Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Return


Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family's rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans--but then she never had to. Not until the night she's taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. Facing brutality and hardship, Betsy finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the feelings she's developing for a native man who encourages her to see God in all circumstances. 

Greatly anguished by Betsy's captivity, Hans turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. She responds eagerly, overlooking troubling signs of Hans's hunger for revenge. But if Betsy is ever restored to the Amish, will things between Hans and Tessa have gone too far? 

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.
(excerpt from back of book)


I am not a natural fan of  Amish fiction. That's why it takes a very special author to draw  me back into that world. Suzanne Woods  Fisher is just such an author and The Return is the latest of her books to bring me in.

One of the things I appreciate most about Fisher's books  is her characters. Without fail she brings forward characters  with hopes, dreams, and emotions  that  transcend the genre and are simply human. In The Return she offers multiple characters, most  notably Tessa and Betsy. I really enjoyed Tessa's character and I have a feeling Fisher remembers that age well as she  writes it with such accuracy.  Tessa's hopes and dreams regarding  Hans, her  envy of Betsy, her own wrestling with her own maturing made for great  reading and held the story solidly together.

Betsy also shone in both in her own way  as she wrestled through grief and forgiveness as well  as  a contrast to both Tessa and Hans. While I found Tessa more engaging it's Betsy that  begs reflection and shows her strength in that manner.

The plot was also interesting. I appreciated Fisher's use of Bairn to advocate for both the settlers and the aboriginals in the story.  While I am unfamiliar with the events the story was based around, Fisher includes lots of fun details including the Conestoga wagons and horses as well as people  like Benjamin Franklin helped anchor the story within its setting helping and richness and depth to the events. I love  when a story adds enough history to inspire me to do further research and I've definitely been inspired to read up on the real life accounts.

Overall, Fisher has brought another solid book that serves to add to its series or act as an enjoyable stand alone.
4 out 5  stars

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Name Unknown by Rosanna M. White

A Name Unknown


Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins who helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets–instead they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to question whether she can continue in this life when she’s offered the challenge of a lifetime–determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. After all how does one steal a family’s history, their very name?  
(excerpt from back of book)


Roseanna M. White is one of those authors that  makes my eyes light up when I see a new release. While I'm still relatively new to her works, they have yet to disappoint and in the case of A Name Unknown   continue to reach new heights.

First and foremost  plot (we'll get to characters later). I love how White builds and weaves her plot lines. This book has spunk and managed to keep me guessing until the very end (the plot twist, oh the wonderful plot twists). White doesn't skip on the adventure in this novel as readers  are taken through spies and intrigue, village distrust, and spiritual questioning as her characters attempt to navigate a world on the brink of change and war. White's ability to bring trivia to life in her plots is a wonderful  device that certainly helped  bring this reader along  as the plot does establish itself rather slowly in the early chapters. In hindsight, for those  who push through the slower chapters, they'll find themselves  rewarded with a  well paced novel the speed reflecting the slow build and wait of the political events surrounding our characters  with very personal trials.

Which brings us to our characters, I loved the main duo White brings to life here. Peter is an amazing hero in his unassuming ways. The fact that White  chooses to highlight a character with a speech impediment was pretty exciting  as representation  is awesome. That said, I just loved how instead of the swashbuckling hero we find in Peter's imagination readers see the less often championed strength of quiet courage and moral strength.

Adding to this delightful change, instead of  a whimsical or demure heroine we get spunky Rosemary, a  thief  on the  road to a  different life either through the next score or spiritual journeying. Her  honest frustrations, willingness to throw a punch, and genuine love for those who  were granted entrance into her heart made for a refreshing and energizing counterbalance to Peter.  


It goes without saying  Shadows of England is definitely a series to be  watching and A Name Unknown  brings a solid foundation and high expectations for book 2.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Cover Art



A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a cafĂ© . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and she risks her life to conceal the pilot from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?
(excerpt from back of book)

With so many historical fictions based during WWII I had to go back and read the description again when I realized Kate Breslin's newest novel is actually based in WWI. Once I cleared up my generational confusion I found myself plunged into a world with intrigue, romance, and wartime redemption.

