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Chapel Springs Revival
Chapel Springs Revival
by Ane Mulligan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming, Sweet and So Glad I'm Miles Away from Claire..., September 25, 2014
This review is from: Chapel Springs Revival (Paperback)
I am always a little apprehensive when someone I know offers me a book for a review.

I've known Ane Mulligan for years and she has been a staple and mentor in my writing and blogging journey.

Ane's new book Chapel Springs Revival is a long time coming. Mulligan has worked the craft and networks involved in writing. If anyone deserves to be published just because she has given so much to other writers it would be Ane.

But Mulligan isn't just a good writing citizen, she's a good writer with stories to tell that only she can.

Ane introduces us to Claire and Patsy and their lives in a sleepy little village. But even sleepy villages often have underlying currents and pleasant, tranquil settings sometimes need a little shot of passion and life. Chapel Springs is exactly there, and Patsy and Claire are treading in marital currents.

Both women discover that their long marriages have begun to look a lot like the formerly charming town square. Used-to-be, lackluster, dull and barely functional. The ladies, along with some friends and frenemies, set out to refurbish pretty much everything.

Claire, unfortunately, has a special knack for getting into hot water, so as the clean-up and self-improvement campaigns begin, Claire finds herself getting a little too immersed into the projects. My visual of Claire while reading about her antics is a mental merge of Lucille Ball in a panic, Tomb Raider's Lora Croft on a mission, and Mrs. Doubtfire with Mr. Mom on their learning curves. Let's just say that if something could go wrong and Claire is there it will go wrong in the worst way. My favorite scene in the book is at the end when she innocently has a mishap that lands her in an all dressed-up-and-no-way-out pickle.

This story is sweet escapism but there are teaching elements that I appreciated as well. After all, I'm at a certain age and been married for a long while and have struggled with some of the same concerns discussed by Patsy and Claire. I mean, reality isn't a romance novel, it's a whole lot more like working late, worrying about family members and different interests most of the time. So while I loved the escapism and the fact that the book is very well written, I also appreciated the depth and realistic issues faced by the characters.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Hands of Darkness: A Novel (Lure of the Serpent)
Hands of Darkness: A Novel (Lure of the Serpent)
by Heather James
Edition: Paperback
Price: $3.55
41 used & new from $3.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taut, Tense Powerful Read, July 17, 2014
This is the second book in this series, and the second I've read of Heather James's novels. I can't shout from the mountaintop that every person needs to read this book. Just like the first one, Unholy Hunger, the theme of the novel is dark, heavy and almost unbearable.

However, the stories have been powerful and the writing is impressive. James is succinct but descriptive in her narrative. The timing is perfect with tense page turning moments followed by pages where the reader can catch a breath, or slow a heart rate. James even manages to intersperse quite a bit of humor into the storyline, though it could be considered darker in nature as it's the type of coping humor often seen in recovery rooms or station houses.

The main character, Evelyn, is brash and offensive and sarcastic but underneath has a broken heart that has begun to heal again. Cheering her on toward hope and happiness feels right. In the midst of overcoming her own horror from the recent past, reclaiming her marriage and rejoicing in the birth of their new baby, she collides with a serial murderer rapist and is thrown back into a nightmare. It's not just a generic nightmare because of her position as a police consultant either, her friend lands into the path of the monster and Evelyn finds herself clawing against the serpent as he attempts to take more innocent lives.

If you crave suspense, crime drama, police or legal procedurals, or gritty Christian fiction and love a tautly and well written story give it a shot. If you need light and inspirational reading material, steer away.

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
by Kyle Idleman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
361 used & new from $1.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Toe Crushing Read That Should Be A Must..., May 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A great title for one of the most convicting books I've ever read on the "art" of Christian living. This topical book covers many aspects of the American Christian's walk. Because in reality American Christianity isn't exactly lining up with the early church. (Not the clothing/food/lack of travel but the belief, the commitment, the Christlikeness.)

Kyle Idleman handles this sticky wicket subject with self-deprecating humor and uncomfortably squirm-producing honesty. The fan vs follower outline sheds light on areas where we may think we are uber committed and rockin this Christianity thing but in reality we leave our guts and His glory out of the equation. Fans dress the part, they scream until they blow out their vocal chords, they will dress like a mascot and wear odd hats, but when it's all said and done, they don't leave their DNA on the field. Followers. Well... Idleman clearly points out the difference. Kind of like a joke I heard once, what's the difference between a cheese omelette and bacon? Commitment.

