The Girl From The Train

Joubert, Irma. The Girl From The Train. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing. 2015.

SUMMARY:
thegirlfromthetrainJumping from a train bound for Auschwitz, six-year old Gretl Schmidt can only hope for the same safe result while searching for her sister, mother and grandmother. Realizing she will be alone, Gretl stays with Jakob Kowalski, a young adult Polish student and member of the Home Army, who planted the bomb that killed her relations. After a few years, Jakob sends Gretl to South Africa where she must hide her heritage from her loving adopted family. Reconnecting many years later, Jakob and Gretl soon realize that continents cannot keep hearts separated…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
From the novel’s description, I knew I was in for an emotionally heart-tugging read. Full of history, politics, romance, sentiment, heartache, and tension, The Girl From The Train illicits empathy, compassion and remorse in this international bestseller by author Irma Joubert. Well-written with fast-paced sections mingled with slower-paced passages, I think the writing style worked very well for the genre of this story. Definitely an author I will read again.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Girl From The Train from BookLook Bloggers for my honest review*

Love’s Every Whisper

Rawlings, Naomi. Love’s Every Whisper: An Eagle Harbor Novel- Book 2. CreateSpace Publishing Platform: 2015.

SUMMARY:
loveseverywhisperRescuing people from shipwrecks in Lake Superior off the rugged-rock coast of Eagle Harbor, Michigan, Elijah Cummings wants nothing more than to build a life-saving station. Daughter of a shipping baron, Victoria Donnelly feels like a failure, able to do nothing right. With an embarrassing past, Victoria returns home to Eagle Harbor to find herself betrothed to Gilbert Sinclair, son of a wealthy shipping family. Though her heart belonged to Elijah years ago, she must find the self-confidence to follow her heart though her head may lead her elsewhere…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Having actually read this novel while in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, it couldn’t have been more perfect. From the descriptions of the rolling waves on Lake Superior, the quaintness of the town, the beauty of the landscape, the jaggedness of the coast, and the actual life-saving station near the lighthouse, Naomi Rawlings pays spectacular homage to the area. Woven with a historical story, breathtaking adventure, tender romance and exquisite details, Love’s Every Whisper is one of my favorite novels of all times. Part of the Eagle Harbor series, there is no question I will continue reading the rest of the series from this very accomplished author. Stunning!

RATING:
5+ (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Love’s Every Whisper from the author for my honest review*

The Memory Weaver

Kirkpatrick, Jane. The Memory Weaver. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishing. 2015.

SUMMARY:
memoryweaverWitnessing a massacre at a young age, Eliza Spalding Warren was held hostage by the Cayuse Indians and forced to work as an interpreter as the only person who knew both languages. As time passes, memories shift which cause new insight and feelings into the past events. Based on a true story, New York Times bestselling author, Jane Kirkpatrick, takes readers on yet another emotionally, thought-provoking read…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
I loved the basis for this story positioned on real-life past events. Also interesting, the alteration of memories over time, through experiences and as more knowledge is gained. Not a light read but rather a deeper, stimulating read which made me ponder the events and recollections associated with them. Always well-written with bits of true situations included, Jane Kirkpatrick enthralls with each novel. Though not a huge fan of pioneer time-frames, The Memory Weaver was an exception for me…especially as I enjoyed the included author interview at the end. I look forward to her next novel.

RATING:
4 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Memory Weaver from Revell Publishing for my honest review*

Empire’s End

Jenkins, Jerry B. Empire’s End. Franklin, TN: Worthy Publishing. 2015.

SUMMARY:
empireTold from the first-person-point-of-view, the Apostle Paul relates accounts of his life previously unknown. With master storyteller Jerry B. Jenkins as the author, Empire’s End details how Apostle Paul transformed from a persecutor of Christ to a servant of Christ. Filling in the blanks, though fictional, helps connect the dots to better understand this Biblical giant.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Reading several of Jerry B. Jenkin’s previous novels (his Red Rock series is fantastic for YA), I was interested in his newest book. Though a good premise as well as a popular genre right now, I found this to be different than his usual style. Hard to follow at points, I was unable to fully enjoy this story though I tried. Long in sections and perhaps a bit disconnected in others, I believe the main reason I did not connect was the anticipated expectations I had for this author and his book. Not necessarily a bad book, just not a book for me.

RATING:
3 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Empire’s End from Worthy Publishing for my honest review*

Anna’s Crossing

Fisher, Suzanne Woods. Anna’s Crossing: An Amish Beginnings Novel. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishing. 2015.

