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To Love a Stranger
By Colleen Coble
Published By Thomas Nelson
209 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: Bessie Randall had no intention of moving to Wyoming. But could the life she would never choose be better than the one she had planned?

Bessie is shocked when she finds out that her sister Lenore has used her name to correspond with a soldier she's never met—and that she’s actually married the man by proxy with Bessie’s name. And if Bessie contests it, her sister could go to jail for forgery. Bessie has always felt responsible for her younger sister, and she believes she has no choice but to do the honorable thing and travel west to meet up with Jasper Mendenhall.
With his sister Jessica’s reprimand about marrying sight-unseen still ringing in his ears, Jasper is shocked when he meets the stagecoach. The little wren who meets him is not the beauty whose picture he holds in his hand. Jasper plans to annul the marriage and send Bessie back to Boston. She’s a city girl and he’s not sure she could even survive—much less be happy—at Fort Bowie.

But Jasper’s orders to return to Fort Bowie are moved up, and he has no choice but to take Bessie with him. To his surprise, he finds much to like in the quiet young woman: things like humor and grit. But even those qualities may not be enough as the Apaches move in, determined to eradicate the fort in their midst. Can God mend their hearts together in spite of the circumstances?

REVIEW: The novel starts out in the year 1868 with Jasper Mendenhall in Fort Bridge, Utah Territory. He’s in the middle of telling his sister Jessie about the woman he’s going to marry and the fact that he’s been writing to her for months. Jessie and her husband Clay are concerned for Jasper and his new bride as he has not told her about the trip they would be taking as soon as she got to town.

The story then switches to Boston, Massachusetts of the same year. Lenore Randall discovers her older sister Bessie in her bedroom looking around she says, “What are you doing?”

Bessie turns around and glares at her sister and thinks, “Lenore had done some thoughtless things, but this was beyond” (crazy) …”would Lenore never learn to think before she leapt into things?” She then said, “Are you telling me that you married this man? And falsely, too, since you aren’t Bessie Randall!”

“Lenore couldn’t met Bessie’s gaze. “No, Bessie. It means you are married to Jasper. If you contest it, I – I think I could be arrested for forging your name.”

This was a fine mess her sister created. Bessie tried to calm herself down by reading all Jasper's letters. She then decides to go and meet him, in Utah. After all he did pay for a one way ticket.

Their first meeting was tense as Jasper learns of the switch and Bessie learns about the sudden trip in a wagon. They are both surprised but the wagon is leaving soon. They decide to figure things out when they get to their new home. It wouldn’t be easy but they would take one step at a time, literally. They were about to embark on quite a wild adventure.

I enjoyed the author’s sense of humor in the middle of these difficult times. Here’s a sample. Jasper hears Bessie speak to him from the other room, “You’re sure they’re all dead? She asked again in a quavering voice.”

Jasper laughed, “After that attack, how could they survive? You’ve mastered the art of death by broom, but I flattened them to be sure.”

Jasper and Bessie respect each other and decide to be husband and wife in name only. They worked as a team through their travels. This way they'd get to know each other. One problem is they have trouble being honest with themselves and each other. Traveling by wagon was cause for tense and dangerous times; which delayed speaking plainly to each other. If each of them could have been vulnerable with their thoughts and feelings; they could have been a happier journey. Just saying!

This is a historical romance novel with well-timed humor. It’s also the 4th and final book in the Wyoming series. I had not read any of the other books and I didn’t feel like I was lost. I liked the natural spiritual thread, and story line that was filled with danger, intrigue and a few surprises.

To Love a Stranger is an intriguing story with fun, believable characters that tugged at my heart strings. I liked how the author gives readers a peek at how life was back then. There are eight questions to help generate lively discussion for your four book club meeting.

ABOUT AUTHOR: Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher through the BookLook for Bloggers site. 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”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! 
The Book Club Network blog 
Book Fun Magazine 


Fraying at the Edge
By Cindy Woodsmall
Published by Waterbrook
352 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: Family, community, faith, and love.
These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life. When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.

New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?

Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

REVIEW: This story reminds me of the authors’ first series titled Sisters of the Quilt. The thing I loved about the stories was the fact it took place mostly outside the Amish community. While reading that first novel, When the Heart Cries; I learned to expect the unexpected from this author. I loved that. The same holds true with The Amish of Summer Grove series. The story and characters have grabbed my heart and never let it go.

