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SUSAN MAY WARREN'S WONDERFUL CONCLUSION - LEAVES YOU WANTING MORE!!

You’re the One that I Want
By Susan May Warren
Published by Tyndale
ISBN#978-1-4143-7846-6
353 Pages

Back Cover: Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after―especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama―and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

REVIEW: I cheered and felt sad when I finished reading this heart-felt, wonderful conclusion to an amazing series that answers questions like. What does a Christian family look like? How do they put their faith into action? And was this really the last book in the series? LOL!

I like what the author said about the Christiansen’s, “When I conceived this series, I wanted a story about real people dealing with real issues of faith and family. I didn’t want to shy away from the mistakes but to tell a story about a family that faces its share of darkness…and discovers a God who is standing at the doorway.” Each book focuses on one of the Christiansen adult children.

I’ve waited to read Owen’s story for six books now. I’m happy to report this author pulls out all the stops in showing his journey; I was spell bound enjoying every second of his story. This novel starts out on the stormy seas of Alaska. Owen has tried to run from his former life and has become one of the fishermen on a crab ship. That’s where he meets Scotty McFlynn he thinks, “Finally he met a girl who didn’t see him for his past…she only saw a drifter, a hard worker, a guy trying to make sense of the cards life dealt him.”

Scott was solely raised by her father. She called him Red. He taught her everything she knew about fishing and life. She tells Owen, “You know what being Red’s daughter has taught me? That there is no room for crying, Life happens. People die. There are no fairy tales or happy endings. It’s the way it is, and if I want to survive, I can’t let people get close enough to hurt me!”

She was rough and tough. She had to be to survive the sea and a boat load of young men on the ocean for a month.

Casper has set out on a mission to find his brother Owen. He has issues that need to be settled. His brother was the only thing standing in the way of him marrying Raina. His brother had no idea that Layla was his daughter. He’d already missed a few months of this little one’s life tracking down Owen. He loved that little girl like she was his own and he wanted to marry her mother.

Things get messy when the brothers finally meet and start to head back to Evergreen (their family) Resort. Casper has had months to plan what he’s wanted to say and Owen is shocked to see his brother again. Casper meets Scotty who tells Casper a thing or two about his brother he found hard to believe.

Casper, Owen and Scotty learn about faith and how to put it into practice as they lean on God’s strength in the process. Owen says to Scotty, “Faith is reaching out, believing in what you can’t see…When I first got hurt I wanted nothing to do with God. Later, I couldn’t face the colossal mess I’d made of my life. But then I realized I couldn’t fix myself, that I needed help (I realize)…I’m not a total screw up, or if I am God can help me fix it.”

The author says, “God is a pursuer, and even as we push him away, he says, “You are not alone. If you will allow me, I will fix this…It’s easier to endure the self-flogging, the shame, the guilt, because, we know we deserve it.” She goes on to say, “Who am I beyond the Prodigal? How does someone face their past and move on to what God has for us….We are the redeemed. The forgiven. The sons and daughters of the king. Suddenly we can rise, look forward into a new dawn, glorious and rose gold, full of promise. And it is this view that changes everything.” Amen!

I like this author’s heart and her writing style. I wasn’t raise in a Christian family. I found this family dynamic very interesting and insightful in how this family with adult children work together, were loyal to each other and how they tried to show unconditional love the best they could.

This novel can be read as a standalone but it’s much more rewarding when you’ve read the whole series because you’d have seen Owen at his worst and realize how far he’d grown and how his family had grown along with him. I enjoyed hanging out with this loud, fun family that lives life large with each other and in their adventures. I loved how this story is not preachy but this author makes the reader think about their family challenges wondering how they’d react in that situation.

This author quickly makes you feel part of the Christenson family. You’ll find yourself wanting to re-read this series just for fun. It’s also a wonderful book club pick. This author includes 12 questions to help create lively discussions for your group. This novel and this series are ones you won’t soon forget. I highly recommend this book and the entire series.


ABOUT AUTHOR: Growing up in Minneapolis and attending the U of MN, I learned to love city life, although I'm a woodsy girl at heart. Or maybe I'm an adventurer -- having lived and traveled all over the world, including Siberia Russia as a missionary for eight years. Probably that's why my characters can't sit still, and seem to get into one scrape after another -- they're too much like me! I love God, my family, my country, my church, and feel privileged every day to be able to write stories.

With over 1 million books sold, critically acclaimed novelist Susan May Warren is the Christy, RITA and Carol award-winning author of over forty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. Known for her compelling plots and unforgettable characters, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic-suspense, thrillers, and Christmas novellas.

