The Heiress of Winterwood

Ladd, Sarah. The Heiress of Winterwood. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2013.

SUMMARY:
winterwoodAmelia Barrett made a promise upon her friend’s deathbed to take care of her baby, Lucy, as her very own. As heiress to the Winterwood estate upon marriage, Amelia finds herself betrothed to Edward Littleton, a man whose character is different than originally portrayed and who refuses to allow Lucy to stay. Upon Captain Graham Sterling’s return from sea, Amelia must explain his wife’s passing, introduce him to his daughter and make quick plans to ensure her bond with Lucy remains. Through many twists and turns, friends and foes, lies and loves, Amelia and Graham must learn to work together for a chance at their happily-ever-after.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
This book was outstanding, even more so as it was Sarah Ladd’s debut novel. The characters, faith, time frame (Darbury, England: 1814), writing style, word choice and story line all kept me fully engaged until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this story from start to finish…I was only disappointed when I read the last page! Fortunately, I have the sequel, The Headmistress of Rosemere, on my shelf to read next. Bravo!!

RATING:
5 (out of 5) pennies

One Holy Night

Hochstetler, J.M. One Holy Night. Elkhart, IN: Sheaf House Publishing. 2008/ Revised 2013.

SUMMARY:
oneholynightFrank McRae, still haunted by his experiences during WWII, faces events in his life which bring out bitterness in him. Frank’s son battles in the Viet Nam War and marries a Buddhist Asian woman which causes him to be disowned, his own wife fights terminal cancer, he stumbles in his belief in God, and on one holy night must make a decision about forgiveness, grace and peace…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover, intrigued by the stained glass picture on the back, and absolutely absorbed by the story. I found this novel to be a very powerful one in many ways. The characters were well developed and genuine in their thoughts, feelings, actions, and faith. Even though I had an idea of where the story line was headed, I couldn’t put the book down (thus, reading it in less than a week)! I also appreciated the creative element in this story which incorporated the Nativity into a contemporary yet emotional message that still has me reflecting. This was my first experience reading a novel by J.M. Hochstetler and I have appreciated the opportunity. Be sure to take the time to read the Acknowledgements at the end of the book for interesting tidbits about the front cover and stained glass piece from the back.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of One Holy Night from the author and Sheaf House Publishing for my honest review*

Pure Joy…The Dogs We Love

Steel, Danielle. Pure Joy…The Dogs We Love. New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group. 2013.

SUMMARY:
PurejoyThe author, Danielle Steel, creates a memoir of the many dogs she has known over the years, spotlighting her relationship with her current dog, Minnie Mouse, a two-pound Chihuahua. Through musings, memories, stories and thoughts, Danielle Steel shares her love of dogs and their lifelong effects on our lives. From total happiness to utter chaos, she reminds readers why dogs are so popular with so many.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Aptly named, this book put a smile on my face as the author candidly spoke of her many dogs. Explaining she loves dogs as much as children (nine children-eleven dogs), she shows the “pure joy” her dogs have brought into her life (for the most part). Though I did not necessarily agree with all her dog actions/ experiences, I could relate to the emotions and turmoil puppies and dogs can evoke. Actually, when reading deeper into the book, Danielle states “allow yourself the luxury of letting happiness be whatever it is to you”. She found that happiness in her current dog, Minnie Mouse, although it could be anything in life. She goes on to say “why not” do something that brings joy to life, even if it requires courage to step outside the comfort zone (within reason). I chose this book for the cover and subject matter but came away with a different perspective on life to consider. I also appreciated the fact that it showed the “human-side” of a well-known, very popular author.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

One Imperfect Christmas

Johnson, Myra. One imperfect Christmas. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2009.

SUMMARY:
oneimperfectGraphic designer, Natalie Pearce, has problems with balancing her work, marriage, rebellious daughter and her own mother. When her mother suffers a stroke, Natalie must also deal with the “if only” emotions as well as the guilt and anger which require seeking God’s guidance. Natalie must now navigate through unforeseen circumstances…everything considered, definitely not the most ideal/ perfect Christmas that was hoped for…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
“One Imperfect Christmas” was an interesting read as it could be relevant to many lives. Definitely not a light Christmas story, this book was more realistic in looking at Christmas through the lenses of people requiring God’s grace in many situations. Though enjoyable, this book did tend to slow a bit in certain spots; however, the message was good (God has a plan even with the hard and difficult times in life). Living with regrets is never easy but the author, Myra Johnson, did a nice job with it. Well written for a debut novel; I look to reading more of her works.

RATING:
3 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of One Imperfect Christmas from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

The Christmas Quilt

Chapman, Vannetta. The Christmas Quilt (Quilts of Love). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2013

SUMMARY:
quiltA sequel to “A Simple Amish Christmas”, Annie and Samuel are revisited in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Life is busy for them as the Christmas season approaches. Added to the hustle now is Annie’s friend, Leah, who is expecting her first child. Not having an easy pregnancy, troubles in her marriage and a few surprises, Leah needs Annie more than ever. Hoping to finish the crib quilt before Leah delivers, Annie discovers the quilt may mean more than originally expected…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
I really enjoyed the visit once again to Samuel and Annie. Weaving the story around a quilt actually worked very well, interspersed with different scripture lessons. Though I liked the prequel to this story, I adored this book even more. Once again learning a few of the Amish words and customs, I turned the pages quite quickly while being immersed in this truly delightful Christmas story. There are several books included in the Quilts of Love series which work just fine as stand-alone-reads.

RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Christmas Quilt from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

Stones for Bread

Parrish, Christa. Stones for Bread. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 2013.

SUMMARY:
breadLiesl McNamara loves bread. For as long as she can remember, bread has been a part of her life. After following her dream, she opens a bread shop named “Wild Rise”. But soon her life is turned upside down by new employees, unexpected friendships and being featured on the Cooking Channel. Liesl must make choices that will change her life forever. In order to proceed forward, she must trust God and those around her. Is it possible?

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
This novel is beautifully written. Parrish mixes in historical context about bread, provides in- depth perspectives of her characters and creates a story that holds the reader captive. Liesl’s passion for bread becomes evident as the reader moves through the story. For those who love to bake as well as read, they will delight in the recipes that are included in the book. Who knows…you might just be inspired! I look forward to reading more from Christa Parrish.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Stones for Bread from BookSneeze and Thomas Nelson for my honest review*

Blame it on the Mistletoe

Magnin, Joyce. Blame it on the Mistletoe. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2011.

SUMMARY:
mistletoeThe residents at the Greenbrier Nursing Home have been acting strangely. The residents are suddenly riding tricycles, finding themselves caught under the mistletoe and even needing the police to end a scuffle. Top it all off with a suspicious police woman named Mildred as well as an unusual Hawaiian Thanksgiving dinner…things are about to get crazy!!

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Joyce Magin provides the reader with a light-hearted novel that is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. Put out your stocking, deck the halls, sip your hot chocolate and hang the mistletoe because you will be ready for the Christmas season after reading this book! You will find yourself chuckling as you turn the pages of this novel…who couldn’t giggle when reading about the crazy residents that have found a little spunk around the Christmas Season! (Be sure to also check out the other books which are part of the Bright’s Pond series.)

MY RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Blame it on the Mistletoe from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

Hear No Evil

Hamilton, Mary L. Hear No Evil. USA: HopeSprings Books. 2013.

SUMMARY:
hearnoevilDropped off at camp by his mother, Brady McCaul spends a week discovering friends, faith, and courage. While at the Christian camp for a week, Brady makes friends with Steven (a boy with a disability), meets Claire (a cute girl who thinks he is childish), deals with Taylor (the camp bully), and worries about his mom (who rejects him and won’t let him come home). Through it all, Brady wonders if God really does care for him, and if so, where is He?

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Though a book written for tweens and young teens, I found myself immersed in the story. With cliffhangers at the end of chapters, the pages kept turning. Personally, I enjoyed the message communicated by the camp counselors- “God loves you even when no one else seems to love you”. It is a message many young people need to hear and believe. The story also deals with issues relevant to young teens- bullies, disabilities, lack of confidence and disbelief. Having won several awards in writing contests, the author draws on her own camp experience to write a truly necessary novel for today’s youth. As with other HopeSprings Books I have read, I enjoy and appreciate the little extras in the book such as pictures between sections and sketches preceding each chapter. With the next books already set to be published in the next year, I definitely will seek them out.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Hear No Evil from BookCrash and HopeSprings Books for my honest review*

The Christmas Star

Collins, Ace. The Christmas Star. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2012.

SUMMARY:
christmasstarFor Jimmy Reed things have changed…life has become harder, he is angry at the world and he has no interest in Christmas…ever since his father gave his life for his country. While his mother puts up the Congressional Medal of Honor atop the tree each Christmas to remind herself of his bravery, all Jimmy can see is anger and betrayal. His father’s fellow soldiers, a mystery letter, an unexpected failed plan and mentoring all give Jimmy hope, as well as a refreshed look at life and events.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
The Christmas Star was very appropriately named, not only for the physical medal but what it all represented. Taking place during WWII, this story is also relevant today with all the families involved in loved ones missing Christmas. I enjoyed watching Jimmy work through his feelings/thoughts/ actions while finally coming to terms and accepting events of life. Jimmy learned the life lesson of giving which should be so prevalent at Christmas time (as well as throughout the year). Per his biography, Ace Collins is a very successful author whose books I will definitely consider reading in the future.

RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Christmas Star from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas

Ailee, Jennifer. A Wild Goose Chase Christmas. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2013.

SUMMARY:
wildgoosechaseIzzy Fontaine inherits a Wild Goose Chase Pattern quilt after her grandmother passes away. Much to Izzy’s surprise, she is launched into what feels like a “wild-goose-chase” of her own. She must navigate her grandmother’s mysterious clues that are designed to lead her to a secret treasure. However, the treasure may just be family and new friends…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
This quilt themed book is a perfect read for a cold winter’s night. Paired with your own favorite book and cup of hot chocolate, you will find yourself immediately ready for Christmas. Don’t forget to invite your four legged furry companion to read along with you! The adorable Jack Russell Terrier, Bogie, is sure to warm your heart! (There are several novels in the Quilts of Love series; I am definitely interested in reading more!)

MY RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of A Wild Goose Chase Christmas from Abingdon Press*