This is not your typical Amish tale. Far from it. If you didn’t read book one in this new series you will be brought up to speed by the author in the sequel, BUT you will have missed the richness of this story and the depths these families have been through and still agonize over their circumstances in Fraying at the Edge.

This author has a wonderful writing talent that quickly pulls readers into her books hook, line and sinker. In book one Ties that Bind, Skylar and Ariana discover at age 20, that they were switched at birth. Each family wants the chance to get to know their biological child. Nicholas (Ariana’s biological father) has threatened the Amish community with a huge lawsuit (and/or jail time for the nurse in charge) if they don’t comply with his demands. So Ariana goes off with her Englisch family and Skylar has the choice to submit to an inpatient rehab center OR to go to the Amish community in order to know her biological Mom and Dad. She chooses the Amish family. The author placed the reader inside the main characters shoes and had them looking at the world through their eyes. It was moving as both girls’ worlds are turned upside down and are plunged into a surreal one year experience.

Here’s a peek at the girls first impression of their new life. “Skylar had a lot to adjust to – new family, Amish rules by the silo full, no modern conveniences, and the frustration of living in a poor home. Every time she turned around, another pipe had broken, which meant someone had to haul water into the house so she could brush her teeth. …Who lived like this – no electric lights, washing clothes by hand even when the water worked…the hardest part of this ordeal thus far was the lack of drugs…All she could think about was a couple of tablets of Xanax, Ativan, or Valium. Anything to stop the incessant restless legs.”

Ariana was having a different kind of challenge. Who knew that making breakfast for her new family would cause so much chaos? Her biological mother’s husband Gabe looked at Ariana. He told the person on the phone to hold a minute. “He lowered the phone to his chest, “It’s the security system people. They said the emergency button inside the house was pushed. Is everything okay?”

“I..I guess,” Ariana shrugged. “As far as I know I was trying to turn on the stove.”

“The stove?” Gabe repeated.

“Dad ----Cameron rolled her eyes –“tell the guy all our secret code stuff, convince him the house hasn’t been invaded by body snatchers, and let him get back to the people who aren’t trying to figure out how to use electricity.”…”It’s a whole new world for you, isn’t it Princess Jasmine?”

“That’s enough Cameron.”

“What?”…You don’t think I’m being nice either, Dad? Ariana and Toto aren’t in Kansas anymore! Is anyone in this house surprised by that?”

“I am, Ariana’s words were a growl…. I’m totally surprised by it. Shocked. Miserable. But it’s just funny to you, isn’t it?...Tell you what. You learn Gabe isn’t your Dad at all, and trade him for someone as difficult as Nicholas. You give up your comfortable life and put yourself, by yourself, in, I don’t know, maybe the Middle East, where the culture is totally disrespectful of you and all you’ve been taught to believe. Then we’ll talk about how nice you’ve been okay?”

Does that make you want to read more? Can you feel both girls’ anxiety, pain, loneness, despair? I like how one of Quill’s siblings explained the experience both girls were having. “You’re in a room of people who, in one way or another, had a high-magnitude earthquake hit their lives, Ariana…Quill had it the worst!”

This is why Quill was so helpful to Ariana. He was great at helping her navigate this strange new World.

Another aspect of this novel I loved is how naturally the spiritual thread is woven into this story. Just when the reader is totally invested in the novel and on the edge of their seat wondering what will happen next; I was stirred in my spirit and my heart by something I was dealing with and/or had dealt with in my own faith journey. That’s another thing I love about this authors novels. I can expected the holy spirit to working in my heart. That’s also unexpected on many levels and one of the main reasons I read Christian Fiction.

Quill teaches Ariana to listen to that still small voice inside of her. He says, “Never discount anything your senses are telling you, not at first. Let the information sink in, and trust your ability to reason out the truth. If you’re wrong, that will become evident soon enough. Usually when one part of us is telling another part of us what’s going on, it’s a gift from God. Use it. …Quill continues, “You know what you need? His eyes reflected hope. “You need a new view of the Heavens.”

“Of the Heavens?”

“Ari, our God is so much bigger than we can grasp. As children we saw him as if we were inside a snow globe and he was just outside it, on his throne out of sight, looking down at us. For those of us raised to believe in a jealous, angry God, we see him with a frown, scowling. And as all Amish know, being frowned on is one tiny step from being shunned.”

Ariana says when asked about life outside the Amish community, “The Englisch world was a mixture of fascinating beauty and deviant horror.”