SUMMARY:
annaSince she is the only one from her community who can speak English, Anna Konig feels she must make the trip across the Atlantic aboard the merchant ship, Charming Nancy, to Pennsylvania where her father awaits. Determined to make the journey and return home, Anna experiences hardship, illness and terrible conditions below deck on the ship. Meeting Bairn, the ship’s carpenter, changes not only Anna but Bairn as well. With in-depth discussion questions and the author’s well researched information included at the end, Anna’s Crossing is an interesting beginning to a unique Amish series…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Having read and enjoyed previous Amish novels from Suzanne Woods Fisher, I was excited to start her new series An Amish Beginnings. Taking place on a ship almost exclusively throughout the novel, I was intrigued yet also educated on the Charming Nancy. The history lesson which was gleaned from this fictional novel was recognized and welcomed, especially that which was meticulously researched and provided in the author’s note at the end. Well written with interesting information, suspenseful twists, credible characters and God’s faithfulness and forgiveness all intertwined.

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Anna’s Crossing from Revell for my honest review*

The Last Heiress

Ellis, Mary. The Last Heiress. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers. 2015.

SUMMARY:
heiressRequested by her father to sail from England to North Carolina to help her family’s textile mill business, Amanda Dunn is also excited to see her twin sister in America again. Though not anticipated nor planned, Amanda meets Nate Cooper, the young, extremely handsome shopkeeper, who steals her heart. Caught in the turmoil of war, Amanda must come to terms with her beliefs, struggles as a woman, protecting her family and following her heart…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Having read other books by Mary Ellis, I knew I would enjoy this current book as well. Drawn by the beautiful cover, I was pulled into the storyline quickly. Through an interesting time period, descriptions of life during the war, interaction between characters, differing thoughts on slavery and of course, a romance, I was truly captivated by this novel. The faith element was not overly excessive yet most evident in the slave characters. As a member of the local historical society and the Civil War Roundtable, Mary Ellis shares her vast knowledge of American history in her many books. Well-written with history woven throughout…definitely worth the read!

RATING:
4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Last Heiress from Harvest House Publishers for my honest review*

Echoes of Mercy

Sawyer, Kim Vogel. Echoes of Mercy. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press. 2014.

SUMMARY:
echoesofmercyWorking as an undercover investigator, Caroline Lang secures a position at the Dinsmore’s World Famous Chocolates Factory in Kansas. Much to her surprise, Oliver Dinsmore has the same idea-working as an undercover janitor to monitor the factory which he soon will inherit. Through many unexpected circumstances, orphan children, questioned morals, prayers, and a sheltered heart, Caroline must stay true to her priorities and values while overcoming her own past. “Sometimes a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed“…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Excited to read Kim Vogel Sawyer’s newest novel, I was not disappointed. With grace and mercy, she weaves an intriguing story line with equally developed characters. Some hard issues were touched upon during the course of the novel but the main character, Caroline, stayed faithful to her values, heart and beliefs. I enjoyed all the twists and turns as well as the subtle humor and genuine hope interspersed. A very well written, well thought-out, and well developed story which I enjoyed to the very end.

RATING:
5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Echoes of Mercy from WaterBrook Press Publishing for my honest review*

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

The Soul of the Rose

Trippey, Ruth. The Soul of the Rose. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2013.

SUMMARY:
soulof the roseSet in the 1870s, Celia Thatcher is sent by her parents to work in a bookstore while mourning her friend’s death. While staying with a wonderful couple, Celia soon makes friends in the community which benefits her love of flowers, books and the arts. Celia also gains the attention of two suitors: the secluded, unsociable Mr. Edward Lyons and the captivating Harvard law student, Charles Harrod. Through some deep conversations and debates, Celia is able to stay true to her beliefs while selecting her future husband.

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Reminiscent of “The Beauty and the Beast”, this book was an insightful read. Though difficult to follow in places (perhaps due to the dialogue style), I found the underlying premise to be of value and interest. My attention did seem to wander during the reading of this book but I did find myself wanting to finish it (to see how Celia fared). The title of the novel was interwoven throughout the plot of the story which I found to be compelling. (Literary enthusiasts would probably truly appreciate this novel.)

RATING:
3.5 (out of 5) pennies

Interview Questions for Ruth Trippy:

Every book starts with an author and every author has a story of their own. Tell about yourself and how you became a writer.
Growing up, I wanted to teach, never thought to write. However, in my 30’s I experienced a tremendous restlessness and started praying daily for God to show me what to do. Then I reread a treasured historical romance, St. Elmo by Augusta Evans, and was so moved, so encouraged, particularly in my difficult marriage, that I suddenly knew the answer. I thought: if I can write to give others the kind of hope this novel gave me, my prayer has been answered.

Readers might see a connection between your book and Jane Eyre. Was this connection intentional? Why did you decide to include elements of classic literature in your story?
I taught American and British literature so this was a natural focus for my characters who love literature. The connection with Jane Eyre: I loved that novel, but didn’t set about purposely to include it in my book. Yet, it ran deep in my consciousness, so pushed its way into my story. Both Mr. Rochester and Edward are wounded heroes. When Mrs. Harrod, the lawyers’ wife, presents her son Charles’s gift of the novel to Celia and recognizes the resemblance, well, I just had to go along with her! This is what writers mean by characters taking on a life of their own. It’s as if they direct the story.