You might not agree with all of Idleman's theology. But this is the kind of slap upside the head that every Christian should read. The reality is, the world has a laundry list of hypocriticism, sins and ugliness perpetuated by the "church," don't we who think we are Christ followers be willing to make sure we really are followers?

Mark of Distinction (Price of Privilege)
Mark of Distinction (Price of Privilege)
by Jessica Dotta
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
55 used & new from $9.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of Seat and Fascinating Historical, May 4, 2014
Jessica Dotta’s second book in the Price of Privilege series is one of those books you want to curl up with, closing the world out. I was fortunate enough to have a virus that kept me home from my day job a few days. Oh, the tale of Julia and the men in her life kept me company and my mind of my symptoms.

I cannot wait patiently for the final installment. Oh, the unresolved questions, the unscratched itches, the unsatisfied curiosity. How does Julia’s tale resolve? Dotta is an artist. Her word art is lush and rich. Scents, sounds, sights come to life as Julia discovers exactly what is required of her in a society that is almost as foreign to her as it is to the reader.

Mark of Distinction is full of frills and flourish as Julia is introduced into society and attempts to take her place in an environment that is wary and watchful, waiting to find a juicy morsel to grasp hold of and send her and her father to societal ruination. Scandal is a breath away, lurking, hiding, waiting. And Julia is fully aware of just how scandalous her story is.

Must have final book soon….

The Reichenbach Problem (Reichenbach Trilogy)
The Reichenbach Problem (Reichenbach Trilogy)
by Martin Allison Booth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.27
48 used & new from $1.56

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fictional Behind the Scenes Peek at the World's Greatest Detective..., May 4, 2014
I was sent a copy of The Reinchenbach Problem for review, and although the title wouldn't have made it a must read, the topic made it a have-to in my book. This twisty tale full of intrigue and danger is a fictional account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle getting caught up in a mystery of his own.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes takes to rural Switzerland to sort out his feelings about his larger than life character. His fame, his medical practice and his spiritual seeking created his need to go to a pristine, mountainous area where he could enjoy brisk walks and engage in conversations with friendly locals and other tourists and hopefully hide from the spotlight.

However, as happens in every good story, the plan is changed for Doyle.

Beginning from the second a young man enters Doyle's train compartment and works his awkward self under Doyle's reluctant wing, the good doctor's delightful vacation turns into a cloudy nightmare.

Within hours of his arrival into the pastoral refuge there is a horrible death with the shadow of unanswered questions hanging over it. And, on top of that, Doyle is known by the other tourists. One hands the author a book that he's written and expects that it will change Doyle's life, another needs a little marriage counseling. Then there is the character of Sherlock Holmes…is there a spirit of Sherlock? A seance is suggested, just for the fun of possibly meeting the real Sherlock.

Things spiral out of control, so much so, that the suspicious death seems connected to Arthur Conan Doyle.

Can the creator of the world's most brilliant and quirky detective solve a case without Sherlock's help? And can he do it in time to save his own neck?

I really enjoyed this read. Set in the early 1900's/late 1800's the language is formal and slightly foreign which adds all the more to the story. Readers who get frustrated by prose with heavy vocabulary might find that a deal breaker, but those who love a meaty read should find the prose very satisfactory. And speaking of prose, there are some beautiful paragraphs, the writing is a delight to read. I appreciate a slower moving story that takes time to paint a picture, and this novel does that.

But though there is plenty of scenery and introspection, there is also plenty of activity. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of sitting down and reading the novel over several long sessions. I will reread it to see what I didn't pick up in my shorter snippets spread out over several weeks. There were bursts of activity with a few cliff-hanger moments. I did have a few issues with keeping track of the large cast of characters and the last 1/4 of the middle may have gotten a little boggy for me. But those may be issues completely related to my need to set the book down for several days.

I loved that there were little facts about Arthur Conan Doyle's life thrown in and it was interesting to see his struggles with spiritism vs the Catholic religion play out. His personal life played out a little and hinted that he might have a bit of a wandering eye. After reading it I did read a very short bio about Doyle and indeed the author seems to have done his homework.

Overall, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan this book needs to end up in your to read pile. A great gift idea for friends or family who love a good mystery or Holmes. Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have a little bit of Sherlock Holmes in his blood? Well, you'll just have to read The Reichenbach Problem to find out. This novel is one I'll hang onto and I don't do that with all of them. Definitely a 4+ out of 5.