This author brilliantly pens an engaging, heart-felt story where I instantly cared about these young ladies and their struggle. The other thing I adore about this novel is the well-tied humor. This novel spoke volumes to me as I read how everything these girls believed about live and themselves was being tested. They had to start picking up the pieces, of their shattered lives and discover who they really were and how God fit into all of this?

Fraying at the Edge would make a wonderful book club pick. I am a huge Cindy Woodsmall fan. I think this novel is her best yet. It’s a keeper and a must read novel.
Gail & others enjoyed meeting Cindy at Book club. She's a special lady!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher through the Blogging for books site. 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”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

Book Fun Magazine


I gained 3 game balls at this station

Outside Barnes and Nobel
 All of the statues at this shopping center are precious. But this one with the girl reading is one of my favorite!

I’m taking a mini-break from my usual posts in order to talk about something I’ve just delved into this week. You’ve heard about it on the news and from your kids. It’s a new game hot off the press sweeping the country. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Pokémon GO. Here is an explaination I got off Wikipedia. It states, “Pokémon Go is a location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It was released in most regions of the world in July 2016. 
Gained Pokemon game balls here too! Precious statue

Making use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices, the game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. The game is free-to-play, although it supports in-app purchases of additional gameplay items. An optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon Go Plus, is planned and will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.

Since this craze has swept the country (and many of my children’s friends) I had to check out this game. It started on the weekend when my daughter and grandson were with me. My daughter didn’t have a high opinion of the game since it wasn’t at all like the original Pokemon games she played growing up but her son drew her into it on my phone. They had so much fun chasing Pokemon through the shopping center. I had so much fun watching them. It was a game changer. It was even more fun to have my grandson take a picture with the Pokeman he caught. Great fun when gamers are not playing in traffic and someone is guiding the gamer and helping them pay attention to where they are walking etc. so no one gets hurt. Grin!

Wikipedia goes on to say, “Pokémon Go was released to mixed reviews. Reviewers praised the overall experience of the game and the incentive to adventure in the real world, while noting technical issues apparent at launch. The game quickly became one of the most used smart device apps shortly after release, being downloaded by more than 40 million people worldwide, and was a boon to the stock value of Nintendo. “

Wow, I’m amazed at how many people are playing. Ok, today was a day I had to run a few errands. One of them was to check out some items in Barnes and Nobel. Boy was that place hopping. I also noticed people of all different ages playing the game. How did I know they were playing? They had their phone out and were walking to their target to get free game balls. Barnes and Nobel had a statue outside their front doors where you could gain Pokeman balls to catch the many critters that were running virtually around the shopping center.

How did I know this you may ask? Well I was playing of course. I’m not a video game player but this game I enjoyed. I liked that it was played outside and that it made me notice things I hadn’t paid attention to like how many beautiful statutes are in this stopping center. I thought it was cleaver of the game and - advertising dollars gained by promoting different shops in the center. I liked going to the different restaurants in order to gain free game balls.

It was funny that the game would tell you, you are too far away to get the game balls. Then when I was right next to the statue it wouldn’t let me gain my prize either. There was one place where I had to  walk into the store to gain get what I came there for. My son tells me that some shops have signs on their doors that say if you want to play the Pokeman Go you must buy something.

That got me thinking and made me want to ask readers what their experiences have been with the game? Anyone admitting to playing it besides me? If you have what have you learned? Hear of any crazy situations people have gotten into? Where have you seen people playing the game? Do tell! I’d love to hear.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!


Coloring Books and supplies are everywhere! I went into a card shop and came across this display of coloring books and pencils. These coloring books were the ones that had complex pictures inside. I would have taken a picture of the inside but I didn't want to cause a scene in the store. Since I wasn't ready to buy anything that day.

I found it interesting at the wide variety of pencil options to choose from. The price range varied too from $12.95 to $22.95. I would not consider the mechanical pencil kit since I do not do well with regular mechanical pencils. I’d break them. Put what did look interesting was the pencils that were half one color and half another. They had a varied colors and didn’t take up much space if I wanted to take them along with me so I could color where I could.

Below are the front covers of books I found in this store too. I think the price of the books were over $10.00 I was more interested in the pencils on this trip. I hadn’t seen this much variety available in other stores. They offered none. Although I’m told Walmart has good prices and variety to choose from. I’m going there next week and check it out.

