??   You definitely have to read this book to find out.  I was hooked from the first page to the last.  Excellent!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A FATHER'S LOVE (LORHAINNE ECKHART)


MY REVIEW:

Beautifully written young adult story about coming of age.  Fourteen-year-old David Lattimer has been bestowed the long honoured tradition of hunting for the family's Christmas Goose.  With his ten-year-old sister, Rose, at his side, David sets off to fulfill his family obligation but what he doesn't realize is that he is going to need more than his Grampa's shotgun to get the Goose and survive this trek!

This short story is sure to delight young readers who will be captivated by what happens to David and Rose.

 

SPECIAL DELIVERY (KATHI MACIAS) BOOK TWO OF THE "FREEDOM" SERIES


Story Description: 

In book two of the "Freedom" series, readers find Mara fighting against her attraction to Bible college student Jonathan Flannery. Mara also wrestles with risking her own precarious safety to become involved in the rescue of another girl who is pregnant and desperately wants to escape her captors and save her own life as well as her child's.

Halfway around the world in a brothel in Thailand, a young girl is rescued with the promise of being reunited with her younger sister who was adopted by an interracial couple in the States, friends of Jonathan's family. Meanwhile, Jefe, Mara's uncle, who held her as a sex slave in his brothel in San Diego for years-seeks revenge for Mara's testimony that put him behind bars for life.  

Will his underworld connections be successful in kidnapping and killing the girl who believes she has finally won her freedom? 

My Review:

Mara is a waitress at a seafood cafĂ© earning enough money to rent a room and meet her basic needs.  It has taken her 2 whole years to finally gain citizenship in the United States, free from her homeland of Mexico at last.  Her parents had sold her into slavery, and her uncle, Jefe, who had raped her for the first time and then prostituted her out until his capture and arrest and was sent to prison.  To Mara, she had no family all of them were dead to her.   At nearly 20 years of age, Mara has no interest in finding a man for herself as she’d already had enough of men and their sexually tortuous ways.  She said she’d already had enough of the “male population to last her for several lifetimes.” 

Leah is out of high school and Jonathan has completed two of his four years of Bible College.  Jonathan had come home for Leah’s graduation and will be staying for two months.

Two years earlier, Jonathan had helped break up a human-trafficking ring that forced teens and young children to be sex slaves right in their own San Diego area.  Mara was one of those girls and Leah questions Jonathan now as to whether he still wonders about her and where she eventually ended up.  Jonathan admits that he wonders and things about her often and what is is doing now.  Because of that rescue, Leah and Jonathan’s family are now involved in the ministry of rescuing human-trafficking victims and helping them recover, get established, and begin new and productive lives.

On her way home from work one evening, Mara thinks back to the night she stood in the darkness with a lovely young man who made her feel truly human for the first time a long time.  That man was Jonathan and she wonders now where he is and whether he ever did go to Bible College as he had planned.

Mara's uncle was in jail now serving a life sentence for human-trafficking and prostitution.  Thanks to Mara he won't again see the light of day.  However, her uncle is enraged that she testified against him and doesn't plan on allowing Mara to live happily ever after.  Even in prison, Uncle Jefe has connections. 

What then sets off is a string of page-turning events that will keep you glued to your chair until the last page has been turned.  What a powerfully packed punch this story delivered!!!  I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SMITTEN (COLLEEN COBLE, KRISTIN BILLERBECK, DIANN HUNT & DENISE HUNTER)


My Review: 

This is really a novel in four parts – four great romance stories that are interconnected and quite ingeniously done!  Denise, Diann, Kristin, and Colleen really are very good friends in real life and it reflects in their writing.  You can tell these gals have a blast together.  Anyway, let’s get on with the review. 

Natalie Mansfield was watching her five-year-old niece, Mia, decorate the town with other children from the area.  Natalie commented to her great-aunt Rose, how fast Mia was growing.  At seventy-eight Rose will still a beautiful looking woman. 

As the two women stood chatting, Natalie noticed a group of workers across the street all standing around looking as though they’d just lost their best friend.  Natalie noticed one of those men was her old friend Murphy Clinton.  She scurried over to him to ask what had happened and he told her that “the mill is closing…this town is finished.”  You see, the mill was the main employer in their town of Smitten, Vermont. 