I confess, WWI is not in my wheelhouse of studies so  for those readers looking for historically accurate details I cannot confirm or deny anything. For readers looking for an engaging page turning I can heartily confirm this book is worth looking into.

I loved the complexity of Evelyn in this novel. While she bares many of the normal traits I'd expect in a heroine she had layers of complexity as she works through her regrets stemming from wartime decisions and her connection to the downed pilot. I enjoyed the realism  Breslin works into her characters dreams and fears as well as the timeline (though most of it is pre-story).

Speaking of story, I loved  the story and found Breslin's decision to include a back and forth between the main story and three years earlier was one that both heightens  character development and interest as well as the intrigue of the stories. Thanks to the slow unfolding of Marche's reasons for guilt just feels natural and shows Breslin's skill as an author.

One thing I did notice about Breslin's work is that, while her main characters are delightful and complex, I found the secondary characters to be less dynamic in their own stories. I had no problem viewing this book as a one-shot as there wasn't enough interest in the other characters to draw the story further.


Overall, High as the Heavens was an exciting page turner  that soared above my expectations.

4 out of 5 stars  




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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Night Night, Train by Amy Parker


Night Night, Train is a unique children's tale following a family of dogs taking a trip to Sleepytown and all the things they see and do along the way.

At first, I was a little confused by the structure of the page. Each set of pages has two sections of text. One is in simple rhyming pairs of to the side of the  page. The other is a large block of text giving a more detail account of the dog's train based adventures. I was a little confused as the differing structures and rhyme schemes do not lend themselves to easily move from one segment to the next. However, separately they are brilliant. The easier rhyming section is perfect for my two year old's love of rhythm and shorter attention span while the larger story section fits my older child's skill and interest. While I'm not sure if that was the intended purpose it makes this book far more interesting for our whole family (especially as Mama and Daddy aren't reading the identical text every time, hurrah for variety)

The pictures really set the stage no matter how the story is read. With bright, inviting colours Night Night, Train welcomes kids into the story. I especially enjoyed how there were multiple pictures highlighting the exterior and showing kids exactly how the train looks. As Mom to a train obsessed kiddo it's surprising how often train books don't include good pictures of the train itself and as my 4 year old will tell you that's kind of the point.

For readers looking for a strong biblical lesson, this won't be your book.  Although a Tommy Nelson book, Biblical matters are mentioned in only two places choosing to focus more on the train adventure than anything more consequential.

That said, once you get over the differing structure schemes of the text Night Night Train proves to be a charming bedtime adventure that will help your kids get ready for bed.

Mama gives 3.5 stars while my little one gives it 4.5 stars out of 5 because, well, trains :)


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, July 10, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancĂ©, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.
(excerpt from back of book)


I started reading On Love's Gentle Shore with mixed feelings. By all accounts, this appears to be the last installment in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series and I am not sure I'm ready to say goodbye to the characters and world of North Rustico. Keeping that in mind, On Love's Gentle Shore was a great read and easily suitable for new and old fans of the series (although I highly recommend new fans find books 1 and 2 so that they can get a full appreciation of the little details Johnson resolves).

For older fans of the series, Johnson has beautifully woven in the characters we love with Marie, Caden, and Aretha all making strong appearances in the third novel, each adding to Natalie's story without taking away from her central focus. I love how Johnson is able to stay true to her characters and world while extending the story outwards as each of these ladies still shine in their roles. For Marie, On Love's Gentle Shore brings so much change, I love how her story line is brought to a resolution that seems so fitting. Aretha really shone for me, however. Although earlier books have talked about her past, Natalie's reappearance in North Rustico allows readers to see more of Aretha's character during the past. While it had direct impact on the plot it also felt like a bit of a shout out for Aretha lovers and I was so grateful to see this lady have her moment in the closing pages of the novel.

