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Take a Chance on Me by Take a Chance on Me by
Ivy has moved into a small town with the goal of finally finding that place to belong. I was touched by...
The Scent of Lilacs by The Scent of Lilacs by
When I began to read "The Scent of  Lilacs," I wasn't sure what to expect.  I could tell that the book was going to be based in the past and that seemed just perfect for me. ...
Poison Town by Poison Town by
Poison Town is a story fueled with even more tension than the first novel in this series "Fear Has A Name," and THAT is saying something! Jack Crittendon is hot on the heels of a story that seems...

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Outstanding Christian Romance | Posted February-21-2015
Ivy has moved into a small town with the goal of finally finding that place to belong. I was touched by this, because of being a person who lived a bit of a gypsy sort of traveling life, I could relate to wanting to belong in one special place. I didn't grasp Ivy's background until it unfolded in the story, but as it was revealed, it was definitely a story that sprang empathy in my heart. She was completely vulnerable and yet tried so hard to be strong at moments.



One doesn't expect a quick little auction date to become so complicated, but Ivy quickly is pulled into Darek's orbit as she sees the thoughtfulness behind the wall of protection that this man has built up. Of course Darek doesn't just blossom into this flower of goodness by merely being around Ivy. There are plenty of downs before the ups come into play. One of the most redeeming qualities that Darek has in the beginning is his fierce love for his five-year-old son Tiger. There is a lot of loss in Darek's life and his own darkness that he has to contend with.



The book doesn't just sit you in the middle of Ivy and Darek's story, and that is one of the things I love. More relationships are involved in this story, and I'll be honest, I immediately was rooting for the secondary though pretty much parallel romance. In fact, there were definitely times that I was more invested in it than Darek and Ivy. That is how good this book is! There is a lot going on, but it all runs seemlessly and each moment touches the other.



Not only is the reader placed into this beautiful small Minnesota Town called Deep Haven, but you really feel invested in the town and in the people. I am a very visual reader, but not every book has invited me in and held me in so easily. I didn't want to put the book down, but I also didn't want to finish the story too soon. It was an interesting way to read.



My favorite parts:



-I have a love/hate relationship with romance. I love a good love story, but I don't have the same opinion on what that means as some of my friends do. I need to see challenge. I have lived long enough on this planet to know that love rarely comes easily. Just as a rose is beautiful it is also thorny and can wound you deeply if you grasp it without care. Romance and love are the same way to me. If a love story just falls into perfect place, I roll my eyes, slip the book back down onto the table and never pick it up again. I don't care for dreamy green-eyed beauties who of course have no idea how stunning they are even though everyone bumps into walls when they pass by. You know the type that the authors write all their strengths as if they were weaknesses like we have been taught to do in job interviews. I hope what I am saying makes sense here. One of the things that kept me reading is the reality found in this work of fiction.



-There is a Christian message of forgiveness and God's love that are so richly shared in such an honest and open fashion that you cannot remotely calle it heavy handed or an add in. So often I have read a Christian fiction book where it seems that the message has been shoved into a convenient spot. This story has sprinklings of a message of faith and also rich pools that invite you into the love of the Lord. I wholly appreciated the way the author approached this and I admired the way she handled it.



-The characters in Take a Chance on Me were well done and very realistic. You had your favorites and you had the ones that you also liked. I found myself completely drawn to the secondary characters because I could so fully relate to them. I imagine that there isn't a person who could not relate to someone in this book. Even the community of Deep Haven is rich and full of people you hope to get to know better.



-The romance was done in a perfect progression. Things moved at a warm pace and a believeable pace. I loved that! So often a romance seems rushed just in order to get to wherever the author wants you to go. This can lead you to things that pull you out of the story because they are so unbelievable. Nothing but the need to get to bed caused me to pull out of the story.



-The plot had just enough tension and moments to really keep the story flowing. Nothing was outlandish or unbelievable. It all flowed well and again there were no moments of saying to myself "there is no way this could happen." If things were brought up, they counted and made sense.



All in all, I absolutely loved Take a Chance on Me. I felt like I made new friends. I felt invested in these stories and I was very pleased with the ending yet I yearned for more. I enjoyed Take a Chance on Me so much, I immediately put more of Susan May Warren's books on my wish list. I'll be honest, I would have spent a pretty penny right now if it weren't for the fact that I already have a pretty extensive pile of books waiting to be read...one happening to be Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren. I just might be pushing that one to the top!







