Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Too Deep by Mary Connealy - Review of the second book in The Kincaid Brides series

In Too Deep
Second book in The Kincaid Brides series
by Mary Connealy

Audra's father married her off to Wendell Gilliland in trade for money that he owed the man. Now that Audra's husband, an abusive man, a drunk, a gambler, and a thief to name a few attributes, is dead, she has to decide what she's going to do now. She owns two properties, one in Rawhide, CO and her ramshackle cabin where she lived basically alone with her step-daughter and two babies while Wendell spent most of his time in town running a General Store, at least he told her it was a General Store. She had never been into Rawhide, yet alone to the store, so she had no idea that the building was a place for Wendell to spend time and live his disgusting life. Audra also doesn't know that the reason they had to leave Houston so fast and Wendell had to change his name, was because he'd stolen a lot of money.

The Kincaid's are her closest neighbors and the only people she knows, they helped with Wendell while he was sick and buried him for her. Maggie, her first child by Wendell has grown very close to Ethan Kincaid and when she goes into the cavern with Seth, Ethan's younger brother, Ethan unwillingly faces his fear of the cavern and saves her. It is after the scare of losing Maggie that she starts thinking that she needs to move back to her parents home, it's better than living alone with the children in a shack.

The Kincaid brother's and Julia, her step-daughter, don't see that as an option. Audra's father is as abusive as Wendell was and Julia is afraid she would get 'sold' into another marriage, repeating the actions he'd already done once. Rafe, Ethan's older brother, comes up with the idea of Ethan and Audra getting married. This discussion finally ends with the two agreeing to the arrangement, not happy about it, but agreeing to it. The group travel into Rawhide and Audra becomes Mrs Ethan Kincaid.

The action soon begins when two men hired by Jasper, the man Wendell stole the money from, come looking for him. They discover in Rawhide that Wendell is dead and his widow has remarried a Kincaid brother, and that Ethan is looking to hire some men. Mitch and Grove get hired on, and the first night they start a fire in the barn to distract Ethan in order to get to Audra. It doesn't work, Ethan has told her to go to the cellar, way to the back and bolt the door. When she is about to bolt the door she sees a man coming down the steps, thinking it's Ethan at first she calls out to him, she then realizes it isn't and manages to get the door closed and Grove is unable to break it down, he's failed.

They all decide they need to find the money and send it back to Jasper so Audra will be left alone. Ethan and his brothers go scouting the next day to see if they can find any tracks of the man that started the fire, little do they realize they're being followed by two men and a gunfight is soon to begin. Rafe ends up with a flesh wound on his hand and the men get away. Plans are made that night to recheck the building in town and Ethan, Audra and Seth will go to the cabin and search around. Mitch and Grove follow them, knock Seth out and pushed him off the cliff, then attack Ethan and drag him into the cabin. Seeing Ethan and not knowing where Seth is, Audra pretends to know where Wendell hid the money so she can protect her husband and kids. Audra has never been in the cavern where she's about to lead these to villains, she only has the memory of what she's heard from the Kindcaids.

Can she pull this off and get them to fall or shove them into the hole? Will Ethan be okay and where is Seth? Can they find the money that Wendell stole so it can be returned to it's rightful owner?

In this book and in the first book, Out of Control, there are times I felt claustrophobic when reading about these caves. I had to remind myself it's just another 'pull you into the pages of the story' book. There are some emotional scenes in this book also, but I'm leaving that for you to find out the story behind Ethan and his fear. Another great read by Mary, another 'gotta have' book. There is one more coming in August, Over The Edge, guess I'll have to get that one too. I love a good series.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Promise of an Angel by Ruth Reid - Review of the first book in the Heaven On Earth series

The Promise of an Angel
First book in Heaven On Earth series
by Ruth Reid

Judith Fischer is going to turn 19 tomorrow and her lifelong dream of courting Levi Plank will finally come true, then they can marry and start their family. Judith's father will not allow his daughters to court at the 17 like most Amish do, so she's had to wait for two extra years and it's been a long wait. Her sister Martha is now 17 and would like to court too, but isn't allowed so she is jealous of Judith and sets out to ruin her plans to marry Levi.

On this day though, after a successful barn raising, during the prayer for their evening meal, her little brother Samuel, who is in her care, goes missing. She looks up and sees him on the roof trying to pound a nail that Andrew Lapp, the Bishops son and Levi's cousin, had given him with a promise to help him pound it into a board after supper. Judith runs to the barn and calls to Samuel, surprising him he falls off the roof and is unconscious. This is the first time she sees her Angel, he appears to be an Englischer and tells her to have faith, that Samuels steps are ordered by God. Samuel is taken to the hospital and they find out that his spinal injury is so bad that he'll never walk again. Judith insists that Tobias, her Angel, told her that Samuel will walk again.