Since I’ve colored in a few coloring books I’m noticing color patterns in clothing that are giving me ideas when I see these pages to color. Below are patterns I’ve seen in some coloring books. Look at the possibilities for coloring pages.

I’d love to hear from you about your experience with pencils. What are your favorites? What has been your experience? Where did you get your supplies and how much did they cost?When do you color?

I’m really getting into this. You’ll hear more from me on this topic. I hope to hear from you soon?

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!




Starring Amber Frank, Dylan Sprayberry, Mason Dye and Tom Everett Scott, this Event
Comes to Cinemas Nationwide on Wednesday, Sept. 28 Only

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (July 7, 2016) – The gripping apocalyptic adventure,“VANISHED | Left Behind: Next Generation,” comes to cinemas nationwide on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7:00 p.m. local time. Inspired by the New York Times best-selling book series by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, this highly-anticipated event will be presented as a special one-night exclusive engagement by EchoLight Studios in partnership with Fathom Events. In addition to the feature, audiences will get to experience a Q&A with cast/filmmakers hosted by prominent national speakers and youth leaders Doug Fields and his Co-Founder of Download Youth Ministry, Josh Griffin.

’Vanished | Left Behind: Next Generation’ is a fresh, new YA genre feature that is already being embraced by young and old alike,” says Jeff Sheets, president of EchoLight Studios. “The journey that unfolds will captivate, entertain and challenge audiences.”

“VANISHED | Left Behind: Next Generation stars 
Amber Frank (Nickelodeon’s “Haunted Hathaways”), 
Dylan Sprayberry (MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” “Man of Steel”) and 
Mason Dye (MTV’s “Finding Carter,”  Lifetime TV’s “Flowers in the Attic”), along with principal veteran actors 
Tom Everett Scott (“That Thing You Do,” “American Werewolf in Paris”), 
Jackson Hurst (“Drop Dead Diva”), 
Brigid Brannagh (“Army Wives,” “Underground”) and 
Rachel Hendrix (“October Baby,” “Perfect Wave”). The epic adventure highlights a compelling storyline relevant to teens, tweens, and other fans of the popular YA genre.

Reminiscent of “Twilight,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Hunger Games,” the new feature takes its characters – and the audience – far beyond their own fears and desires, opening them to the questions of purpose, and whether their lives and choices really matter. When a billion people around the globe suddenly vanish and chaos engulfs the nation -- headstrong 15-year-old Gabby (Amber Frank) is thrust into adulthood way too soon. The event forces Gabby, along with her younger sister Claire (Keely Wilson) and the two teen boys vying for Gabby’s affection, Josh (Mason Dye) and Flynn (Dylan Sprayberry) — to try to figure out what has happened and how they fit into this dangerous new world. Girls will relate to Gabby and her struggles to deal with missing parents and big sister responsibilities – while wishing they were in her shoes when she’s forced to choose between the all-American hero Josh and the dark and mysterious Flynn. Guys will be pulled in by the suspense and cool new twist on the ‘end of the world’ adventure. 

“VANISHED | Left Behind: Next Generation” was produced by veteran writer/ producer/ showrunner Dave Alan Johnson (“The Client,” “Doc,” “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye,” “High Incident”) alongside 
Randy LaHaye (grandson of Left Behind co-author Dr. Tim LaHaye). 
Larry A. McLean (“Pacific Rim,” “Christmas with Tucker”) directed the feature from the screenplay written by Kim Beyer-Johnson (“When Calls the Heart,” “Doc”) 
and Joan Considine Johnson (“The Wild Thornberrys,” “Rugrats,” “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye”).

“We are excited to debut this exclusive experience on the big screen,” says Kymberli Frueh, Fathom Events vice president of programming. “The best-selling Left Behind books from the ‘90s and early 2000s made a huge impact on their readers and‘VANISHED | Left Behind: Next Generation’ will resonate with those enthusiasts while engaging a new legion of young fans.”

Tickets for the VANISHED | Left Behind: Next Generation” event can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.comor at participating theater box offices. Audiences throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy the event in movie theaters throughFathom’s Digital Broadcast Network. For a complete list of theater locations visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

For more information, please visit:

Official Trailer: 


By Carol Wallace
Published by Tyndale
415 Pages

Back Cover: As one of the bestselling stories of all time, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ has captivated and enthralled millions around the world―both in print and on the big screen. Now Lew’s great-great-granddaughter has taken the old-fashioned prose of this classic novel and breathed new life into it for today’s audience.