Sitting in Natalie’s coffee shop, her friend, Reese Mackenzie said “we can’t make them keep the mill open.”  Rumors had been circulating for months but no one believed it would ever come to fruition.  Natalie’s coffee shop was struggling enough without the mill closing down.  If she had to close down “Mountain Perks”, how would she care for Mia?  Julia Bourne tried to tell Nat that this was something she couldn’t control and her other best friend, Shelby Evans, was deeply saddened and wanted her kids to group up there. 

The four friends decided to “create” a “honeymoon haven” in Smitten to draw tourists to bring in revenue to their town.  They began writing ideas down such as: loud speakers piping in romantic songs around the town and village square; a lingerie shop that sells perfume; a fudge store; plush hotels and beds and breakfasts with tubs for two; and other such ideas.  They’re turning a logging town into a honeymoon hotspot and each friend finds a love of her own along the way.  I must add that the Mayor was not at all happy at the prospect of having his town turned into a resort town focused on romance! 

This is a fast reading page-turner from beginning to end that kept me laughing all the way through.  Great read and I’d highly recommend it for everyone.  Book Two titled: “Secretly Smitten” is to be out in December of 2012 and I can’t wait to read it!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

MICHAEL VEY - THE PRISONER OF CELL 25 (RICHARD PAUL EVANS)


Story Description: 

“My name is Michael Vey and there’s something you don’t know about me, something that scares people more than you would believe.  It’s my secret – and it’s part of the story I’m about to tell you.” 

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is just your average, ordinary fourteen-year-old.  But Michael is anything but ordinary – in fact, he is electric. 

When Michael’s best friends, Ostin Liss and cheerleader Taylor Ridley, make an accidental discovery, the three of them learn that there are other kids with similar powers – and that someone, or something, is hunting them.   

After Michael’s mother is kidnapped, Michael will have to rely on his wits, his unique power, and his friends to combat the hunters, free his mother, and save the others. 

My Review: 

This was Paul Evans’ first stab at a young adult novel and he didn’t disappoint!!  The story of Michael Vey is filled with action from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the end.  You’ll literally be glued to the book until the last page is turned.  I can’t wait for the second instalment in the Michael Vey series!!  Highly, highly recommended.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN - A TRUE STORY OF DEATH AND LIFE (DON PIPER) WITH (CECIL MURPHEY)


Story Description: 

On the way home from a conference, Don Piper’s car was crushed by a semi that crossed into his lane.  Medical personnel said he died instantly.  While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music. 

Ninety minutes after the wreck, while a minister prayed for him, Piper miraculously returned to life on earth with only the memory of inexpressible heavenly bliss.  His faith in God was severely tested as he faced an uncertain and grueling recovery.  Now he shares his life-changing story with you. 

90 Minutes in Heaven offers a glimpse into a very real dimension of God’s reality.  It encourages those recovering from serious injuries and those dealing with the loss of a loved one.  The experience dramatically changed Piper’s life, and it will change yours too. 

Don Piper has been an ordained minister since 1985. 

My Review:

 Can you imagine waking up and finding out that you’d been dead for the past hour and a half?  In January of 1989, that is exactly what happened to 38-year-old Don Piper, and during those 90 minutes he was in heaven! 

His description of the sights, sounds, colours, and music in heaven were magnificent, a proper description defies words. 

His recovery was inordinately long and excruciatingly painful.  He still lives 24/7 with intense pain and his condition profoundly affected his emotions during his recovery.  He was reluctant to talk to a psychiatrist or counsellor for how would he explain being in heaven for 90 minutes?  They’d think he was truly crazy!  Don knew what he saw in heaven but feared they’d think he was delusional and how could he sound rational saying he wanted to die because he wanted to go back to heaven?  Don decided not to speak to anyone of what he saw as his “intimate experience”.  After his experience in heaven, he didn’t want to remain here trapped in this world of pain and begged God to take him back. 

The gamut of negative emotions Don felt during his recovery was so self-defeating but I believe necessary.  He had to endure the pain, the depression, the anger, the underlying hostility and refusal to allow anyone to help him with anything in order to grow spiritually and understand his real role in this life.  It was almost like going through the grief process but he stumbled terribly at some of those stages while quickly comprehending others.  At one point he becomes paranoid thinking the nurses were conspiring against him.  He wanted instant black and white answers to questions from his doctor’s where none existed.  All they could offer were the “gray” areas and that was just not acceptable to Don.  He couldn’t figure out “why” God had sent him back to endure all the pain and agony he was going through.   