With books translated into eight languages, many of her novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. She's a three time RITA finalist and an eight time Christy Finalist.

Susan is also a nationally acclaimed writing coach, teaching at conferences around the nation and winner of the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Mentor of the Year award. She loves to help people launch their writing careers and is the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com and www.LearnHowtoWriteaNovel.com, a writing website that helps authors get published and stay published. She's also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Tyndale
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org  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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com 

HAVE YOU MET JULIE CANTRELL? IF NOT, YOU NEED TO!


The Feathered Bone
By Julie Cantrell
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN#978-718-027628
376 Pages

Back Cover: “Feathers—no matter what size or shape or color—are all the same, if you think about them. They’re soft. Delicate. But the secret thing about feathers is . . . they are very strong.”

In the pre-Katrina glow of New Orleans, Amanda Salassi is anxious about chaperoning her daughter’s sixth-grade field trip to the Big Easy during Halloween. And then her worst fears come true. Her daughter’s best friend, Sarah, disappears amid the magic and revelry—gone, without a trace.

Unable to cope with her guilt, Amanda’s daughter sinks into depression. And Amanda’s husband turns destructive as he watches his family succumb to grief. Before long, Amanda’s whole world has collapsed.

Amanda knows she has to save herself before it’s too late. As she continues to search for Sarah, she embarks on a personal journey, seeking hope and purpose in the wake of so much tragedy and loss.

Set amidst the murky parishes of rural Louisiana and told through the eyes of two women who confront the darkest corners of humanity with quiet and unbreakable faith, The Feathered Bone is Julie Cantrell’s master portrait of love in a fallen world.

REVIEW: What happens when a child goes missing on a school field trip to New Orleans? This is every parent’s nightmare. The author shows how first responders and the community kick into action as they search for twelve year old Sarah.

The author says in notes to readers, “I was mesmerized by the story of Elizabeth Smart and her personal account of miracles and faith that kept her spiritually strong in the face of evil. Elizabeth, you inspire me and countless others. This story exists because of you.”

Sarah’s innocent voice and faith are heard in a journal she keeps, to help her cope and remember who she really is. Not Holly the name they call her and the things they make her do. She keeps telling herself, “You are worthy of being loved. You are worthy of being free.”

She sees a sparrow out her window that reminds her of a woman who spoke about feathers on her field trip. The woman said, “A feather may look weak. Vulnerable. But truth is, it’s a powerful little thing..The magical thing about feathers is…when they get to do what they’re made for, they carry a soul right up into the sky. Set it free…This feather will remind you that you are more than just a pretty girl. You are strong, a powerful soul. Do what you’re made for. Don’t believe the lies people tell you about yourself. Then you will be free too!”

There are inspiring tidbits like this about feathers, freedom, darkness and light with themes of faith and scriptures naturally woven into the story. Sara is an exceptional twelve year old girl that will not be defeated by her horrific situation. She’s reminded of her parents and their teachings. She shares some of them with her twenty three year old abductor, Bridgette. She talks about Adam and Eve and how God asked them to stay away from a tree and how they disobeyed. Sarah says, “God did teach them a lesson. God just wanted them to know that choices matter. That’s the point of the story” Sarah continues, “Even when we make really bad mistakes, we still have the choice to do better, it’s never too late.”…she looks at Bridgette (also a prisoner) , “It may take me a long, long, long, very long time, but you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to forgive you. And I’m going to forgive LeMoyne and even Boss. And all the men who visit. Forgive all of you…”Why, Bridgette asks.”

“Because; if I let go of all that hate. It’ll leave more room for love.”

Sarah isn’t the only one who is facing difficult times. Her best friend Ellie and her mother Amanda are rattled when they realize Sarah has gone missing on their watch. They both blame themselves for not keeping a close eye on her. Their lives start to unravel as the hours pass and Sarah is not found. Amanda has been called into help many families over the years to deal with abduction, domestic violence, and suicide. She knew how to respond and give hope in these situations. What she didn’t know was how bad the pain was and how quickly you become numb and detached from daily life.

The author says this in her notes to readers, “I am passionate about being the voice for the many women (and men) who endure emotional and/or physical abuse, for the sake of keeping a marriage/family together, or because they are too afraid/too in danger to escape safely or this abuse is all they know of love or because this is what they believe they deserve!”

A friend tells Amanda, “Normal people don’t try to hurt their wives. Normal people don’t destroy the ones they love. Nothing about your situation is normal.”

When didn’t Amanda’s life get so crazy? She knew how to recognize the signs. Why couldn’t she see it in her own life? She wrestles with the truth of her marriage in the middle of this unthinkable situation with Sarah.