 

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A Summer of Joy and Truths | Posted April-13-2014
When I began to read "The Scent of  Lilacs," I wasn't sure what to expect.  I could tell that the book was going to be based in the past and that seemed just perfect for me.  Although I only occasionally read historical fiction, a book based in the 50s or 60s is just fine for me.  There is a warmth there that I don't necessarily feel with more modern era books without being something that I simply can't relate to.  The only downside to me, and really this isn't a downside but a quirk, is I kept reading Holy Hill instead of Hollyhill.



"The Scent of Lilacs" completely pulls you into the story of Jocie Brook and her family.  Although it is partially centered on thirteen-year-old Jocie, this is not a book that feels like YA fiction.  There is far more too it than that (nothing wrong with YA fiction, it was simply more adult than that).  The reader also explores the feelings and thoughts of Jocie's father David which makes them both the heroine and hero of the story.



"The Scent of Lilacs" is a Christian story through and through and does not hide from it.  There are some works you might read where a prayer is said here and there, "The Scent of Lilacs" does not do that.  It is unapologetic about being Christian yet handles some pretty extreme issues, and handles them very well.  The thing that is beautiful about the way the author handles the Christian aspect of this book is that it completely folds into the story.  It is not thrown in like an after thought.  It fits into the story which it would have to considering that David, Jocie's father is also a preacher.  I so admire the way it was done, because it really does reflect real life.  As a Christian, I am aware that I do have issues and problems I have to overcome, but I seek out the Lord in it all (and fail quite a bit too).



The characters are so very well done.  It was quite easy to visualize each one and build a relationship with them.  In fact, the town of Hollyhill and Jocie's family's home and orchard property was seated firmly in my mind within a few chapters.  I easily slid back into the story again and again as I went through my own day-to-day activity between reading. 

 



I loved Jocie's family and also David's employees.  There was an easiness and believability with all of them.  I loved that there were some strong messages and lessons with truth and forgiveness.  I loved the  hope that the story brought.  I loved feeling like I was on a sweet little summer vacation as I read "The Scent of Lilacs."  I also loved that I already have "Orchard of Hope," the second book in the series to look forward to. 



"The Scent of Lilacs" is a book that makes you care.  It doesn't beat you over the head with heart wrenching dramatics to get you there.  It gets you there by making you care about the characters first.  There was not a manipulative point in the story (and I have seen that in others), but I found myself crying with tears of sadness, hurt, and also joy and hope.  Truly this is a fine piece of work and I look forward to reading "Orchard of Hope" next and getting my hands on "Summer of Joy" after that. 

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Hold onto your hat and watch your back! | Posted February-23-2014
Poison Town is a story fueled with even more tension than the first novel in this series "Fear Has A Name," and THAT is saying something! Jack Crittendon is hot on the heels of a story that seems almost too bad to be true and he is dealing with a far larger problem than one or two mere men. The high profile Demler Corporation has provided jobs for decades in the city of Trenton, but at what cost?



Somehow Jack and his co-worker Derrick have a story on their hands that is so big, they have to split time trying to put all the pieces together. Something terribly wrong is going on in the small community surrounding the Demler Corporation's fiberglass plant, and people Jack cares about are suffering in more ways than one. For Derrick this story could mean big things for his career as a journalist, for Jack the story could cause him to lose much more than time with his family. Both are learning quickly that nothing is as it would seem.



"Poison Town" is the second book in the Crittendon Files series, and I loved that things did not wrap up in a nice neat little bow after the first story. First of all, that would be kind of boring. It is also totally fake. Sure, as much as I would like to see life going smoothly again, the reality is not everyone heals or forgives the same way at the same time. There is residual. Some of us move on swiftly where others can take months or even decades to recover from life's tragedies.



The minor characters in "Poison Town" are equally engaging. I found myself rooting for the Randall family, and enjoying the time spent with them in the book. They made me smile and hope. They also made me quite nervous. There were even a few times where I felt like I would smack someone silly if anything happened to the elder of the family.



This thriller will keep you guessing and quite literally on the edge of your seat. The characters will engage you and enrage you, but you will be glad for it. There is even a bit of slow and easy romance without being over the top. This is a story of faith in action in many forms.





All in all, I actually enjoyed the book so much, I had a hard time putting it down. Then I got to the point that I knew it would end soon, and I just HAD to put it down. I just didn't want to disconnect with the characters. "Poison Town" is an exceptional follow up to the first book in the series "Fear Has A Name." If the third book in the series "Sky Zone" follows suit, I just may have to start adding past five stars.