Aside from the tortuous and painful recovery Don received a cache of miracles from God which you can read about in the story.  But God needed Don to experience certain things and learn from those things before providing him the miracles, in my opinion, that he deserved. 

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has lost a loved one, is recovering from a serious illness, or had a near death experience themselves.  Excellent!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

THE CHRISTMAS NOTE (DONNA VANLIERE)


Story Description: 

Gretchen Daniels has recently moved into a condo with her two children to be closer to her mother, Miriam.  She and her children are building a life together in a new community.  A mysterious young woman, Melissa McCreary, lives next door to them.  She has few possessions, little personality, and keeps to herself.  One day a local landlord who is looking for Melissa knocks on Gretchen’s door for assistance.  Melissa’s mother has died and in the coming weeks the landlord needs Melissa to empty her mother’s apartment.  Gretchen reaches out and offers to help Melissa, but the apartment is a gut-wrenching shambles of a home.  There is little worth saving except for a few photos and a note that is discovered on the crate beside the bed.  It is unfinished, but in the two scribbled lines Melissa discovers secrets about her family that she never could have imagined.  Can two very different women embark on a journey that explores a long-buried need for forgiveness, hope, and redemption? 

My Review: 

This is a beautifully written Christmas story that will be sure to make your heart flutter.  I was drawn in from the first page to the last and read it in one sitting.  I didn’t want the book to end and hope Ms. VanLiere will publish a sequel as the ending was left up to the imagination of the reader.   Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

LOST DECEMBER (RICHARD PAUL EVANS)


Story Description: 

When Luke Crisp graduates from business school, his father, CEO and co-founder of Fortune 500 Crisp’s Copy Centers, is ready to share some good news: he wants to turn the family business over to his son.  But Luke has other plans.  Taking control of his trust fund, Luke leaves home to pursue a life of reckless indulgence. 

But when his funds run out, so do his friends.  Humbled, alone, and too ashamed to ask his father for help, Luke secretly takes a lowly job at one his father’s copy centers.  There he falls in love with a struggling single mother and begins to understand the greatest source of personal joy. 

LOST DECEMBER is Richard Paul Evans’s modern-day holiday version of the biblical story of the prodigal son, a powerful tale of redemption, hope, and the true meaning of love. 

My Review: 

A beautiful written and poignant story about Luke Crisp who graduates from Wharton University with an M.B.A. to prepare for taking over his father’s Fortune 500 photocopy company.  But after meeting up with a gang of friends while living in Philadelphia, the first time he’d ever lived alone, Luke decides to tour Europe with this rowdy group and tells his father he is not, ever, going to take over Crisp’s Copy Centers.  This disappoints his father terribly. 

Once in Europe, Luke is duped and learns a hard, hard lesson that you don’t always know the people you think you know.  This is a wonderful story of love, grace, redemption, betrayal, greed, hope, and most of all the true meaning of love.   

Once again Evans hasn’t disappointed.  I was so enamoured that I read it in one sitting and I highly recommend this novel.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

BENEATH A MARBLE SKY (JOHN SHORS)


Story Description: 

Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love.  This monument would soon become known as the Taj Mahal – a sight famous around the world for its beauty and the emotions it symbolizes.   

Princess Jahanara, the courageous daughter of the emperor and his wife, tells their mesmerizing tale, while sharing her own parallel story of forbidden love with the celebrated architect of the Taj Mahal.   Set during a time of unimaginable wealth and power, murderous sibling rivalries, and cruel despotism, this impressive novel sweeps you away to a historical Hindustan brimming with action and intrigue in an era when, alongside the brutalities of war and oppression, architecture and the art of love and passion reached a pinnacle of perfection.

My Review: 

Although a fictionalized story about the building of the great and majestic Taj Mahal in Hindustan, a huge percentage is steeped in truth.  John Shors did a large amount of research and although a few liberties were taken for reading pleasure, this is the most beautiful and superbly penned saga that I believe all high school history classes should have BENEATH A MARBLE SKY as part of their mandatory curriculum. 