Amanda was reminded of a bible lesson, “In the beginning, God made light. It was waiting on us when we arrived.” She looks at her daughter Ellie, “We weren’t brought into a world of darkness. Left to stumble around on our own. We were given a flame. One that would out last us all!

Sometimes we start to lose sight of it, don’t we? Times like tonight, it felt as if we were lost in the dark. Not a spark to be seen. But that’s how this great big world is designed, Ellie. It was made this way for a reason. Again and again we spin into darkness, but the sun is always there, waiting to rise again. It never leaves us. And if we can manage to hold on long enough to make it through the night, then we’ll be given a brand new day.”…”That’s what we have to remember. Light defeats darkness. Never the other way around.”

The author has readers visit rural Louisiana and New Orleans. The story takes place there and shows how people knew about the levies weakness. They never thought they’d break the way they did when hurricane Katrina hit. It shocked everyone. This event affects all the characters in the story as they keep searching for Sarah.

In the story mix are themes of faith, hope, love, endurance, domestic violence, suicide, kidnapping, sex trafficking and forgiveness. The author reminds readers we are loved (even when we are along and don’t feel it) we have worth (don’t believe the lies of this world) and light defeats darkness every time.

This was a tough read because of the many uncomfortable topics tackled (in a non-graphic way). This novel is worth your time. Golden moments and nuggets are intertwined throughout the good, bad and ugly in this slice of life sprinkled with huge amounts hope and faith as readers are reminded of God’s love even when the unthinkable happens.



ABOUT AUTHOR: New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She has been a freelance writer for a decade and has contributed to more than a dozen books.

Julie's debut novel, Into the Free (David C Cook), earned a rare starred review by Publishers Weekly, became an international bestseller, and received two Christy Awards and the Mississippi Library Association Fiction Award. It spent three weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, made the USA TODAY Top 150, and was listed as a top read of the year by USA TODAY.

The sequel, When Mountains Move, received the ACFW Carol Award for Historical Fiction. A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her third novel, The Feathered Bone, will release January 26, 2016 (Harper Collins Christian). It is set in Louisiana where Julie spent her childhood.

Julie and her family now live in Oxford, Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Learn more:
Website:
www.juliecantrell.com
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booklook blog 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! www.bookfun.org 
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com 

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com 

LOOK AT WHAT JEN TURANO IS UP TO NOW!!


Playing the Part
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House
ISBN#978-0764212772
352 Pages

Back Cover: Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but is forced to abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucetta's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, is delighted at the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to her grandson's estate to hide out.

Bram Haverstein may appear to simply be a somewhat eccentric gentleman of means, but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

Lucetta, who has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, has the best intentions of remaining cordial but coolly distant to Bram. But when she can't ignore the strange and mysterious things going on in his house, it'll take more than good intentions to keep her from trying to discover who Bram is behind the part he plays.


REVIEW: This author does a brilliant job of creating fun loving characters, writing physical comedy and she beautifully paints pictures with words. I love Jen’s distinctive voice along with her quick wit and well timed humor; make her novels a pure joy to read.

Miss Lucetta Plum is a theatre star in the 1800’s 1900’s who finds herself in a pickle. Her dear friend Abigail Hunt comes up with a plan to save the day and Lucetta’s life. Without any advance noitice they head to a safe place, her grandson Baum’s castle. Where else?

Miss Plum has an obsessed fan seeking to own her. She tells Baum, “…Nigel my step father, just tried to serve me up as a means of honoring his gambling debt to Silas. I’m sure you’ll forgive my lack of acknowledgement.”

Baum couldn’t believe his hears, “Your father wagered you away in a game of cards?”

“Yes. Silas seems more determined than ever to secure a relationship with me, so do know that I truly appreciate you allowing me to seek refuge at Ravenwood,”

Ravenwood is where the games begin. Miss Plum discovers there is more to this castle than meets the eye. She couldn’t help but notice Baum’s staff. They are a collection of unique and interesting individuals, Tila runs up to Baum and says, “A bunch of riders are approaching – they went right by the gate. Which means Ernie’s either dead or he abandoned his post.”

Miss Plum was beginning to believe the rumors about the castle being haunted. That would explain so much. This novel reminded me a little of the Scooby Doo mystery/ghost cartoons where you find out later the strange happenings where being staged for a reason.

I liked how these lovable complex, characters captured my heart and sought out authentic relationships with themselves, others and God. I like how this is naturally interwoven in the story in a non-preachy way. Lucetta smiles at Baum and says, “Most people do have secrets, Braum, and I’m afraid my secrets’ are going to put a rapid end to our desire to court me!”