Coming to theaters in August 2016 as Ben-Hur, a major motion picture from MGM and Paramount studios, the story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman whose childhood friend Messala betrays him. Accused of trying to murder the new Roman governor in Jerusalem, Judah is sentenced to the galley ships and vows to seek revenge against the Romans and Messala. But a chance encounter with a carpenter from Nazareth sets Judah on a different path.

Rediscover the intrigue, romance, and tragedy in this thrilling adventure.

Also included: the inspiring story-behind-the-story of Lew Wallace―Indiana lawyer, author, and Civil War general.

REVIEW: Author Carol Wallace has definitely “Breathed new life,” into her great-great grandfather’s masterpiece written in the 1800s. I felt the excitement seventeen year old Judah had when he ran around his house getting ready to meet his childhood friend, Messala, (son of a tax collector) who was returning home after five years in Rome. Juda was twelve and Messala was fourteen when they last saw each other. Messala finished his education and in the process became a Roman soldier. This man in front of Judah was a stranger, filled with beliefs they differed on. Messala says, “Jerusalem raised men to study, not to fight.” 

Judah thinks, “Was fighting always wrong?” This young man starts to think about his future. He tells his mother, “I want to know what I don’t know! ..I want to be surprised! The world is large and Jerusalem is small. But I’m not allowed to look any further.”

Ben-Hur and his family get a huge surprise alright when Messala betrays him in public as the new Roman Governor walks through town. Judah’s faith and endurance is tested. Their family is stripped of everything.,,”the swift, violent reaction to an accident tears apart Judah’s world, separates him from his family, and ultimately turns him into a slave. It’s his longing for reunion that powers the rest of the book – along with his yearning for vengeance.” the author says in her notes to readers.

This novel focuses on three men about the same age and from completely different walks of life. Readers see the three (Messala, Judah and Jesus) make choices that have them walking on the same roads for different reasons. Sometimes their paths intersect. At other times they clash. All of them have opinions about the purpose and meaning to their lives. Judah Ben-Hur is asked to help the Nazarene be the King of the Jews. He doesn’t know what that means but he’s on the lookout for Jesus; to learn more about him and hear what he has to say.

I liked how the author showed what some Jews believed the role Jesus would play in Jerusalem. They believed he was born to be king of the Jews and that he would need their help to be King and bring Rome to its knees. I liked how Judah, Ben-Hur watched Jesus from a distance. Then he heard his message. It started to affect his wounded heart. It made him want to get closer to Him and had the courage to walk into Jesus's presence. Readers see Judah start to realize that Jesus didn’t need the army he had been training; and maybe he didn’t need their help at all.

I found the “Afterward” section to the book fascinating. There are about 10 pages that give readers the rest of the story; Lew Wallace’s biography and how Ben-Hur came into being. Lew Wallace was a General who fought in the civil war, became a lawyer after the war ended and for fun wrote novels. It was a great escape for him and a way for him to go on adventures and never be far from home. I found it interesting to read about the obstacles Lew faced on the ways to publication. 

I was surprised to learn that one of the obstacles was the fact that Jesus Christ appeared as a character in a fiction novel. The author states,“No matter how reverent the portrayal, no matter that the author had only given Jesus dialogue that came direct from the gospels.” After the book was a success and they adapted it for stage one of the stipulations mandated by this author was that Jesus must never be played by a human. Instead, the Christ would be represented by a powerful beam of light.”

I purchased the original novel by Lew Wallace to read on my kindle. When I compared the two novels I saw what an amazing job Lew’s great, great granddaughter Carol Wallace has done in up-dating this novel to make it a more powerful, thought-provoking engaging read for today’s audience.

There is a new Ben-Hur film being released by MGM and Paramount studios August 2016. MGM studios originally made the full color epic film starring Charlton Heston in the 1950s. This would make a great book club field trip. Your group could discuss how the film is different and/or similar to the book. The author includes fifteen discussion questions to help create lively discussion for your meeting. I highly recommend this for your club and/or a great fall read!

ABOUT AUTHOR: Carol Wallace is the great-great-granddaughter of Lew Wallace, author of the novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which was first published in 1880. Carol has written more than twenty books, including most recently a historical novel, Leaving Van Gogh. She is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller To Marry an English Lord, an inspiration for Downton Abbey. Carol holds degrees from Princeton University and Columbia University.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from The Book Club Network site and Tyndale Publishers. 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”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog 
Book Fun Magazine