I received this book for free in eBook format from the author and the publisher as a kindness and to facilitate my review. This had no impact on my review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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An Engaging and Well-Balanced Christian Thriller | Posted September-01-2013
As a fan of thrillers and suspense novels, I was really looking forward to reading "Fear Has a Name."  I am constantly looking for a thriller that I can enjoy that includes a Christian message.  This is not an easy combination to achieve, and the attempts often result in any faith message being lost in the story or the story being lost in the message.  "Fear Has a Name" did not disappoint.  The story begins with a big enough bang to to capture my interest and engage my curiosity.  As I read, the action ebbed and flowed in a perfect mix of needed detail and moments of nail-biting tension.  I felt engaged throughout the story, and truly if I didn't have such a rigid bedtime, I would have read into the night.   "Fear Has a Name" keeps you thinking about not just what will happen next in the story but in actual life by bringing to light real issues like bullying, abuse, scandal and the importance of caring about others as we do ourselves.  You are also reminded that not everything is as it appears.



 



The characters are well thought out and caused me to want to know more about them and what will happen next.  The characters made me feel emotions of fear, sadness, disgust, and also hope.  Occasionally I simply wanted to shake a few. 



 



If I were to give one word to describe "Fear Has a Name" I would  use the word "gripping."  It was that and so much more.  I am thrilled that "Fear Has a Name" is just the first in a series.  I eagerly look forward to the next book "Poison Town."



I would like to disclose that I received this book for free to facilitate my review.   The opinion is completely my own.


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An Enjoyable Quick Read | Posted May-30-2010
I have always enjoyed a good against evil escape story. Caitlyn was raised on the fringes of the hills of Appalachia which has been separated from the rest of the US as a nation of its own. The nation is dotted with closed off and controlled communities. Rules and horror stories keep people in line and a combination of technology and simplistic life style keep the people tightly controlled. Because Caitlyn is different, she has been protected by her father and kept at a safe distance from the communities. Because Caitlyn is different, she is not safe in Appalachia.

As the story opens, you know Caitlyn is being hunted, but you aren't exactly sure why. The reason why became apparent to me very quickly, but I think that may be because of the type of novels I have read in the past. The story doesn't center around the why as much as the chase. The reader is introduced to several characters who by circumstances will join Caitlyn on her journey. We are also introduced to some characters who are out to get Caitlyn and anyone who gets in the way.

What I liked was the very story idea. I do wish that the book went a little deeper into the nation of Appalachia and its leader as I found it very interesting. I also really enjoyed the characters that helped Caitlyn. I would love to go into detail, but I don't want to spoil a thing!

The story moved quickly. It was definitely a book I didn't want to put down. I began it before bed and finished it the following afternoon. It obviously left you with some unanswered question which is to be expected as it is the first in a series.

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An Enjoyable Quick Read | Posted May-30-2010
I have always enjoyed a good against evil escape story. Caitlyn was raised on the fringes of the hills of Appalachia which has been separated from the rest of the US as a nation of its own. The nation is dotted with closed off and controlled communities. Rules and horror stories keep people in line and a combination of technology and simplistic life style keep the people tightly controlled. Because Caitlyn is different, she has been protected by her father and kept at a safe distance from the communities. Because Caitlyn is different, she is not safe in Appalachia.

As the story opens, you know Caitlyn is being hunted, but you aren't exactly sure why. The reason why became apparent to me very quickly, but I think that may be because of the type of novels I have read in the past. The story doesn't center around the why as much as the chase. The reader is introduced to several characters who by circumstances will join Caitlyn on her journey. We are also introduced to some characters who are out to get Caitlyn and anyone who gets in the way.

What I liked was the very story idea. I do wish that the book went a little deeper into the nation of Appalachia and its leader as I found it very interesting. I also really enjoyed the characters that helped Caitlyn. I would love to go into detail, but I don't want to spoil a thing!

The story moved quickly. It was definitely a book I didn't want to put down. I began it before bed and finished it the following afternoon. It obviously left you with some unanswered question which is to be expected as it is the first in a series.

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Fast Paced - Quick Read | Posted January-06-2010
Do not read Blind Sight before you go to bed if you have a specific bed time. You will NOT want to put it down. At least that is how I felt. That was refreshing. The story had characters I liked and characters I hated. Each one was realistically drawn out and all seemed to fully react and act the way one might expect. The story starts off with a bang and keeps you curious through out. It is definitely an easy read, because it does not lose steam!