Braum had a load of secrets himself. Would they be brave and share their secrets with each other? Would Miss Plum have time for a relationship as she runs for her life in order to protect the ones she loves?

Jen Turano pulls out all the stops in this book filled with mishaps, danger, excitement, forgiveness and faith. I enjoyed the fact that characters from previous books were in the mix, Harriet and Oliver, Reverend Gilmore, Millie Longfellow and Abigail Hunt. The author upped the mystery and suspense in the conclusion to A class of their own series as she gives readers a first peek into how quickly the novel can turn serious when the hideous side of Silas the villain is revealed.

Jen Turano does an amazing job of dropping readers into a hilarious, entertaining story with characters I could relate to and adored. I laughed out-loud so often as I read, my husband asked me “what's so funny?” 

Want to escape from the cares of this world for a while? I highly recommend this authors book. Read for fun on your own and/ or as a book club pick. Check out Jen Turano she just might be your new favorite author! She is mine!




ABOUT AUTHOR: Jen Turano is the best-selling, critically acclaimed author of The Ladies of Distinction series, and A Class of Their Own series, published through Bethany House Publishers. Her novel, After a Fashion, was chosen as a top pick from Romantic Times, as well as being named a top ten romance of 2015 from Booklist. Her book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen as a top ten romance by Booklist in 2013. Her seventh book, Playing the Part, will release in the spring of 2016, followed by a new four-book series, The Wallflowers. When she's not writing, Jen spends her time outside of Denver with her husband and neurotic Cattle Dog, enjoying life as an empty-nester because her son recently abandoned her for the college life. 

She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/ or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by Susan Brower of the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Bethany House
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org  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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

GET TO KNOW MISSY ROBERTSON UP-CLOSE AND PERSONAL


Blessed, Blessed, Blessed
By Missy Robertson with Beth Clark
Published by Tyndale
ISBN#978-1-4964-0570-8
224 Pages

Back Cover:  Missy Robertson knew that marrying duck-hunting family man Jase Robertson would be an adventure . . . and she was up to the challenge. Their life together was good (even after Jase grew the beard). They had two children, worked hard to help build the thriving Duck Commander business, and loved and served God.

But after a difficult and risky pregnancy, their daughter, Mia, was born with a cleft palate―a serious condition requiring multiple cranial and facial surgeries. As their baby struggled to breathe, and Missy and Jase faced a life that suddenly looked very different than the one they’d planned, they found themselves staring down one of life’s biggest questions: Where is God in all this pain?

This is the Robertson’s’ story. It’s for anyone scared and overwhelmed by a problem they can’t fix; anyone lost and searching for a way through. You’ll meet the young girl Mia who captured A&E’s Duck Dynasty viewers’ hearts, and learn how Missy and Jase have raised her and their sons to be faithful, confident, and secure in who they are. You’ll be inspired by how the Robertson family stuck by each other through the hardest times. And you’ll discover that God’s blessings are bigger than you ever dreamed―and there when you need them the most.

REVIEW: Missy is the wife of Jase Robertson who is on the Television series Duck Dynasty. I’ve seen the show a few times. Jase cracks me up.

Missy opens up and shares their family struggles and heart ache in a personal and transparent. The story opens up with Missy getting an ultrasound of their third child, Mia who has a cleft lip.

Jase starts the book with a forward he says, “Most people think that cleft lip and palate is merely a cosmetic issue that can be quickly fixed. In fact, that was my initial mind set too, thinking, My daughter has a problem. Let’s fix it and move on.” If only it could be that simple. The harsh reality is that kids like Mia have surgeries and procedures to aid their speech, eating, and breathing the entire time they are growing.”

I liked how he thanks his wife for writing the book, “without you I could not be me – but God knew that, didn’t he?”

Missy then writes an introduction she says, “Trust me, I don’t know if anyone in the Robertson family expected Jase’s brother Willie, would ever have come up with the idea of putting our family on television. In our minds we have always been normal people doing our best to love God, love each other and raise our children well. …
She goes on to say, “One reason I wanted to write this book is to help families navigate through their difficulties, rather than having the challenges take charge and rule the family. Another reason I wanted to share our story is to encourage people facing any type of trouble in life that there is always hope, that the burden you think you can’t bear is already in God’s hands.”

The couple open us and talk about their life’s experiences happy, sad and the difficult. She says, “Through every circumstance, we have leaned on our faith, and we have found God to be completely trustworthy and faithful. We know what it’s like to hear bad news. We know how it feels to pray that God will do one thing in a situation only to realize He has done something else…and we are well acquainted with the financial strain of a major medical situation.”

“I pray that despite the challenges you face, you will view your life as I view mine: Blessed.”