Told in flashbacks to her grand-daughters, Princess Jahanara, the daughter of the emperor and his beloved wife whom he built the structure for, we step back in time to a period rich in culture, tradition, and unbelievable killing and wars.  The clarity and vividness of the writing plunges you onto the dust laden streets.  I felt like I’d been picked from my chair and plunked down into the 17th century clad in period costume living every moment of the story as if I were a part of the skin of Jahanara.  I could hear the sounds, see the sites, and taste the residue of sand and dirt in my mouth and nose. 

Can you imagine someone loving you so deeply to build such an incredible piece of architecture to honour you for the person you were, the life you lived, and to house the remains of your body in death for eternity?  Unbelievable! 

This is such an accomplished piece of writing and John Shors’ architecture of the story, and his writing, equals or greater, to the exquisite beauty of the Taj Mahal itself.  I highly recommend this book and it will be placed in an honoured spot on my keep permanently shelf!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

MUMMY TOLD ME NOT TO TELL (CATHY GLASS)


Story Description: 

Seven-year-old Reece was the last of six siblings to be taken into foster care.  By the time he arrived at Cathy’s his disruptive behaviour had seen him go through four carers in little over a month.  But as an experienced foster carer, with a reputation for handling difficult children, Cathy welcomed Reece into her home despite knowing virtually nothing about his family history.   

Little by little Reece began to warm to Cathy and her family, and learned to trust those around him.  But his total refusal to discuss anything to do with his home life suggested there was more to his behaviour than social services knew or understood.   When Cathy was finally allowed to read his files she discovered the truth was far more shocking then she could ever have imagined… 

My Review: 

I was totally pulled into the story of seven-year-old Reece right from the beginning and have never felt so deeply sorry for a young child in my life as I did Reece.  The abuse he suffered at the hands of his own family is utterly appalling to say the least. 

Cathy Glass, with her many years of experience of caring for children such a Reece, was able to provide him with the love, guidance, support, discipline, morals, and values he needed to grow into a healthy productive member of society.  Without her advocacy of Reece, who knows what would have happened to this poor child.  Thank goodness there are people like Cathy Glass who are willing, out of the goodness of their hearts, to take these children in and give them some semblance of a normal life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE SEEKER (ANN H. GABHART)


Story Description: 

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants.  But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers – a religious group that does not allow marriage – she is left dumbfounded.  And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte’s sister, it is more than she can bear.  With the country – and her own household – on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill.  Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road of unforeseen consequences.   

Ann H. Gabhart brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry; the simple Shakers, and the ravages of war in 1860’s Kentucky to weave a touching story of love, freedom, and forgiveness. 

My Review: 

Charlotte Vance’s fiancĂ©, Edwin Gibley, announces that he is going to join the ‘Shaker’s up in Harmony Hill.  The Shakers “originated in England in the eighteenth century.  Its leader, a woman named Ann Lee, was believed by her followers to be the second coming of Christ in female form.  The Shaker doctrines of celibacy, communal living, and the belief that perfection could be attained in this life were all based on revelations that Mother Ann claimed to have divinely received.  The name Shaker’s came from the very way they worshipped at times when a member received the “spirit”, he or she would begin shaking all over”. 

Charlotte just couldn’t believe Edwin would give up a life of being married to her to live as a single man in an odd religious society.  They were to be wed next month in May.  As if this wasn’t bad enough news, Charlotte’s father arrives home after time away escorting a new wife on his arm!  And, she had to be at least 20 years younger than her father.  Yes, Selena Harley Black was to be the new mistress of Grayson. 

As Charlotte stood outside in the night air watching her father’s home-coming party through the window, she was trying hard to convince Edwin to give up his ridiculous idea of joining the Shaker community.  But, Edwin had heard enough from Charlotte and went back to the party leaving her alone in the darkness when suddenly a male voice said: “He must be an extremely foolish man to turn his back and run from such a beauty” Charlotte was startled and whipped round to find a tall, dark handsome man who introduced himself as Adam Wade, an artist who was commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of the new Mrs. Vance.  Was painting the new Mrs. Vance all that Mr. Wade would be involved in at the Grayson Estate? 

This was a spell-binding piece of historical fiction set in the 1800’s.  The characters were well-developed and I felt myself feeling the emotions of each character.  I found the Shaker doctrines to be interesting and gleaned a lot of information about this old but odd order.  Good reading!