The story was told through several of the characters although the main plot is centered around Thomas Kent's efforts in helping this family. I was enthralled by the workings of the cult. It was pretty creepy how things operated, and although I know this was a book, I am also aware that there are specific ways to make a person fold under pressure and totally weaken them. It is also an amazing story of how power can corrupt, and how a painful past if not faced and resolved can be so very damaging.

Obviously there is a religious element and struggle in the novel. It lent the message clear for me that God has a plan and we are probably not always going to know what it is. The important thing is to know He is there.

Blind Sight is a book that is not only entertaining, but it reminded me that God doesn't guarantee an easy life, but He will always be there.

I don't have a star rating, but I would give this a 4.25 star rating if I did. The main thing for me is whether I would recommend this book to others, and the answer is YES. Definitely!


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Going to Carolina! | Posted November-05-2009
Wow! If there is a writer who truly grasps a character and brings that character to life, it is Tamara Leigh. Each page brought me closer and closer to Piper Wick (formerly Pickwick). I was transfixed by the story unfolding when Piper would relive moments in her past. Each memory was achingly realistic and clearly represented with Leigh's writing. Reading Leaving Carolina was close to watching a film in my mind.

Piper has worked long and hard to get past her roots in the Southern town of Pickwick, and now she has to go back to problem solve. One problem after another seems to land right on Piper's plate from the moment she heads out. Piper works hard to remain in control, but that defense mechanism is not going to work in this town.

Leaving Carolina is told with humor, insight and just the blush of romance (exactly what I like). There is a lot to be gleaned from this book as you are being entertained by the lively characters and the slowly revealed answers to questions the reader just has to ask.

It is with intense joy that I discovered that this was just the first in a series! I was thrilled because Tamara Leigh introduces so many colorful characters in this novel. It was a delight to settle in the quirky town of Pickwick, and I was in no hurry to leave. I look forward to the next books in the series. I hope it comes out soon!

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a copy of Tamara Leigh's "Leaving Carolina" to review. My review is from reading this book and is my honest opinion.

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Charming Vacation of the Heart and Mind | Posted October-17-2009
Every time I read an Amish fiction novel, I am surely more and more pulled into it becoming one of my favorite genres. I have yet to find a piece of work that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. It is often surprising to me as I am a lover of mystery, suspense and quite frankly...horror. I once thought that Amish fiction and Christian fiction for that matter, could not possibly hold my attention. Boy was I happily wrong!

Cindy Woodsmall weaves a story that reads so quickly that I had to force myself to put the book down so as to not finish it too soon. I could have easily finished The Sound of Sleigh Bells in one sitting, but that would have deprived me of an escape into the lives of Beth, Lilly, and Jonah, and that would have been a shame. This book was a vacation into a place so very real, warm and inviting!

I loved each and every character and wished these were people I knew. Who would have thought I wished I could have grown up in a home such as this?

It seems that Jonah and Beth have family members who want absolutely the best for them. They want them both to find happiness in all forms that it can bring. A partner for life is definitely on the top of the list! Beth and Jonah have both seen a side of life that is not easy to traverse through unscathed. Surviving and being comfortable may be just about all either can wish for, but maybe a second chance at joy can happen for both.

My favorite part of this book: When I say that I felt I was on a vacation while reading this book, I speak the absolute truth. The Sound of Sleigh Bells quite literally pulled me away from a very stressful couple of weeks. The descriptions were so vivid and literally created a place in my mind. The family interaction was also fun to read.

I totally would recommend this to anyone who enjoys good fiction. It is a story of healing and a story of removing the clutter of the past. I cannot wait to read more of Cindy Woodsmall's work. I am definitely a new fan!

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Sweet!!! | Posted August-06-2009
I have just so much praise for Jan Watson, and I am thinking "Where have I been?" I had no idea that Sweetwater Run was a part of a series. This is awesome for two reasons. First, the book totally stands firmly on its own. There is enough background given in the novel so that the reader does not feel as if they are walking in the middle of a conversation. Secondly, I now have the joy of having a new series to pick up!

This is a Christian novel, but it is a story in which the Christian theme enhances the story rather than feeling as if it is thrown in at every turn to make it Christian. I really enjoyed seeing Cara turn to her faith in her times of distress.

Obviously I have never lived in 1893, but the book brought scenes to my mind so vividly. The characters were solid and the relationships were drawn out so very well. I definitely caught myself giggling at moments but also touched in the heart at others. Sweetwater Run has all the makings of a fabulous story with a cast of characters that you grown to care for. I woud highly recommend this book, and I will certainly be catching up with the rest of the series.


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