Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Keeping Secrets by Donna Hechler Porter

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Title: Keeping Secrets

Author: Donna Hechler Porter

Series: Children of the Light #1

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult

**4.5 stars**

A very interesting historical fiction that kept me guessing at every turn. Keeping Secrets, book one of the Children of Light series, brought the world of Quakers Amon Cayle and Mary McKechnie of the 1750s to life.

Amon is a widower and a father, trying to take care of his family after the tragic loss of his wife, Abigail, and keep in good standings with the Society of Friends. Not to mention, he needs a seamstress.
     Mary has also endured the loss of a spouse, and is working desperately to provide for all her daughters. When Amon offers her a job, she’s quick to turn it down, all too aware of her and Amon’s past.
     David is the oldest son of Amon Cayle. Trying to stay out of the way of his wily cousin, Jackson, and keep the peace with his papa, he hardly noticed when a certain girl becomes ever so important to him.
      Annie knows all too much about keeping quiet about things. Threatened by her uncle, she painfully tries to keep her mother, Mary, from worrying and from the truth. All the while, she watched her family get entangled with the Cayle family … even as she herself does.

This novel definitely had the right title. Keeping Secrets. That’s what Amon, Mary, David, and Annie did. Secrets from the past. Secrets from the present. Secrets that will harm. Secrets that will heal. All bottled up inside a person, something is liable to go wrong. I was captivated almost at once. Keeping Secrets taught many lessons in a gently flowing, real-life, almost vague, but not really, sort of way. Everything seemed so befuddled at times, but it all came together in the end. (Well … except for one thing, and that has me anxious to read the next book in this series, Breaking Promises!)

Anyway, perhaps the first 90 pages were just kind of me getting into the book. Then I became hooked. This was one book that I just couldn’t figure out what was going on, who did it, what the secrets added up to. It kept me quite entertained, and I was always happy to come back to the pages of this novel! Amon and Mary, but especially David and Annie, were lovely characters to walk along with, discover, and heal with. Amon and Mary’s relationship was quite interesting, seeing as they have a past and all. Donna Porter indeed created a story that came to life, a plot that drew you in, and an ending that left you wishing for the next book so you could continue the journey!

Some things I didn’t like as much. Hmm … the slaves. Though that was indeed a normal thing of the 1700s, it felt weird reading about people as if they were property. They were treated kindly, perhaps more like servants, but they were still just slaves.

Another thing I thought I’d mention, though I found things that very much marked Keeping Secrets as a Christian book, there wasn’t much … well, not much of spiritual growth maybe. But it was pointed out that Amon and Mary both confessed Jesus Christ as their Savior, and some very good values were discussed and thought through in this book I felt.

Oh, and probably sixteen or so and up for the romance, and some scandal mentioned.

So yes, Keeping Secrets was a lovely historical read. One of those novels that doesn’t just feel like a fluffy, dreamy story. The characters were real-like, they had flaws and struggles and sordid pasts. They healed, and they messed up, and they forgave again. It was wonderful to watch this tale come together.

I eagerly await Breaking Promises!

I received a copy of Keeping Secrets from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Musings ... Am I Beautiful Enough?

To all women… have you ever looked into the mirror and thought: “I’m ugly. I’m fat. I’m worthless. Not good enough. Have to be better, have to look more beautiful, stylish, thin, so people will like me.”

Have you ever listened to those lies?

(Found on

I have. And they are lies. Lies from the Enemy. And when you listen to them like they’re “logic” and feel bad about/for yourself, you’re only letting the Enemy win.

So I think it’s time to stand up. Fight back. Why are we letting the Father of lies have a hold on us, when he has no right at all?

Who ever said that beautiful meant ONLY blonde, blue-eyed, and thin? Probably the same kind of people who once said a real lady must have a waist abnormally and unhealthily tiny and thus wear a corset day and night. Or the ones who said that red hair was really the best, so that all women basically shaved off their own unique locks to don red wigs.

Why must we all look the same? Our Creator probably looks down and shakes His head, wondering why all of His daughters whom He specially crafted each unique and beautiful and exactly the way they should be, are running around half crazed trying to look like some photo-shopped model on the pages of a magazine.