This couple talks about living out their faith no matter what comes their way, which is an encouragement to anyone who reads about their journey. I have a special needs child and would have appreciated a parent’s outlook at what they experienced and faced with my similar situation. If you are a fan of their T.V. show you’ll love this book!







ABOUT AUTHOR: Wife of Jase Robertson and a member of the famous Robertson family that stars on the television sensation Duck Dynasty. She has her own clothing line called Missy Robertson by Southern Fashion House that she launched in 2014. She wasn't raised in a large family, but she had an easy transition into the Robertson lifestyle.

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Tyndale Publishers
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org  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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com 

WHEN WAS THE DUST BOWL? READ MORE TO FIND OUT!

A CUP OF DUST
By Susie Finkbeiner
Publisher: Kregel
ISBN#978-0-8254-4388-6
318 Pages

Back Cover: “Where you come from isn't who you are,” Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma's Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff's family, they've got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They're who the town turns to when there's a crisis or a need―and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.

Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother's unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn't sure she likes.

Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he's really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won't be the only thing darkening Pearl's world.

While the tone is suspenseful and often poignant, the subtle humor of Pearl's voice keeps A Cup of Dust from becoming heavy-handed. Finkbeiner deftly paints a story of a family unit coming together despite fractures of distress threatening to pull them apart.

REVIEW: This writer transports readers back to the Great Depression; showing the hazards and hardships of a hopeful community fighting the dust bowl. The story is a haunting tale written in first person through the eyes of an adorable 10 year old girl named Pearl Spence who instantly stole my heart. I felt for her situation and appreciated her outlook on things. Pearl is compassionate, feisty and has wisdom beyond her years. She has a big sister that walked to the beat of her own drum. Pearl says, “Being a lady was just one of the laundry list of things my sister couldn’t figure out…Mama had told me Beanie was slow. Daddy called her simple. Folks…said she was an idiot. Meemaw said ”those folks didn’t understand and that people sometimes get mean over what they didn’t understand…It ain’t no use fighting them….one of these days they’ll figure out that we’ve got a miracle walking among us.”

It was hard to escape their reality, Pearl says, “The dust got in no matter how hard we tried to keep it out. It worked its way into a crack here or a loose floorboard there. A hole in the roof or a gap in a windowsill. It always found a way in always won…Still, I couldn’t help but imagine that the dust was one big old whopping from the very hand of God….I wondered how good we’d all have to be to get God to stop being angry at us.”

Meemaw told me, “Life has a way of taking what we know and tangling it all in knots. It ain’t gonna be easy on you to know the truth, never is. But you’re a brave girl. And your strong in the Lord.”

“Every storm has a beginning and every storm has an end. They never last forever.” She whispered, “God is the one who saves. Don’t forget it…Before I knew it, I was hugging my new dress and crying hard because all the green had dried up and gone, never to come back again.…Desperate times called for desperate measures. For those who were unable to leave they did their best with what they had.”

Pearl’s Mom and her Dad the Sheriff helped keep order in their community and helped people where they could. Pearl’s Mom and MeeMaw were strong women doing what they had to keep the faith and pass on food and love all the way.

This is a well-crafted drama with a mystery in the mix. It involved a secret being forced to the surface. Not everyone handles a crisis in the same manner as Pearl and her family. Tough topics portrayed in this novel were those of spousal and child abuse, cruelty to animals and murder. This is not for the faint of heart. I’d rate it a PG 13.

This is a thought-provoking, tender-hearted, emotional read I had to finish because I just had to know how things work out for Pearl and her family as they weathered the storm. This author became obsessed with what happened in the Great Depression and how the people dealt with the dust storms. She says, “After writing A Cup of Dust, I find that my admiration for the Dust Bowl survivors has grown. They were courageous, faithful, optimistic, and generous with what little they had. After all, who knew what the next year might bring. It very well might bring rain, and mercy from the Lord himself.”











ABOUT AUTHOR: Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She is the author of A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (Kregel, 2015), Paint Chips (WhiteFire Publishing, 2013) and My Mother's Chamomile (WhiteFire Publishing 2014).
She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

Find her at www.susiefinkbeiner.com 

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Kregel Publications
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org  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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

HAVE YOU READ ABOUT KATHARINA? MARTIN LUTHER'S WIFE?


LUTHER and KATHARINA
By Jody Hedlund
Published by Waterbrook
ISBN#978-60142-762-5
386 Pages

Back Cover: She was a nun of noble birth. He, a heretic, a reformer…an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire. 

In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love. Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.