Judith has told colorful stories to the younger children for years, so when she mentions seeing an Angel no one believes her and they think she's in shock. The more she talks about it, the more her family and friends get upset and as she talks about more sightings they start to distance themselves from her. Even Levi makes fun of her, of course with Martha flirting with him, it isn't hard for him to turn from Judith to Martha. One person believes her and stands up for her, Adam. The Bishop, Adams father, soon tells him to distance himself from Judith because she may be refused the privilege to be baptized when she's done with her classes.

Adam and Judith are soon falling for each other and the Bishop gets so upset that he arranges a date with someone from a neighboring district. Adam has no choice but to take her home from the singing but tries to distance himself as much as he can. Clare hints about him asking her to be his bride but Adam doesn't know what she's talking about. It seems that the two sets of parents have talked and approved the marriage without telling Adam. The same night Levi tells Judith that he's changed and now wants to be baptized, settle down and asks her to marry him.

The Bishop informs Judith's parents that if they send her away she can be baptized in Ohio, where she is to be sent to live with family, but not if she stays there. Judith is not told about her move the day before she is supposed to leave, as much as she doesn't want to go, she will not say that she did not see an Angel. Adam finds out about the arranged marriage and Judith leaving for Ohio on the next morning at breakfast. He tells his father that he will not marry Clare, that he loves Judith and she's a good woman, then leaves the house. When he gets to Judith's, Martha and Samuel tell him that they left at least an hour ago to take her to the bus station.

Will Adam, try to get to the bus station to keep Judith from leaving, if so will he make it in time? Did Judith accept Levi's proposal and if so, what will Martha have to say about that? Was Judith right, will Samuel walk again? Will Judith ever be looked upon favorably by her family and friends again?

This book was quite different, I've never read an Amish book where they talk about Angels. I enjoyed the story and it showed how hard it can be to have the faith Judith had when it seemed like everyone, except one person, turned against her and didn't even want to be around her. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Brush of Angel Wings.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Heart Renewed by Karen Baney - Review of the second book in the Prescott Pioneers series

A Heart Renewed
Second book in the Prescott Pioneers series
by Karen Baney

Julia Colter has not had a good life since he father died and left the ranch to Reuben, her oldest brother. Will, the brother she was closest to, was left a share of the cattle and some cash. Julia was left an inheritance too but Reuben held the reigns on that until she became of age. Reuben is a ruthless person and told Will he was no longer welcome living in their ranch so he took his cattle and headed for Arizona, as much as he hated leaving Julia he had no choice. Reuben is a gambler who loses more than he wins, a drinker and can be a violent person.

Will has made a life for himself in in Prescott, AZ, has a large ranch, is married and expecting a child. He is concerned about Julia though because he knows how mean Reuben can be. He is not wrong, Julia soon finds herself facing an arranged marriage to Hiram Norton, a man old enough to be her father, who's as mean, if not worse than Reuben, a drinker, a gambler, and a womanizer. Reuben threatens that if she doesn't go through with the marriage she'll be sorry, she has one month to figure something out. Caroline Larson, her best friend, comes up with a plan. She tells Julia to cause a scene in Church on Sunday accusing Hiram of cheating on her, which he's known to frequent the saloon and 'visit' the ladies so everyone is likely to believe the story, and doing it even before the wedding so she's calling off the engagement. After the confrontation she's to run out jump on Adams's (Caroline's brother) horse and go home. Since it will be a public break up, Reuben can't do anything about it. Julia goes along with the plan not knowing just how Reuben will express his anger.

When Reuben gets his family loaded in the wagon and gets home, Julia pays and it almost costs her her life. If Adam hadn't come for his horse and walked in the house because no one answered the door, Julia would have been choked to death, not to mention the hits she took before that. Adam tries to get Julia to go to the Larson's for safety, but Julia is afraid of what Reuben would do to not only her, but the Larson family. Adam tells her if she ever feels like she needs to leave, day or night, to come to their house and they will protect her.