It’s time to realize that YOU are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, created in the image of God, lovingly crafted by the Creator Himself. Do you think you know better than Him that you believe you should be changed in this way or that?

Why do you want to look like a magazine model who is not only photo-shopped, but probably has a whole different shape/make-up than you?

No matter what anyone says, you should look like you. And shine as your own, unique self. Don’t hide your natural beauty under tons of makeup, don’t run yourself sick to try to look like that petite girl next door.

Just be happy and content as the way God made you. And if you like dressing up with makeup, feeling feminine with jewelry, or exercising for better health, that’s great. Just don’t do it like you have to “better” yourself.

You are not just an image. You have a heart and a soul! Your outward appearance doesn’t make you who you are, but your inward.
MIRROR, MIRROR by Tricia Brock

TRY by Colbie Caillat

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: With Every Breath

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Title: With Every Breath

Author: Elizabeth Camden

Series: Standalone

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult

**5 stars**

Not only thoroughly engrossing, but also richly accented with a thought-provoking message, With Every Breath was a novel well worth reading. Elizabeth Camden does seem to have a habit of making such books. She mixes romance and faith with interesting, historically-rich happenings—in this case, the medical battle against tuberculosis. I find I really, really enjoy this peek at history ... as it is portrayed in a style that leaves you intrigued.

In this story, we meet Kate Livingston, a young widow with brains, determination, and a warm, caring heart. She does have a flaw ... her abnormally-consuming fear. That presents a problem as she crosses paths with a doctor full of secrets, and starts to fall in love.
Dr. T. M. Kendall is determined to find a cure for tuberculosis, the awful disease that is claiming lives right and left. He faithfully works with his ill patients, who will all be dead within the year most likely, despite hate letters being sent his way, and one unforgettable young woman's interest.

I was captivated at once by With Every Breath. It was fascinating to walk into a tuberculosis hospital searching for a cure in the late 1800s, and see what the hopeless disease was like, how things were done. Well, it was fascinating and terrible all at once. It definitely gives you a deep appreciation for all those doctors who worked so hard to learn more about/find cures for fatal illnesses. I learned a lot. I just love when a novel does that for me!

Trevor was a wonderful character; very likeable despite his frosty demeanor. At times, his heartless quips were frustrating; but once you learned his background and past and all that, they were understandable and even relatable. Overall, a very real character ... he very much did his part to really make the story.
Kate was slightly annoying at times, but mostly very relatable as well. In fact, I found myself thinking, “Hmm, I struggle with that too.” I felt her pain, her fear, her hopelessness. It was awesome to watch her overcome some of her struggles; I feel Elizabeth Camden brought that about quite flawlessly.

Also, I felt Elizabeth Camden really made the faith element of this story bigger than in some of her other books, perhaps. As I mentioned above, a really amazing message. And the romance, it wasn't all-consuming, can't-live-without-you; but rather ... well, read this story and you'll see. It came about in a very amazing way, and I really loved it! Talk about a love story orchestrated by God. ^_^

So with two flawed but lovely characters, a study of tuberculosis, a sinister mystery, a beautiful romance, and faith woven flawlessly into the seams of this story, With Every Breath was a great historical fiction. A favorite!

I received a free copy of With Every Breath from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Movie Review: The Ultimate Life

My Review (3.5 stars):
     The Ultimate Life (2013) is a sequel to the movie, The Ultimate Gift (2012). In the former, Jason has become a whole different man from the spoiled, selfish one he used to be. After Emily's death, he and Alexia have continued to grow closer. But Jason still hasn't quite figured out how to cherish the important things in his life—and he may just need to read of his Grandfather Red's mistakes to realize that.
     Despite having Jason (Logan Bartholomew) on its cover, The Ultimate Life (2013) mostly delves into the journal of Red, and brings his past to life. ...Growing up poor, always being pushed down, running with hobos, meeting his pretty future wife, going into the oil business... Though it was interesting, things seemed to happen a little too quickly, and a bit choppy/in-organized. Hannah (Red's girlfriend), is a perky, little redhead in the first part of his story, but a few years later, suddenly turns into a tall, black-haired, totally different-looking lady. At least I thought she looked totally different; so that was a disappointment for me.
     I don't know. It just didn't leave me very satisfied, though it had a very sweet ending. I guess I just felt The Ultimate Gift (2012) was done better; and I was expecting something like that, since The Ultimate Life (2013) IS the sequel. Jason's story (The Ultimate Gift) of becoming a new man was just way more convincing to me than Red's (The Ultimate Life) for some reason. But, you may see it differently!
     So, The Ultimate Life (2013) didn't measure up to my expectations, but it was still a good movie in and of itself. It taught some important lessons. It had some really nice parts. It might just be a pleasant movie for you.
     Oh, some warnings. There's a war scene that's intense and quite bloody... little children be cautioned! Also, on a more minimal note, some crazy dancing in another scene (I've come to expect that from around World War II era movies).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin

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Title: In Perfect Time

Author: Sarah Sundin

Series: Wings of the Nightingale #3

Genre: Historical

Audience: Adult

**4 stars**

No one can write World War II tales quite like Sarah Sundin. In Perfect Time is the third book in the series Wings of the Nightingale, and we dive back into the world of flight nurses, plane crashes, and unexpected true love.

Kay's story finally comes to life. Being the group beauty, she accustomed to men flocking behind her, and having a new date for each day of the week. With her looks, she seeks to control men, and get back at her father for the deep wounds he caused her. Meanwhile, Cooper is a fun-loving guy who plays practical jokes and flies planes, some of which Kay is a nurse on. But beneath his smiling exterior, he also holds deep scars, and has a mysterious aversion to women.

In Perfect Time was an interesting, historically-rich tale. It was fascinating to look beneath common exteriors, and into what was going on in a seemingly “figured-out” person's life. I enjoyed the surprising twist Sarah Sundin put at the near end also. Watching everything come to a lovely conclusion for all the dear characters was wonderful! *smiles* The faith matters were deep, and poignant, and that was very appreciated as well! The message was really good. I loved some of the analogies Cooper used when speaking of God!

A down for me of the story, was the seemingly repetitive nature of Cooper and Kay's relationship. It got a little tiring after awhile, and I wished for a different tension/conflict. It ended so sweetly, that it was just about made up for. But throughout the book, it just seemed to make it drag. Also, the physical side of some relationships seemed to come too quickly ... that's just my opinion with that anyway.

Still a great tale though. I just love reading about World War II through this author's writings! The flight nurses are fascinating. The different army routines intriguing. Sarah Sundin definitely puts plenty of spice and intrigue into her stories. I am looking forward to reading her upcoming series!

I received a free copy of In Perfect Time from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Silver Rose ABC: Darkness

Most fantasy stories have the theme of good versus evil. Silver Rose is no different. Except I call it Light versus Darkness. And it all has a little more spiritual touch.

Anyway, that will be our topic of Silver Rose for today, Darkness.

In the beginning of the story, we find Karalee Rose in a dark place, fleeing. Later, she looses her memories; but is plagued by nightmares of blackness and fear.

In this story, the ultimate villain is the author of darkness. He thrives in darkness, and in bringing darkness to mortal hearts. He sends out his loyal workers, black spirits, to wreak havoc in the minds of the uncertain. The ultimate enemy of the true King, the Keeper of Darkness strives to keep any and all souls from embracing Light.

Since Silver Rose is an allegory, you’ve probably guessed that this Keeper of Darkness represents Satan in my story. And the true King of Kings represents God/Christ.

It really has been a magnificent journey … I’ve learned a lot of things. And as I read back through Silver Rose (by the way, I’m finished my first edit!), I often stop and stare at a paragraph and think, “Wow. God, you must have inspired that.” It’s been a cool spiritual journey actually.

Anyway, I’ll warn you upfront that the allegory in this fantasy isn’t all that subtle. I’m not trying to be preachy. I don’t really feel like it’s preachy. Silver Rose just happened, guys. Some of it was inspired from personal experience and struggle … though I’m not really sure how or why it got in there. All in all, Silver Rose tells the story of a flawed, wounded young woman trying to fight back against darkness. She’s not perfect; sometimes she slips and falls. Just like we all do.