REVIEW: Martin Luther made it possible for everyone to read the New Testament for themselves. I was raised in the Catholic Church and could relate to many of the feelings Katharina von Bora felt when she was set free from the law of the church when she and a few other nuns escaped the convent. I felt as she did when she could read scriptures for herself and let the Lord lead her heart not man.

Katharina remembers, “Her father had taken her away from her home when she’d been only five. For the first time in nineteen years, she was outside cloister walls. She took a deep breath of freedom, but along with the breath came a tremor of fear. An unknown world spread before her with its way of life so foreign to all that she knew.”

It was an eye opener to hear Martin Luther talk about Nuns and Priests.

A father told Martin, “I’ve sacrificed my daughters to God for a life of service and worship. How could that be wrong?”

“Did you ask your daughters if they wanted to worship in such a way?...God wants worship that is given freely, not forced.”

“Where else will our daughters learn to sing the psalms, read and write, and speak Latin?”

“They will mostly learn that the church will use them to fulfill the lusts of the priests who oversee their souls.”

Soon after their escape Katharina’s eyes are opened to the corrupt ways of the Church. She learns woman were being abused. It all become too read when her unmarried maid servant showed up pregnant and she wouldn’t tell who the father was.

This made her rethink her actions, “Had she been wrong to lead her sisters away from the security and ease of their lives at Marienthron? There they always had plenty to eat, clean clothes to wear, every need met. They didn’t have to worry about anyone forcing them into a marriage with a man they didn’t love, a man who might mistreat them. But now with so few choices available, what would become of them?

I liked learning more about Martin Luther and his wife and the times in which they lived. The author says in Author Notes, “I would like to be able to tell you that Martin Luther and Katharina never faced any more hardships together. But the pages of their twenty-plus years of marriage are riddled with one difficulty after another…” She goes on to describe their hardships then goes on to mention that most of what she talks about in the book is true. She touches on a few things I thought were fun to know.

There are thirteen discussion questions to help your book club discussion along. This is an interesting read and one that would work well for a book club pick.



ABOUT AUTHOR: Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she's not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. 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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

I'D LIKE YOU TO MEET A SOUTH AFRICAN WRITER


The Girl From the Train
By Irma Joubert
Published By Thomas Nelson
ISBN#978-0529102379
384 Pages

Back Cover: A sweeping international love story that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over the inhumanities of war and prejudice.

Six-year-old Gretl and her sister jump from a train bound for Auschwitz, her mother and grandmother unable to squeeze between the bars covering the windows. The daughter of a German soldier, Gretl understands very little about how her grandmother's Jewishness brought her first to the ghetto, then to the train, and now, to the Polish countryside where she wanders, searching for food and water for her dying sister.
Soon, Gretl finds refuge with Jakob, a Polish freedom fighter, and his family, where she is sheltered until the end of the war. Gretl is then sent away to a new life, a new name, and a new faith in Apartheid-era South Africa. As she comes of age in this strange place, she confronts its prejudices as she hides the truth of her past from her new family. When Jakob makes his way to South Africa many years later, Gretl and Jakob are reunited in a love story that transcends time and distance and survives the ravages of hatred and war.

REVIEW:  This author is an accomplished international bestselling author who lives and works in South Africa. This is the first book to be translated from her native Afrikaans language into English. I was captivated by this story and by a brave little girl named Grett Schmidt.

This is a novel that will pull at your heart-strings and give you a perspective of WWII from a six year old’s POV as she deals with her nightmares. I felt for Gretl and Jakob’s situation. 

Grett’s family planned to jump from the train that was headed to Auschwitz camp. They would all jump and meet up at the grandmother’s house. The train blew up after Gretl jumped with her sister. She heard the explosion and saw the flames. What would she do now? She was all alone. Her sister didn’t make it. 

Jakob Kowalski heard the explosion and ran for his life. He spotted a little girl. His heart went out to this little orphan. He couldn’t leave her behind. Gretl helped out the family for a while on the farm; even when Jakob went away to do work with the revolution in Poland. Gretl was six years old and did her best to fit in and be liked. She stayed about four years; until people started to suspect she might be Jewish.

With the political climax getting hot and the family financial pressures increasing Jakob’s family insisted he find another home for his orphan. He was 21 when he had to make that decision, Gretl had been with his family for 6 years. He tries to find the best place for her. It was hard because she was not the desired age to be adopted even thought she looked younger than her years.. Jakob read an article in a newspaper that tells of kids being adopted and sent to South Africa. They are promised a good home and college education. Gretl was a smart girl and loved to learn. Now to see how to get her into this program.

She remembers what Jakob tells her, “It doesn’t matter what other people are like or even what they call you. You must continue to be Gretl, Gretchen. Do you understand what I’m telling you….Look and listen carefully and make up your own mind. Decide what’s right and what’s good and do it, even if it’s not what you want to do it’s the best way to learn.”

