Now and Then and Always

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A rambling run-down bed and breakfast, some deeply broken people, a decades old mystery…when put together with God in the center, it makes for a powerfully moving story.

I’ve missed Maple Valley…the charming, quirky town and its amazingly loving and welcoming residents. Reading Now and Then and Always, set on the outskirts of Maple Valley, just felt like coming home – oh I wish this was a real place! As always when we visit Maple Valley, we get to meet some new characters, but we also get to “run into” some old favorites. It’s such an added joy to catch up with these “friends.”

The newest Maple Valley residents, Marshall, Mara and Lenora are flawed and broken people. In this story, we witness God meeting each of these characters right where they are. And although this is a fictional story, it mimics how God uses us, flawed and broken people, to do His work…to care for, to offer acceptance, to love one another. The deeply broken characters in this book serve as examples to us of people in our own lives who need to be offered that care, acceptance and love. God uses Melissa Tagg’s writing to teach us how to be His hands and feet. Her writing has a unique blend of humor and depth that grabs hold of our hearts and ministers to us as we read.

This story deals with addiction, grief, hurtful family relationships, abandonment, abuse and scars. It deals with choices, perspectives hope and healing. It deals with all of this while sharing a beautiful story that draws you in and causes you to feel as if you are a part of it. Therefore, even though I have finished this story, I do not want to leave Maple Valley and these people yet. My real life is full of people who are dealing with these same things…the good and the bad. This story encourages me to be present in their lives and be the kind of friend and relative that I loved meeting and visiting with in this book.

If I’ve not made it clear enough in my review thus far, I love this book. It touched my heart and I am already anticipating another visit to Maple Valley.

Although set in a beloved fictional town full of stories already told, Now and Then and Always can be read as a stand-alone novel. If however you enjoy the added depth of reading stories in order, to enhance the overall enjoyment of the book, like I do, then I would recommend going back to the beginning of Maple Valley and starting with the prequel novella to the Walker Family Series, Three Little Words.

*Thanks to the publisher and the author for the complimentary copy to review. A good review was neither encouraged nor requested. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Fairy Tale meets Christian Historical Fiction – Perfect Combination!! – Aladdin Edition

The Orphan's Wish Book Cover

Hagenheim has become a place I look forward to visiting with each new Melanie Dickerson Fairy Tale Romance. I absolutely adore every one of these stories. The mix of fairy tale and historical fiction told from a Christian worldview is the most amazing combination ever! I truly cannot find the words to express how much I love them.

The Orphan’s Wish is the eighth Hagenheim Fairy Tale. In this novel we learn the story of Duke Wilhelm’s daughter, Kirstyn and her childhood friend, Aladdin. The Orphan’s Wish is Melanie Dickerson’s take on an Aladdin story. Although this is a loose retelling, the essential elements are all there ~ an orphan boy falling in love with a girl, far beyond his reach and an evil, power-seeking villain trying to ruin it all. This is a fairy tale, so you already know that good wins – God wins!

The characters are well developed, and you are drawn into caring what happens to them from the start. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Kirstyn and Aladdin’s unique friendship through their memories and then following that grown-up relationship through the course of this story. The Orphan’s Wish is full of difficult situations – as life often can be – but throughout we are reminded of the hope we find with God in all circumstances.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love fairy tales…if you love historical fiction…if you love stories where good overcomes evil and love wins, this book is for you.

Karen Witemeyer’s best book yet! FANTASTIC!!

More Than Meets the Eye

Karen Witemeyer’s books are an absolute delight to read.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.  Her characters are authentic; her plot lines well thought out and presented.  Her settings are described in ways that transport you into the story yourself.  Her writing engages your emotions – all of them – and leaves you constantly wanting more.

More Than Meets the Eye is the perfect title for the first book in this new Patchwork Family series.  In the pages, beyond the beautiful cover, you will find a treasure of a story.  I love this patchwork family and the stories each member represent.  The characters are vividly real.  Each one bringing their own set of struggles and peculiarities.  The personalities found in More Than Meets the Eye are so diverse that you are sure to relate to at least one aspect of one of their characters.  In the stories of this patchwork family, there is something for everyone.

The emotions portrayed in More Than Meets the Eye run the gamut, from heartache, grief and anger to love, joy and laughter.  I started and ended this book in tears and rode the roller coaster of emotions in between right along with the characters.

Many themes can be found in the pages of More Than Meets the Eye; orphans, family, sacrifice, physical traits, physical limitations and more. This story deals with the heart of man and forgiveness – both God’s and man’s.  It demonstrates sin in the lives of the characters, a variety of motivations for that sin and God’s amazing offer of redemption from sin.  I found the overall theme to be unconditional love – how we can give it to one another and, most importantly, how God offers it to us.

I love reading Christian fiction because it always draws me nearer to God by teaching me new things, reminding me of things I already know and demonstrating how to live for God.  God has used every one of Karen Witemeyer’s books to teach me something.  There are too many of these teachable moments in More Than Meets the Eye for me to mention them all here, but I will share one of my favorites.

“‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

The words of Jesus echoed in his mind, a pointed reminder that it was Logan’s job to live for God, and God’s job to take care of the rest.”

 

I am already eagerly anticipating the next Patchwork Family novel.