Some time later Reuben comes up with another rich man he can 'sell' Julia to, so another dinner is planned to announce an engagement. Julia doesn't like Lewis Jamison any better, when they go for their stroll and he gets fresh she fights him off by stomping on the top of his foot and kicking him in the shin then runs into the house and to her room. Mr Jamison tells Reuben that he's not interested so now Reuben has lost two chances to get the money he needs to pay his debts off. Julia is expecting a violent visit from Reuben but instead he goes to town and gets drunk. When he comes home he follows through with the treat to hurt her where people can't see the pain.

Once Julia's sure Reuben is sound asleep she packs a bag, takes a horse and heads to the Larsons. Adam answers her knock and when he sees her he knows that Reuben's worked her over again. Caroline also hears and comes out to comfort her and comes up with a plan. Adam had been getting ready to go to Prescott to work for Will Colter, so Caroline thinks he should get a few things together and with Julia posing as his sister they can travel together to Will's ranch. It takes a little talking but Adam soon realizes that it's the only way to save Julia from Reuben.

When Reuben discovers Julia missing he thinks she's gone to the Larsons so he sends one of his ranch hands to go over there and get her. She isn't there, so then he gives Bates a pile of money so he can go looking for her, suspecting she will try to get to Will in Arizona. Bates locates Adam and Julia Larson in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bates hearing that they'd married realized he could not kidnap Julia and return her to Reuben and he wasn't sure he'd even get paid if he did, so he gets a wagon and goes along to Prescott in the same wagon train but stays hidden from Julia and Adam.

Julia is so relieved to see her brother, but he looks so much like Reuben will she ever be as close to him as she used to be, will she ever be able to look at him the same again? Will she ever be able to marry and have a family after the way Reuben treated her? Will she ever be able to be 'Julia' again?

I read this on my Kindle and it's the second book in the series, I got hooked on the first page and was hooked for the whole story. I don't think anyone can be disappointed in this book and I would recommend you purchase it right now, you won't be disappointed. There is one more book in the series and a fourth to be released this year, I can hardly wait to see if Karen can top this one.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall - Review

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms
by Cindy Woodsmall

Nineteen year old Annie Martin lives the Plain lifestyle of Old Order Mennonite with her mother and siblings. She visits her Daadi Moses sometimes, the only one in the family that seems to care about her grandfather. Annie's mother and grandfather had a falling out and her mother won't even answer the phone when he calls. Her mother would never tell Annie what happened and when Annie's father left, 10 years ago, she would not explain that either.

Aden Zook lives the Plain lifestyle of the Amish and with his parents, twin brother and other siblings. They are neighbors to Annie's Daadi Moses and have been business partners for many years in the restaurant that the Zook's run. Daadi Moses, as Old Order Mennonite, is allowed to have electricity, but the Zook's are not, if there is no electricity in the restaurant the state will shut it down. Aden's twin brother Roman, and his father were in an accident five years ago and Roman now faces the rest of his life in a wheelchair and his father can walk but can't be on his feet for long periods of time. It's up to Aden to get Roman up in the mornings, into his wheelchair, in and out of the shower, besides lifting him into any buggy or vehicle when he wants to go someplace. Aden is a stutterer so he doesn't talk much but he is a great artist. Roman is surprised when he sneaks a peek at his drawings, he can't believe his eyes and while looking at them he realizes where Aden's true live lies.

Annie spent time with her Daadi Moses sporadically throughout her life and went to help out at the restaurant with her grandfather after the accident. She liked Aden and he cared for her, but as friends, so each of them thought.

When Annie was home with her mother she worked at a produce market as did two of her brothers. The boys were soon smoking, drinking and gambling but they still seemed to find more favor with their mother than Annie did. One day after work there was an argument when they got home, so Annie got kicked out and sent to stay with her grandfather. She went to visit the Zook's and ended up helping Aden at the restaurant since they were extremely busy that week and Roman was helping his uncle and wouldn't be able to work.

Annie and Aden grew closer and enjoyed being together. But they could never marry because of their religious orders. Whichever one left their church would be banned and the other would be looked on as a trouble maker. When Daadi Moses finds out that they are spending time together outside of the restaurant he goes to Mrs Zook and demands Aden stay away from Annie or he will withdraw his partnership in the restaurant. If that happens the Zook's wouldn't have any money to live on so she tells Aden to stay away from Annie. He wants to but can't, Daadi Moses then threatens Aden, so he tries again. Annie's grandfather finally storms to the restaurant and sends her packing right back to her mother, the driver is waiting as he confronts her.

What will happen to the Zook's, will they get to keep their restaurant, what will happen to Annie when she shows up at her mother's, and what will Aden do now?