I kind of got off topic, I know. But anyway, I hope you will enjoy this story if you ever happen to read it … a story with darkness in it, but ultimately about the Light! ^_^

(Pictures found on

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: In the Field of Grace

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Title: In the Field of Grace

Author: Tessa Afshare

Series: Standalone

Genre: Historical/Biblical Retelling

Audience: Adult
**4 stars**

In the Field of Grace is Tessa Afshar’s fourth book. Her first is about Rahab, the second two about Nehemiah’s niece, and this particular one about Ruth. Tessa writes lovely, riveting tales based on Biblical facts; and even ties her books together! I love the tie between Pearl in the Sand (Rahab’s story), and In the Field of Grace (Ruth’s story).

Obviously, there’s a lot of things that Tessa Afshar adds, as the Biblical story of Ruth is rather simple and not all details are explained. But In the Field of Grace follows pretty nicely, and I feel it captures the personality of Ruth—truly an extraordinary woman! *smiles*

It’s a deep, touching, and very thoughtful book all in all. One of the themes is trusting God, surrendering to Him. Makes you think, for sure.

I felt there was a lot packed in here for a smaller book, and I guess it can feel like it drags on a little. But I read it all in one day and found it quite the charming, heartfelt story. Ruth’s story is really a beautiful one. For one, God using a Moabite in the lineage of Christ. Pretty neat.

Though not exactly a favorite book, In the Field of Grace was definitely a favorite of Biblical fiction.

Book Review: Abandoned Memories by MaryLu Tyndall

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Title: Abandoned Memories

Author: MaryLu Tyndall

Series: Escape to Paradise #3

Genre: Historical/Speculative Fiction

Audience: Adult


Something sinister lurks in the lush Brazilian jungle ...

It is 1866 and the fledgling Confederate colony of New Hope is Angeline Moore’s last chance at a normal life. Running from the law, she longs to make a fresh start in this new Southern Utopia. But a series of strange disasters threaten to destroy everything the colonists have worked for, and strange visions threaten to reveal a past Angeline is desperate to hide.

James Callaway failed at both doctoring and preaching, but he hopes that his move to Brazil will give him another chance to become the spiritual leader he so desires. He longs to create a world free from the immorality that plagued every street corner back home and ruined his life. And he believes Angeline is just the sort of refined woman he needs to keep him on the right track.

But something is amiss in New Hope: haunting visions, the discovery of crypts beneath an ancient temple, and an archaic Hebrew book, set the colonists’ fears on edge. When one of their own is murdered, a series of disasters leads them to believe God has brought them to Brazil to defeat an evil that, if unleashed, could wreak havoc on the entire world.

**4 stars**

Abandoned Memories is the third and final book in the ESCAPE TO PARADISE series by Marylu Tyndall.

In here, we finally delve into the life of the mysterious Angeline Moore. And also the rather complex doctor/preacher, James Callaway. Both characters are majorly flawed; yet they truly care about their friends and each other. Determined to destroy an ancient evil, James tries to ignore the whispers from his past. Meanwhile, Angeline is trying to destroy her own past, but is finding it creeps up in the most unlikely places. To make matters worse, a romance is blossoming between the two that simply can’t continue. So were evil beasts roam free, and the dirty past ever looms, will James and Angeline be able to find forgiveness and a path to God’s heart?

While Abandoned Memories all in all was really a fantastic book, it just left me uninterested a many parts. Partly because I wasn’t in a very good reading mood, and partly because … I don’t know. Things become a little repetitive I think.

And I wasn’t exactly sure where Marylu Tyndall was going with all her crazy fantasy ideas smack in the middle of post-Civil War days. That part actually turned out quite well, though. I found myself really fascinated by this spiritual theme, and the truth behind it. Deception, Delusion, Destruction … yeah, those are beasts alright! I wasn’t quite sure about the ending [well, the epilogue was quite interesting and almost funny! *smiles*]; but all in all the “fantasy” element of Abandoned Memories was quite powerful and thought-provoking. A great lesson.

This book was rather deep. Some dark, sad issues were kind of sorted through. Because of that, I would caution younger readers on this book. Older teen to adult would be the preferred audience I think.

So yes, if you want a historical-romance with a rather startling spiritual side, do pick up the ESCAPE TO PARADISE series. It’s a great series overall.