You use the imagery of a rose throughout the narrative. Where did this idea come from? How do you want readers to interpret this?
I love flowers, the rose being my favorite. The rose is Celia, and not only is she the rose that “gets into a man’s blood,” but she is the rose outside Edward’s prison walls, representing loveliness and hope. And, she is that soul (of the title) who needs to decide what she will choose: the forbidden love that pulls at her or her deep faith in God.

Your book touches on some pretty big topics of religion and philosophy, including Unitarianism and Transcendentalism. What’s the secret to writing a book that accurately represents the societal discussions of a specific historical time but keeping it engaging and inspiring at the same time?
To keep deep topics engaging to the reader, I believe these topics must be important to the protagonists, to their future happiness. Their very different beliefs are at the core of who they are, so cannot be easily put aside: Edward, as a Boston Brahmin, was Unitarian; Charles, a Harvard law student, was sympathetic to Transcendentalism; Celia, daughter of a scholarly minister, believed in Biblical Christianity. Will these characters change as the result of their discussions? This will determine the outcome of their love, their passion for each other.

Celia is starting life afresh after the tragic death of a close friend. Why did you choose to present a character just after a life-changing event? Is there a message or word of advice here for the reader?
After this trauma, Celia is having to “find her way,” which many of us do after experiencing something tragic. But if we can learn from it, grow from it, so that we can then help others—like Celia did when she counseled Edward to forgive Mrs. Divers and to forgive quickly—then we find purpose in the trauma.

Celia is a forgiving character. Forgiveness is a very spiritual concept. What other faith-based ideas run through your book?
One in particular comes to mind: Can we trust God when our situation is difficult? And then to take it a step further: Are we willing to make the right choice when it is a hard one? Celia knew she could not be obedient to God and marry an unbeliever. She could not honor and love—both God and her lover. A difficult choice had to be made.

Is there a certain Bible passage or verse that goes along with the message of The Soul of the Rose?
An important message of the book centers around that of a tender, hard-won love. This is a picture of the way Christ loves us. “I am my beloved’s…” (The Song of Solomon 7:10). The characters and their love story is a metaphor of the love between Christ and His bride the church.

Many authors write characters inspired by people they know. Are your characters based on specific people in your life?
Some of my characters are composites of people I know, like Celia’s father: a composite of my grandfather and a former minister, or they might be completely fictional, like Mrs. Adams. One character, the mischievous Loydie in the story, was
based on a childhood nemesis of mine.

Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Celia and the Chestleys, but I will choose Edward. After I read George Howe Colt’s non-fiction The Big House and saw how this Boston Brahmin family portrayed one branch of my family, it both warmed my heart and gave me an immediate understanding of Edward. I loved the workings of Edward’s mind, his athleticism and how he grew in his love.

You’ve written history, literature, and romance all in one book. What is the main theme you want readers to take away from The Soul of the Rose?
There are many take-a-ways from this book. The main one, for me, is that God is preeminent. When it comes right down to it, this is what Celia faces when she is confronted with the difficult decision of what to do with a lover who doesn’t know her God—and doesn’t care to.

What’s next for you? Where can our audience find out more about Ruth Trippy?
I am writing another historical romance set in 1870’s Connecticut which then moves onto NYC and St. Louis. Everyone is invited to visit my website: http://www.ruthtrippy.com. The Contact Page has my email and FB. I would enjoy hearing from readers!

*I received a complimentary copy of The Soul of the Rose from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

Rebellious Heart

Hedlund, Jody. Rebellious Heart. Bloomington, MN: Bethany house. 2013.

SUMMARY:
revellious heartSusanna Smith, daughter of a minister and his wife, lives a comfortable yet controlled life. When she meets Benjamin Ross, a man of few means, she realizes he will never be accepted by her parents as a suitor. Involved in his own adventures, Ben quickly becomes an advisor to Susanna as she becomes involved in a dangerous situation concerning a runaway indentured servant. Rebellion and revolution soon result to all that once was believed and held true…

A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Inspired by the early courtship of the second President of the United States and his First Lady, John and Abigail Adams, Rebellious Heart weaves suspense, adventure, and romance together all while staying true to Christian values. I was excited to read another novel by Jody Hedlund and this story did not disappoint at all. I found I could not turn the pages fast enough; the action and drama were captivating! Cover-to-cover, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was only sorry to finish it. Congratulations to Jody Hedlund on an absolutely enthralling read!

RATING:
5+ (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of Rebellious Heart from Bethany House for my honest review*