The Painted Table
The Painted Table
by Suzanne Field
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.31
79 used & new from $1.15

3.0 out of 5 stars Multigenerational Tale of Mental Illness and Redemption..., May 4, 2014
This review is from: The Painted Table (Paperback)
I was intrigued by the premise of this novel. The mind, and the way it can spiral out of control or be transformed, fascinates me.

I struggled through the first half of this book though. I don't care for an omniscient point of view and I tend to be attracted to deeply drawn characters. This novel covers four decades and the lives of several key players. During this vast time span the majority of the prose is narrating snippets of shaping experiences in the characters' lives. I was not able to get to know the characters on that deep level I crave. And because I didn't get to know them, I mostly remained untouched by the struggles and the drama of their lives.

The second half of the book focused primarily on Saffee, the daughter, and her choosing to overcome the stigma and the generational curse of madness, that hovered over her mother.

I can't recommend The Painted Table to readers who want the same experience I like in my fiction because if you don't care for omniscient point of view you will likely find yourself frustrated. However, those who are fascinated by the break down of a mind or how the process of thinking can make or break a person, give it a shot. If you are looking for an inspiring read that paints a picture of how a series of choices and God's love can help break the grip of mental illness or a generational curse then you should be caught up in the story of redemption.

Born of Persuasion (Price of Privilege Book 1)
Born of Persuasion (Price of Privilege Book 1)
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twists and Turns, Puzzles and Suspense, Riveting Read, April 22, 2014
Jessica Dotta has clearly invested heart and soul into her debut novel. The historical richness shines through her skill as a storyteller giving me a peek into a very different time and place. A place when women were at the mercy of the men in their lives. A time when a young girl could find herself without resources, a future, kindness or hope.

Julia finds herself exactly there. Her mother has died and Julia carries a horrible secret about her mother's death. A guardian has stepped in, but anonymously, and with plans for her to away to Scotland to serve as a hired hand. Julia had other plans for her future that included the handsome young Edward who's parents could not consider her as a worthy match. As Julia discovers she can possibly have one more chance to claim his heart she finds that he has betrayed her by becoming a clergyman. Her father had been anti-religion and anti-God. Julia can't marry a man of the cloth. And Edward, knowing full well that she won't embrace his God won't have her after all.

A dashing wealthy man offers protection to Julia and a way for her to avoid Scotland. But at what cost?

As Julia agonizes over the choice she must make, and make quickly as her departure to Scotland looms, pieces of a very bizarre puzzle began to fall all about her. Each decision she ponders and ultimately makes ends up turning over more pieces until she has no hope of picking one that won't leave her in a difficult situation and might very harm the very few dear ones she has left in her life.

Dotta's writing is an artist's brush and with it she paints murals. I think she works in oils because the work is pungent with realism and all sense awakening descriptions. A heavy melancholy hangs over the work like an anemic British sun that fights to bring light through the shroud of doom. Those who love the works of the greats of the time period such as Austen should find much to love in this novel.

Hamilton Beach 1.7L Stainless Steel Electric Kettle 40894
Hamilton Beach 1.7L Stainless Steel Electric Kettle 40894
Price: $31.49
56 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hamilton Beach's Customer Service Makes This a 4., April 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am happy to say that I'm pleased with this appliance. I could've been displeased very easily because the first one I received worked only a few days, intermittently.

I ordered this particular model without looking at reviews. I went with it because my office has an electric water kettle and it's just really convenient. That sucker has lasted for years. But it's pretty blah looking and I loved the looks of this little guy. Red. So I checked out all the red ones and went with the one with the greatest water capacity in my price range.

Upon opening the box my husband and I were both concerned that the switch was lightweight. And when it didn't work (the switch kept popping and turning the unit off) that was confirmed. I was not amused. Even though Amazon has a return policy I was annoyed enough to email Hamilton Beach's customer service department with my complaint. They responded, asked a few questions, gave me a satisfactory solution and I got a replacement machine. So. I've got to say I'm very impressed with their speed, professionalism and their standing by the name they've earned in small appliances. Kudos.

I can tell you that the new machine works like a dream. The switch still looks more fragile than others I've seen. The kettle doesn't have a temperature setting (though that's my fault to overlook the feature I would have liked) and one other issue is that the lid fits very tight and the handle doesn't allow access for big hands. My hands are small and I have decent strength so it's not a big deal, but if you have big hands or arthritis or any issues you might want to consider that, too.