This was an interesting book, I knew that the Amish and the Old Order Mennonite's had some differences, I thought they got along with each other and were friends usually. This story gives me the impression that they 'tolerated' each other but there is no way one can leave one order and join the other without dire consequences. I really enjoyed this story and Cindy really draws you into the storyline. I would highly recommend this book as a great investment of time and money.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Amish Family Reunion by Mary Ellis - Review of the fourth book in the Miller Family series

An Amish Family Reunion
Fourth book in Miller Family series
by Mary Ellis

Phoebe is the quietest member of the whole Miller family and is content to spend her time drawing. She carries her tablet and pencils with her everywhere. Phoebe lost her mother at a young age then her father married Hannah Miller, she truly loves her mother and Hannah loves her.

Henry, her cousin, tells her about a two day bus tour to Niagara Falls and encourages Phoebe to go since she hasn't joined the church yet. Phoebe's father refuses to allow her to go even though it will be all Amish kids from two different districts. Hannah finally convinces him to let Phoebe go.

Eli Rhiel, a young man from the other district, notices her as they are getting on the bus and tries to flirt with her. She ignores him, but he sits right across from her and ends up in her seat on the girls side of the bus. On these tours the guys are supposed to sit on one side and the girls on the other, when the chaperone sees them in the same seat she thinks nothing of it because of who they are.

Eli can tell a story better than anyone she knows, the chaperone knows this too, so she calls on him to tell a funny story about Niagara Falls and when he's done he returns to his seat, not hers, so she gets her pad and pencils out and draws pictures to go with the story he told. When Eli sees the illustrations, he can hardly believe his eyes. Phoebe can't believe how much Eli knows about Niagara Falls and wonders if he's taken this trip before.

Phoebe hates leaving, she has had a great time and found a new friend. She has talked to Eli more than she's probably talked to anyone in her whole life. The two start meeting on Wednesday afternoons at the library and Eli asks Phoebe to be his partner in writing children's books, he will write the stories and she will do the illustrating.

You will have to read the book to see if this relationship works out, if it leads to more than a working relationship, and if it does, is there something to break one and/or both of the relationships up. There are more family stories for you to follow along with too and you will get drawn into each one.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone. Mary does a great job of telling the story of the Miller Family.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley <> book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lydia's Charm by Wanda E Brunstetter - Review

Lydia's Charm
by Wanda E Brunstetter

Lydia King decides to accept her mother's offer of moving to Charm, Ohio after losing her job because of a slow down at the restaurant where she was working. It was her only source of income as a widow with a young son, Josh. Lydia and Josh would live with Mae, her mother, and her grandfather. Mae was a widow also and had moved in with her father to care for him since her two brothers had moved.

Growing up Lydia always felt as if she couldn't do anything right, her mother always corrected everything she did, she hoped things would be different now that she was a mother herself. Lydia was never told that when Mae was growing up, her dad treated her the same way, she thinks it's because he lost Mae's mother when she was giving birth to Mae. Mae and her father still do not get along, and things between Lydia and Mae don't seem to have changed either.

Josh brings joy to his great-grandfather's life, the few times Josh is able to sneak into his room anyway. Mae is constantly nagging four year old Josh to be quiet, to stay away from his great-grandfather and is jealous of their relationship.

Lydia finds a job at the local restaurant and Mae babysits Josh.  Mae has plans of Lydia maybe marrying Menno, a widow with four boys, but Lydia doesn't seem attracted to him in that way. Levi appeals more to Lydia but Mae hates the idea of her marrying  him because, although Levi is normal height, the rest of his family are 'little people'. Mae won't even talk to Levi's family or shop in their store.

As Lydia's grandfather is passing away, he finally makes peace with Mae. A short time later Josh is killed when he runs into the road and a car coming over a hill cannot get stopped in time and hits him. Now they have medical bills and two funerals so Lydia goes back to work  after burying Josh, but they also have a guardian angel who mysteriously leaves them food and money. Mae gets her hopes up regarding Lydia and Menno as they are spending more and more time together. Shy Levi finally gets up enough nerve to ask Lydia out, but it seems every time he tries Menno comes and interrupts the conversation and asks Lydia out first.

I guess you'll have to read this book to find out if Lydia marries Menno or Levi and if she stays in Illinois when she goes to be with a friend who loses her father in an accident. What happens to Mae after her father dies, does she move on with her life or continue to live in her fathers house by herself, or with Lydia? Does Mae convince Lydia to marry Menno?

I really enjoyed this book, Wanda did not disappoint. I will say this is a good investment for anyone that reads Amish stories or Wanda Brunstetter books.