Gretl thought, “I’m German – Lutheran. The people in South Africa must never know I lived in Poland, because they will want to know how I got there. And no one must ever know I have Jewish Blood, that I’m not pure Aryan. And I mustn’t say I learned Russian at school, because the Arrikaners hate the Russians, just as the Poles hate the Germans, and the Germans hate the English.”

Woven into the hardships is a beautiful, tender love story. This young one had to deal with so much. It was hard to keep up each countries hates and likes straight. I liked how this author weaves in historical facts into this heart-wrenching yet hopeful story.

Oh, my I felt for this 10 year old and all she had to keep straight; knowing her life depended on getting things perfect. She knew Jakob wanted what was best for her she could tell he loved her. She had told Jakob how badly she wanted to learn. So this was the best he could do for her. She was on her way to South Africa. She was having second thoughts! Everything would be different. She’d have to learn another language. Her comfort she knew God was with her. She wasn’t alone.

This author Chronicles both Jakob and Gretl’s lives while they were apart. Each having their own challenges to overcome as they and the world around them change.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author I can’t wait for more of her books to be translated into English so I can read more. This is a fascinating read and one that would make a great book club pick. It's a rich layered novel I highly recommend.








About the Author - International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booklook blog 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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

IS THE SEQUEL TO IRISH MEADOWS ON YOUR READING LIST? IT SHOULD BE!



A Worthy Heart
By Susan Anne Mason
Published by: Bethany House
ISBN#978-0-7642-1725-8
392 Pages

Back Cover: Can an Irish Lass with a Dream for America Find True Love?
Maggie Montgomery's long-held wish to see America is finally coming true. She'll visit her beloved brother Rylan and his wife, Colleen, and at the same time, escape Neill Fitzgerald's unwanted attention. In addition, Maggie has a secret! She plans to remain in America to seek her fortune and to hopefully find love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Only when Rylan demands she stay away from Adam O'Leary does she realize he's Colleen's brother, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can't seem to make her heart conform to her brother's request.

Adam O'Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Spending time in jail only reinforces his belief. Now that he's free, Adam hopes to make amends and earn back his family's trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans.

Despite everyone's effort to keep them apart, the two develop a bond nothing can break--but has Adam truly changed, or will the sins of his past prove too much for Maggie to overcome?

REVIEW: This is the sequel to Irish Meadows the author’s debut novel. This writer takes readers on an emotional roller coaster ride. Adam O’Leary is featured in this book. He’s the black sheep of the family. I liked what the author said in her note to readers  about Adam, “A Worthy Heart was a challenging story to write…I have to confess…In the beginning, I did not like Adam O’Leary, not one little bit…I basically banished him from Irish Meadows altogether, hinting that he was on the outs with his father and was potentially involved in some “less than legal” undertakings…The more I delved into Adam’s back story and his true nature, the more I came to love Adam. I had hoped readers would too…It took a strong woman like Maggie Montgomery to see past Adam’s mistakes and love him anyway, Mirroring the way God loves his children unconditionally.”

She was right I did like Adam and felt for his situation. This author pens a powerful story that shows a family trying to do the right thing by showing unconditional love to everyone. Even their enemies.

It was great fun to have all the cast members from the first book in the mix as the focus of this novel was Adam O’Leary, Maggie Montgomery and her brother Gabe who’ve come to visit their older brother Rylan in America. (He’s married to Colleen O’Leary, Adam’s sister.)

The world changed dramatically in three years and so had he. Adam met Christ in jail through a man named John. Adam quickly discerns it’s one thing to learn scripture, and understand the truth, it was quite another to put faith into practice. Adam, prays, “I know I’m supposed to love my father, but does it have to be so hard? Help e to find it in my heart to forgive him and me. Help me to be humble and accept the consequences of my actions and if you’re handing out miracles, allow me to make amends to my family…if that’s even possible.”

Adam felt like the prodigal son going home begging his father for a job as a stable boy. He’d do this just for a while until he could find his own way. He’s not ready for how others and his father will treat him. He’s astounded at how deep his relationship with his father has soured.

His father yells at Adam, “Don’t you realize that simply being seen with you could ruin Maggie Montgomery’s reputation? Or do social niceties not matter to you anymore?”

“I’m sorry father, I didn’t think….” Adam manages to say.

“That’s half your problem, boy. You never think before you act. You certainly never considered the consequences of your actions on others. Ruin your life if you must, but leaven the rest of us out of it.”

I felt for this family and the secrets they kept. Circumstances arise that allow confidences from the past to be revealed during the hardships their family endures. It opens their eyes to viewing family members differently.