Blind Spot – Chesapeake Valor #3

Oh my goodness!!  Dani Pettrey has done it again.  The third book in her Chesapeake Valor series, Blind Spot, is fantastic!  I don’t know how she does it, but each new book is better than the last – and since … Continue reading

To Have and to Hold

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To Have and to Hold

By Betsy St. Amant, Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade

To Have and to Hold was a joy to read.  Three sweet stories of finding love while planning (or spying on) a wedding.  The heroines were easy to identify with.  The men were swoon worthy (even the “other” guys in each story).  And I enjoyed the anticipation of how each author would bring about the happily-ever-after.  Speaking of authors, I read this book because I absolutely LOVE everything Becky Wade writes!  Besty St. Amant and Katie Ganshert were new to me though.  I love finding new authors and I think novellas are a great way to “meet” them.

Betsy St. Amant’s story, Love Takes the Cake was first up.  With a bakery and a friend’s wedding as a backdrop, how could you not be enchanted?  Charlotte tugged at my heart with her sweet countenance and great love for her daughter.  I love Will’s loyalty to his friend and how God uses a scary situation to help him realize the truth.  This story was a pleasure to read.   I’m looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Next up was The Perfect Arrangement by Katie Ganshert.  I must admit, I was a bit disappointed, after reading the first paragraph, to realize this story was written in first person narrative.  I generally struggle to engage in first person stories, so I tend to avoid them.  This is a short story, written by a writer friend of Becky Wade AND it has a flower shop in a small town as the setting, I decided I NEEDED to read it.  I am SO glad that I did.  It was a delightful story that gripped me from the get-go.  I was expecting to have to push my way through, but surprisingly found myself pulled along instead.  I couldn’t read it fast enough.  Amelia’s fun and quirky personality was so much fun to read and the email exchanges that launched the events of the story were perfect.  I was pleasantly surprised to get to the end and realize through most of the story I’d forgotten that I was reading first person narrative AND I didn’t want it to end!  Well done Katie Ganshert!  I loved it!!

Finally, the last story in this collection, Love in the Details by Becky Wade.  I knew I would love this story before I ever started reading it because, as I said above, I LOVE everything Becky Wade writes.  Josh and Holly’s story grips you by the heart from the very opening lines.  I love the way this story shows that God is in control always, in the good times and in the hard times.  I love that this story is real-to-life, following God isn’t easy.  He is there to walk with us through the difficult things, and we can have a peace that we are following His guidance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t still be heartbreaking and painful, even in years to come.  I loved to see how this story was brought full circle.  I loved Josh’s devoition and Holly’s generous spirit.  Spring can’t get here soon enough for me!  I’m ready to read the new Becky Wade novel now!!

To sum it up, this is a great collection to purchase.  Whether you know and love all three authors or are going to be meeting them for the first time, you won’t be disappointed.  The stories are beautifully written and leave you wanting more.  Although I read this book via e-reader, it will definitely be one I’ll purchase in hard copy for my bookshelf!

Shattered by Dani Pettrey

 

Book #1 Alaskan Courage Series by Dani Pettrey

Book #1 Alaskan Courage Series by Dani Pettrey

Shattered by Dani Pettrey

Do you love romantic suspense novels?  Have you read Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage Series??  If you haven’t, you are missing out!!

Although the first book, Submerged caught my eye when I first saw it on the bookstore shelf over a year ago, I kept putting off purchasing it because she was a new author and there were so many books by my favorites I hadn’t read yet.  After finding Dani on Facebook and following the excitement for the release of the second book, Shattered, I couldn’t put it off any longer.  Armed with my coupon I headed to my local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.  A pleasant surprise was in store for me at the bookstore, her first book was on sale for only $5!!  YES!!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that an even better surprise was in store for me when I opened her book.  I already knew I was going to enjoy it because it was set in Alaska.  Ever since my spontaneous, whirlwind trip to Alaska with my mom and best friend to surprise my dad, anything having to do with Alaska seems to peak my interest.

Dani Pettrey was also recommended by Dee Henderson, who is arguably my favorite author (yes, arguably is the correct term to use here because I argue with myself over who is my favorite!  I cannot choose only one!  Dee and Dani are joined by Francine Rivers, Susan May Warren, and Robin Jones Gunn in my top five favorites).  If Dee Henderson recommended her, I was sure to like her!

What I found in her book was an amazing set of characters that I instantly fell in love with, a town with a history that I wanted to learn more about and enough suspense to keep me guessing at how it would all turn out.  I couldn’t wait for the next book in the series.  Thankfully, Shattered was already available.  The second book was just as wonderful as the first.  I asked Dani, “When can we go to Alaska and meet them?”  Now we must be patient, book three, Stranded is not yet available.  The countdown is on, 55 more days according to her website.  As much as I want this book like yesterday, if you haven’t read her books yet, it will give you time to catch up (although I’m sure that won’t take long at all!)

Exciting news for all of you though…Shattered, the second book of the series is currently available at LIfeway Christian Stores for only $5!  It’s your turn to be blessed!!  Although you can read these books as stand-alones, I highly recommend reading them in order and really getting to know these fabulous characters.

I would love to hear what you think and what God’s taught you through these books!