For newcomers, Natalie O'Ryan and Justin Kane provide a rollercoaster of emotions as they work out forgiveness, redemption, and relationships. Natalie is a fiery character who Liz has softened with realistic vulnerabilities. Natalie's backstory is painfully realistic and adds a sharper edge than some readers may expect from a Christian romance. That said, I think Johnson handles each issue and dimension she adds into her story with care and the mess her characters find themselves in make the second chance all the sweeter.

Speaking of which, the love story. Natalie O'Ryan finds herself in an odd love triangle throughout most of the book and I loved every minute of it. I normally hate triangles but it this case it really helps highlight the dimensions and choices in Natalie's life. This  definitely isn't a flowery romance novel but I loved the realism of it from flying potatoes to late nights at the lighthouse. This realism made the themes of forgiveness and second chances all the more powerful as readers were invited into flawed characters trying to make sense of big concepts and messy scenarios. 

Prince Edward Island Dreams is a series that only disappoints in it's lack of a 4th book ;) I highly recommend to fans of Christian fiction or P.E.I.

4.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Revell and Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest opinion."

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Beautiful Word Adult Coloring Book




The Beautiful Word  is one of the latest offerings in Zondervan's line of colouring books. Combining the more intricate pictures customary of adult colouring books with scripture verses for a fuller and more versatile experience.  

As far as colouring books  go, The Beautiful Word is a solid option for enthusiasts. 
The paper has a great feel for colouring. I was nervous to try markers due to bleed through potential but found pencil crayons worked well (I couldn't get the crayons away from my 2 year old long enough to test those). The pictures themselves have a great selection of images flowing from simple to detailed and with varying levels of difficulty. 
I really appreciate a book with selection as it allows me to find pictures that will draw me in regardless of my mood.

The variety also allows users to find the right level of difficulty to help them focus on the accompanying Scripture. This  book really tries to facilitate time for reflection and contemplation and,in my case, I found them to be fairly successful. 

The one area I didn't feel was quite as developed was the hand lettering section. Now, admittedly, hand lettering is not an area I have much experience in. That said, the tutorial read more as an introduction with tips rather than an explanation and seemed better suited for people who were interested enough to google further or had more exposure than just having heard the term like myself. 

The Beautiful Word is definitely filled with beauty, be it pictorial or words,  and would be a welcome addition to any creative or reflective time.

4 out of 5 stars.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, June 23, 2017

One Dominion by Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley

One Dominion







One Dominion: Celebrating Canada, Prepared for a Purpose invites readers into an exploratory journey through Canada’s history, highlighting key moments of faith and Christian influence, from the founding of educational institutions and hospitals, to the creation of countless charitable organizations and architectural masterpieces. With inspiring accounts of individuals who founded our country upon the Living Word of God, One Dominion helps readers uncover a deeper understanding of Canada’s foundations and futures, through Scripture and the tests of faith passed by those who have gone before.
(Press description)

With the upcoming celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, there has  been a flurry of Canadian pride and  celebration.  When I heard that the Bible League of Canada had released their own book chronically key points and people from Canada's history of faith I was curious to learn more about this often overlooked aspect of Canadian history.


One of the biggest strengths of this book is the pictures. The gorgeous photo layouts and pictorial timeline give a "coffee table" feel to this book. The bright colours and smart layout make it so easy to pick up and flip through casually when you're short on time. My kids loved seeing the "Canada pictures"and it served as a great conversation starter. That said, I do wish the pictures had been labelled. There were some pictures I would have loved to look up the area or history but couldn't as there was no identifying marks.

It also seemed as though One Dominion suffers from a slight identity crisis. At different points in the book I felt like I was reading a  publicity promo for Canada, others felt  like a history book, still others felt like a Bible League promotional. In the end, it just felt like the book had too many voices and not enough central foundation pulling it together. It was far too  easy to loose track of what the point was being made. In all honesty, I wish there had been more historical stories, especially of the style they used in the inserts. These sections were the textual highlight filled with interesting, personal stories of Canadians of faith and the impact  they had on their communities  as  a result.

While Canada may pride itself on being a mosaic, trying to replicate it within the book just felt too rushed and chaotic. The book needed to be more narrowed down and, perhaps, a few pages longer.

3  out of 5 stars