I enjoyed this story that helped me imagine America’s as a new beginning for so many. Themes of faith, hope, love, forgiveness, second chances, and the importance of family and woven naturally into this story. This novel will at your heart strings and make you glad to know the O’Leary and Montgomery families.


ABOUT AUTHOR: Susan lives in a suburb near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she works part-time as a church secretary. She is a wife and the mother of two amazing kids, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). In addition to writing, she likes to scrapbook and to research her family history on-line. You can connect with her on Facebook or on her website www.susanannemason.com 

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Bethany House Publishers
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org  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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

THE CASA BELLE CHRONICLES - DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE MESSINA DISASTER?

Messina
By Liz Galvano
Published by Xulon
ISBN#978-1-4984-5307-3
360 Pages

Back Cover: Ominous words from the stone-faced physician at the temporary hospital greet her: "Welcome to hell, Miss James." No description could be more accurate. Earthquake, tsunami, and fire have razed Messina, Sicily. In a single night in 1909, one hundred thousand people never wake up. Physician Lucille James is determined to help despite horrendous conditions, almost non-existent medical supplies, and the opposition of the medical community she worked so hard to join. Giovanni Castello, the man facing her now, stands as her biggest opponent. Surrounded by blood and death and pushed to the edge of exhaustion, Lucille relies on God as her only option. When God gives a gift, after all, a person must use it. Will she have the strength, courage, and faith to do so? Messina - Book 1 in the Casa Bella Chronicles Liz Galvano  has been writing since she was a little girl. Her stories combine old style adventure and romance with a dash of humor. She loves family, food, animals, and all things Italian. Liz lives with her husband Jeff, two rambunctious dogs, two entitled cats, and a horse who thinks she's a princess.

REVIEW: This author whisks readers to the city of Messina, Italy 1908, where people are facing a catastrophe like no other. The main character Dr. Lucille James; is determined to help these people with her father’s blessings. Not only is Lucille a female surgeon facing horrendous conditions, trying to help people with almost non-existent medical supplies, but then there’s the opposition from the medical community about a female surgeon working period the end. She’d face this situation in America however opposition in Italy seemed worse. She was with her father at a conference when the earthquake hit. In a single night one hundred thousand people never woke up after the tsunami and fire hit Messina, Sicily.

One Dr. tells the others, “I had the opportunity to observe Miss James’ work when I visited Boston last summer…This young lady has convinced me that women, on occasion, can make marvelous physicians.” The problem is they needed one now.

Lucille’s dad pipes up, “My daughter graduated top of her class I’m proud of her.”

She’s asked why a woman would want to be a surgeon. “I love this profession. Medicine runs in my family. And I seem to be good at it. My father is a Dr. My mom was a brilliant nurse…My older brother graduated with a medical degree three years ago.”

She listened to their prejudices, “If you marry, I don’t know any man who would want his wife doing surgeries. It’s too ugly a job for someone like you! As for the Medical community it took years for them to finally admit that Florence Nightingale was right in her discovery of hospital sanitation.”

“I sincerely believe that God has given me a gift and I must use it. Somehow he’ll find an avenue for he’s given me. As for marriage, I have no intentions of marrying unless I can find someone with whom I can work as a partner.”

Physicians and staff are cold to Dr. James hoping she’d quit and head back to America. Among the many things that Dr. James did that annoyed her fellow Doctors and got under their skin was the fact she prayed for each and every patient before an operation. One doctor finally questioned her, “I need to know how you can still believe in God after all this?...Can’t you see that this God you keep talking to is just a fantasy?’

This novel brings to mind all first responders do to save lives. We caught a glimpse of them hard at work when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, N.Y. on Sept.11th just to mention a few. This author doesn’t get extremely graphic in describing her work environment. But she does give you a peek at the situation the city was in. She leaves much to your imagination. I liked that.

I rooted for this feisty young lady determined to beat the odds and do with her life what God has called her to do. This is a story of faith, hope and love with well-timed humor and a love story developing during tragic times. It’s a vivid account of an actual event that you won’t soon forget. The author includes an index of Italian phrases to help readers.

This is not something I normally read but I was drawn in by this cutting edge American father/daughter team who challenged old ways of thinking. Bonus readers gets to know about Italy and some of the issues they faced in 1908.
ABOUT AUTHOR: Liz Galvano has been writing since she was a little girl. Her stories combine old style adventure and romance with a dash of humor. She loves family, food, animals, and all things Italian. Liz lives with her husband Jeff, two rambunctious dogs, two entitled cats, and a horse who thinks she's a princess.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. 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! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com