I should have gone with one that I could choose the water temperature. But I went with color. However, I have discovered that I can run downstairs, flip the simple switch and go about my morning routine and thirty minutes later the water is right where I want it. Or I can flip the switch and let it run for 4 and 1/2 minutes rather than the 5 1/2 to 6 minutes it takes to boil. Either way works. I didn't have that luxury with my stove top tea pot. And that was one of the reasons I wanted this convenient appliance to give me options in our morning pot of French press coffee.

Wildwood Creek: A Novel
Wildwood Creek: A Novel
by Lisa Wingate
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
73 used & new from $1.96

5.0 out of 5 stars History Meets Reality Television...Equals Fascinating Story., April 22, 2014
Wildwood Creek has moved Lisa Wingate to favorite authors status.

This is only the 2nd novel of hers that I've read and now I feel compelled to read them all.

Why? Story, characters, writing.

First let's talk about story. Wildwood Creek is set in modern day and in 1861. Allie Kirkwood is eking out a dream she's had ever since her father tragically died, to pick up where he left off, making movies. Her mother and stepfather have no patience left for the nonsense of the life she is choosing. She discovers a big break, a chance to be behind the scenes on a historical reality show directed by one of the best and most powerful men in the business. Getting and keeping this job, helping recreate a mysterious 1861 Wildwood Texas, will give her what she needs to finally grasp her dreams.

Bonnie Rose is running from the horror of her past. As a young girl she and her younger sister were captured by a vicious tribe and Bonnie loses nearly everything, including her parents. She has a chance to move far away from the talk, the arched glances, the knowledge of who she is and what she has become, and what was taken from her, to make a better life for Maggie May and her. She signs up to teach in Wildwood, Texas.

The narrative ramps up tension as each woman discovers pieces of information, fragments of who she is, and adversity in their respective time frames. The adversity is tense. Disappearances occur in Wildwood in 1861 and the townspeople begin to wonder if Bonnie isn't a witch, the Queen of the River People. As the pounding panic hits a crescendo Bonnie's life is in danger. In the retelling of the story of Bonnie Rose, Allie finds herself falling deeper and deeper into the story of Wildwood, far deeper than she's comfortable with. And she breaks a cardinal rule that could get her removed from the set and ruin her dreams.

The story is enough to recommend the book, but there's more. The characters and writing go hand in hand. Each woman is different, with different ghosts that haunt, different fears that paralyze, but they are similar to each other in that they haven't fully lost the ability to hope. Wingate expertly handles backstory, much of the trauma they've each suffered is merely hinted at, but the characterization clearly shows how deep the trauma was and how it shaped the women. The writing is transcendent in that as soon as I began reading I became unaware of the words and was pulled completely into the story and the settings through my senses and through the deep characterization.

My only complaint is that I wanted more. I wasn't ready for the story to end and to lose touch with the characters.

If you are fascinated by history or reality television you should probably look into this one. If you want a good story that sucks you in and keeps you turning pages way past bedtime. If you love meaty writing and storytelling you really need to check into Wingate.

Once Upon a Winter's Heart
Once Upon a Winter's Heart
by Melody Carlson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.00
85 used & new from $0.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet as a Heart Full of Chocolates..., April 12, 2014
Emma's life is in transition and somewhere along the way she has lost all hope in the possibility of happy-ever-afters.

Out of family obligation and after quitting her job she trudges to her grandmother's home to help grandma deal with the loss of the last true romantic man in the world. Emma discovers that her mother is going to be bunking with them as well. Her own parents are calling it quits.

With heavy heart and a belly full of bitter thoughts Emma heads to the family bookstore to pick up the Valentine decorating gauntlet. A friend of her grandfather lives above the bookstore and stops in because the lights are on. Lane stays to help because Valentine's Day was Poppi's favorite holiday. Emma and Lane spend a romantic evening decorating.

Emma wakes with a new spring in her step and a flicker of hope in her heart until she finds out Lane is her sister's love interest.

Lovers of sweet romance should find much to like in this little novel. Emma struggles with feeling like the ugly duckling and carrying around the burden of not believing in love. By the book's end she had bloomed. Plenty of sister and mom drama fills the novel so those who appreciate a little sisterly sparring will appreciate this element. Fans of wine and chocolate and Dean Martin will likely love this sweet little read.

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